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The One Emotion We Don't Talk About In The Family Business

By Kyle Danner

Just like you, I spend my days in the weeds of my business. We have to as professionals; it’s what makes us good at what we do. I spend a lot of my time reading about family governance, family systems, succession planning, and behavioral psychology.

I do so because I want to do anything and everything I can to help your family and your business progress.

But there’s one thing I've found concerning. Very few conversations about love are involved when discussing family business. 

And it’s easy to see why.


If we’re in business with family, love is assumed. It’s taken for granted. That’s understandable, but problematic. Our family relationships need to be nurtured outside of the business, too.

After all, if the business fails and our employees and customers leave, family is all that we have left.


How To Keep Love In The Family Business

The hard part of a family business is separating family issues from business issues. More often than not, we allow old wounds to cause conflict. How often are our business arguments not about which market to pursue or where to invest money but instead, over mistakes that were were made, 4, 5, 6, years ago?

A necessary first step to solving an issue is acknowledging the pain we caused without rationalizing or judging it. Even if it happened years ago. If we can’t acknowledge the pain we caused, how can we expect others to acknowledge our pain?

To love, we have to accept the fallibility of the other and ourselves. We also have to let go of the past, in order to prosper and move forward. If you are going to be in business with family, you cannot sweat the small stuff. 

You are in this for the long haul, and you will not last if you can't develop the love and patience to accept and forgive minor mistakes, move past arguments, and find solutions to disagreements.

The confounding thing is that it’s not who we are as human beings. We are defensive by nature and our immediate instinct is to protect ourselves. It’s an odd quirk of nature that the very thing that makes us human gets in the way of connecting with other humans.

While I’m not a religious person, I find this verse from Corinthians about love enlightening:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered,
it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8, New International Version (NIV)

In order for love to work, it has to be intentional. It must be practiced, honored, and displayed, even when you do not feel like it. Sure, there are times when we want to reach across the conference table and strangle our loved ones. And to be fair, there are times they want to strangle us too.

Try to remember you are in business with your loved ones, because  at the end of the day, family is all that you have.

What To Do When There Isn't Much Love In The Family Business

Love is the glue that holds families together. But, when problems arise and tempers flare up, it often gets buried under hurt feelings. Sometimes, love is the last thing you feel in the family business, and that can cause problems in and out of the office.

If drama is preventing your family from developing love and patience, you face an exceptionally difficult task: You need to address the issue so everyone can move past it. Unfortunately, chances are no one wants to talk about "the elephant in the family business." In fact, everyone is doing everything they can to avoid the topic.

So what can you do about it?

Purchase my ebook, "Is There An Elephant In The Family Business?" In this guide, I'll provide you with practical, proven strategies that help you:

  • Identify the elephant in the family business
  • Start the difficult conversation
  • Resolve the conflict in a way that builds up the family and the business

Whatever your role might be in the family business, you have what it takes to build the family back up again. With the right tools, you can address the elephant in your family business, repair damaged relationships, and ensure that love remains an active part of the business. 


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