In “To Kill a Mockingbird,” young Jem Finch quotes his father: “Atticus says you can choose your friends but you sho’ can’t choose your family…” You won’t hear me disagreeing with the good attorney’s words, as relayed by his son! It’s true that we don’t have much say in who gets to share our genes or surname (with certain notable exceptions). But we always have a choice about how we treat those we’re related to. And we certainly can choose whether we want to work with them! At Minaya Learning Global Solutions, we do want to work with our family, and it works out very well for us. It’s worth noting, however, that mixing family dynamics with a corporate culture can be a delicate dance.

I was recently flying back to South Florida from Los Angeles via Virgin America.  I planned to do some work and knew I could wrap it up in a couple hours. The flight is about five hours long, so I had some extra time to kill. The TV and movie options seemed “cool,” but didn’t offer anything I really wanted to invest the time in. Then I keyed in on a menu option for “Learning.” That’s my business, after all, so I was intrigued. Among the course topics was “Strategic Planning for a Family Business.”

My firm helps companies and non-profits with strategic planning. We also take our own firm’s annual strategic business planning process pretty seriously. Certainly, the course offering would present some ideas to consider as I flew home and anticipated our annual strategic planning process, which starts in October. I opened my computer to capture some notes and hit play.

First, there was a startling stat indicating that 86 percent of family businesses don’t survive to the third generation. Not encouraging! Those odds can be increased, however, by developing a Family Business Strategic Plan before beginning the company’s strategic plan. It makes a lot of sense. We may not be able to choose our family, but, as the instructor pointed out, we have a great deal of power to determine whether our family business will be healthy, dysfunctional or toxic.

The second part of Jem’s quote about family is: “…they’re still kin to you no matter whether you acknowledge ’em or not, and it makes you look right silly when you don’t.” In the next blog post, I’ll present some principles of a successful family business strategic plan that allows all family members and employees to be acknowledged, engaged and empowered. Until then, I highly encourage you to pick up Building Family Business Champions by Eric Flamholtz and Yvonne Randle.

Join us Nov. 2 as we dive into this subject headfirst at the Cape Coral Chamber of Commerce Food for Thought event! For more information click here

~ Dr. Guido Minaya