Search
University of Massachusetts Amherst

Family Business Center

The Rare Family is Quite Well Done

by Ira Bryck

My wife and I are in comparable fields, and face similar resistance from customers. We’re not in business together, though, because what she does- pain relief therapy- and what I do – mediating disputes between related business partners – don’t belong on the same shingle. But we both wonder why so many are willing to end treatment when pain subsides, not continuing into whatever they think wellness might be.

My wife can write her own blog, but for me, I find family members often don’t leave time to “sharpen the saw” as Covey says (though Thoreau said it first). They’ll invest to achieve 1/1000000th inch tolerance in machines, but stay intolerant themselves. As if tolerance is even enough. I don’t need my family to tolerate me, like an annoying rash. I want them to enjoy me! To have my back! Even my front!

People quip you should need licenses to raise children, considering you can’t drive a car or sell a beer without one. Not nearly as perilous, unless your unlicensed child drinks the beer and drives the car. But even if you rush into an unexamined family venture, take a bit of time to design the road ahead, to avoid that metaphorical head-on.

The families most likely to go off the cliff, in my opinion, are those that God likes to call “stiff necked people.” They’re self-righteous, unable to consider the perspectives of others. They pepper their sentences with “let me explain something you don’t understand.” They absolutely cannot role-play, pretending for one minute they’re their own brother, attempting to comprehend his point. They also can’t play “Family Funny Money” exchanging your own counterfeit currency to reward better behaviors, or pay “taxes” for doing the same old thing; earning personalized perks (i.e.: time off, contributions to a hobby, work toys).

When negotiating, it gives them more pleasure to withhold what others want than to trade for what they, themselves, need. They’re excellent at catching others doing wrong, where the opposite would save dollars and brain cells for all. They are risk takers, yes; but they shudder at the notion of complimenting one another, in case they don’t get one back, of greater or equal value.

It seems rare, that family who really has each others’ backs; where rewarding relationships seem easy, were easy from childhood, where in-laws are welcomed with open arms, where family works together because they take pleasure in each other, gains ground from rowing in the same direction, and are consumed with fine tuning themselves to make extraordinary music together.

And if you’re not perfect, a la most of us, you’re still rare if you realize that “haven’t got time for the pain” (as Carly Simon said, but Job said it first) doesn’t mean avoid treatment. Invest yourselves, and appreciate the return. .

And if you’re not perfect, a la most of us, you’re still rare if you realize that “haven’t got time for the pain” (as Carly Simon said, but Job said it first) doesn’t mean avoid treatment. Invest yourselves, and enjoy the return.

- Ira Bryck is director of the UMass Family Business Center, and helps entrepreneurial families improve their working and personal relationships. See more at http://umass.edu/fambizWritten for Family Business Wiki http://www.familybusinesswiki.org/

Back to Top