In this issue
Two families owned equal shares of a Minnesota business engaged in the production and sale of sand, gravel, and concrete blocks. Continuous dissension between the families became so pronounced that the two primary shareholders refused to speak except at board meetings. The rift became so severe that one of the shareholders, Fred Hedberg, built a partition by his desk to remove himself from all personal contact with the other shareholder, Charles Freidham.
How many generations should a family business last before it can be counted a success? It’s a trick question: The success of a business for its owners has nothing to do with lasting through “successive” generations. The root word in common is just a coincidence. A business can be a complete success for a family that decides to sell it.
Young women in family businesses today are challenging the long tradition of female selflessness, devaluation, and self-sacrifice, and they are also working to stay connected to their mothers. It is not easy or without conflict, however, that daughters strive for a different identity and lifestyle than their mothers. This is particularly true when the daughter's life includes aspects of her mother's unfulfilled aspirations and regrets, aspects which may painfully remind her mother of the rigid and unfair rules that limited her own opportunities.
Making joint decisions that have substantial economic consequences requires different skills than those that young family members learn while growing up together. Uncontrolled sibling rivalry, or taking sides, will not serve a group of successors who will one day share ownership of a business.