The day before Thanksgiving

July 01, 2013

Marta Dobrzynski is looking forward to Thanksgiving tomorrow with mixed emotions. She received some disturbing news during yesterday's medical appointment and is determined to tell her husband, Leon, that it is time he backed away from the printing business he founded and has devoted his life to for over a quarter-century.

Surely Stefan, their eldest son who joined the business after graduating from university with a degree in commerce, is capable of taking over the role of CEO. Sara, their youngest child, is also doing a wonderful job in her role in production and Marta can see she would be a great support for Stefan.

At least Marta will have the whole family around for support at dinner tomorrow. Their other son, Wil, will be home on one of his rare visits. He is currently doing freelance photography work and spends a lot of time overseas covering one major story or another. From Marta's perspective, it is time for him to come back and get involved in the family business.


But Wil is making this trip home for a reason. He has finally decided to accept a lucrative job offer in Australia as he feels it is the right career move. After all, Leon did not consider him a candidate for successor to the family business - that was clearly Stefan's role by birthright. Besides, there is no way Wil would consider working under Stefan who always acted superior to him. Wil left home in the first place to avoid that.

Meanwhile, Stefan has been trying to gain the courage to tell his father that he is thinking of starting his own advertising and marketing business in another city and would appreciate some financial help from Leon to get the business off the ground. Stefan's wife, Renata, wants to live closer to work to reduce her commute time when she returns from maternity leave, so Stefan will be too far from the printing business and needs a new career. Starting his own business seems like the best option.

Sara is also anxious about Thanksgiving. She plans to get Leon's attention at a time when he is more relaxed to tell him her great ideas for expanding the business. Sara really enjoys her role in Dobrzynski Printing, but feels Leon does not appreciate what she has to offer. Not only is she the youngest, she is also female and, therefore, the last in line for any leadership opportunities. Tomorrow will be a last-ditch effort to earn a promotion before deciding to switch careers and work with her fiancé Joel after their wedding next spring.

As the family sits down to dinner the next day, Leon looks around happily. He is in his prime and looking forward to the future. He has a wonderful family, the business is doing well, and he has no financial worries - life is great.

Running a busy company clearly can consume its owner-manager and leave little time for nurturing the family enterprise. The Dobrzynskis are an excellent example of a family in need of the third component of the Communication Vehicle™, a critical element that helps create a balance between family and business. They need a forum that will strengthen family ties and maintain a unity that runs deeper than the sense of self.

The family council

Like the Dobrzynskis, every business family will face challenges that create an imbalance between personal and business lives. When such challenges directly impact the family, it is critical that there is a system in place for dealing with any concerns rather than allow them to fester and threaten to destroy relationships. There is a time and a place to bring up business issues - and it's not Thanksgiving dinner.

A family council is a practical venue for business families to communicate their ideas, opinions and expectations, and work together to develop the main objectives of the family circle, i.e. empathy and support. This structure gives every family member an equal voice and a safe place to be heard. It is an appropriate forum for discussing the policies that will guide family decision-making for generations to come.

A family council is also a component of The Family Business Senate™ governance system where the family charter and participation plan are developed, reviewed and adopted. When planning for a business transition, this is absolutely necessary for balancing the needs of the family with the objectives of the business.

In our next article, we will further explore the benefits of a family council and the steps to establish one as an effective system of governance for the business family. In the meantime, if you would like more information on designing your Communication Vehicle™, please contact your BDO advisor or The BDO SuccessCare Program™ team at 1 800 598 6400.

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