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Managing Competing Priorities

OVERVIEW An enterprising family was referred to Blackwood through the advice of their commercial banker. The matriarch and patriarch of the family had competing priorities and were struggling with how to resolve these. There was already a high degree of conflict amongst the three children involved in the business, and the family anticipated the fourth sibling would join the business upon completion of his masters degree. Expectations for involvement were unclear, and while the family was excited about their growth, they were also concerned about the increase in friction and the breakdown of family relationships. The client needed help opening up communication and increasing alignment within the family regarding the future of their rapidly expanding business, and the ownership structure for it.

The power of creating alignment.

Through our facilitation work, Blackwood helped this enterprising family to become aligned, which created the space to develop processes to manage conflict. Today, Blackwood continues to facilitate 3 family council meetings per year, and 1 annual advisor team meeting with the (tax, legal, and accounting) professionals.

Relationships within the family are strong, and their business is thriving. The combined net income from their operating companies has grown significantly since engaging with Blackwood. The family recently started discussing their desire to create a family foundation to support the causes about which they are passionate in the communities that have made them successful.

Important Achievements:

  1. The first family meeting created a safe space for discussion. Our affirmation report reframed previously awkward and sensitive issues in a way that made communication possible.

  2. The Values Cards exercise helped the family to better understand each other, and to then identify the 6 values that everyone in the family holds in common.

  3. Visioning Exercises helped to uncover timelines of the senior generation, and the roles/career paths to which members of the rising generation could aspire. These exercises generated a significant amount of discussion within the family; expectations were managed and the prerequisites were finally clear.

  4. Role Clarification exercises captured the current accountabilities of each family member; personal development plans for each family member were developed to begin preparing the rising generation for the roles to which they aspired (and where the business will have a legitimate need).

  5. Through facilitated discussion, a Sibling Code of Conduct document was developed to help siblings in the rising generation hold each other accountable re: performance expectations and demeanor when working together as a family, and with other non-family members of the management team. The siblings drafted the document together and all family members signed it. This document is reviewed regularly so a ‘check in’ discussion can be facilitated to uncover what is working and what is not, helping to address and resolve new issues as they emerge.

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