Managing a family’s relationship with the firm can be as hard as managing the business itself. The Southeastern Family Business Institute is a subsidiary of Bellet, Sieveking & Associates dedicated to helping family-firms govern their business and family affairs to balance the needs of both.
Family-held firms face unique obstacles
- Succession, family rivalries, dividend distribution, liquidity needs, and family employment
- Disagreement among family members on how to acquire and sell stock
- Tension between the needs of the family and those of the business
- Attracting executive talent without stock options, (a benefit family firms often resist)
An indication of a healthy family business is not the absence of conflict, but the ability to communicate and resolve conflict. Unresolved or unattended, ongoing issues may irreparably harm the business, the family, or both. By focusing on family-business governance and professionalization, we help family-owned firms address challenges preemptively.
Our approach relates to the way an engine or set of interlocking gears works. Each part has a specific function that must be in good working order. Although the parts are separate or have boundaries, they must all work together and be capable of “sensing” what other parts are doing and how best to interact. However, an engine or set of gears cannot operate efficiently or may “seize up” if there is no oil. These two aspects of an engine’s operating ability reflect the work we undertake to serve our clients. We first disentangle and establish separate governance systems — these represent the “engine parts or gears” in a closely-held firm among partners or family members owning and managing commonly held assets. We simultaneously establish processes (e.g., rules and policies for communicating, decision making) for each system to use separately and collectively with each other — this is the “oil.” If there is no oil, there is no movement.
The Family Business Consultation Process
- The first step is to conduct an objective and thorough assessment of family and business issues, usually through a series of one-on-one interviews with key management and family members.
- We then work with clients to establish forums where family members discuss both business practices that effect the family and family issues that impact the business.
Often to enhance communication, resolve conflict, and improve relationships, we facilitate the process of building structures that ensure communication and objective decision-making, such as the Family Council, the Family Retreat, and the Board of Directors.
- Family Council
While the Council enjoys no formal power, it can influence business decisions that impact family members. It provides members a healthy voice in the business and a forum to discuss differences of opinion. The Council also strengthens family bonds, unity and goodwill.
- Family Retreat
We prepare and facilitate Family Retreats, typically an annual event in which active family members inform non-active members about key business developments. Retreats are also an opportunity for the Family Council to report on their activities, deliberations, and recommended courses of action. This is a time for all family members to voice their concerns and opinions. Like the Council, the annual Family Retreat enhances family cohesion.
- Board of Directors
We help clients define the role of their Board, terms of Board service, and ideal composition. While many family- firms have deliberately organized and selected their Board of Directors to add value to the firm, yet some do not include outside directors on their boards, while in others there may be serious conflicts of interests. We work closely with family-firms to address these and other board- related governance issue