Understanding Family Business Dynamics

The Family Business – It’s Not Easy!

Managing a family business presents unique challenges not faced by businesses owned and operated by unrelated individuals.  If not addressed, family issues can divide the family and damage or destroy the business.  The larger the family, the more difficult it is to address the challenges. Ignoring the problems is Understanding Family Business Dynamicsnot a solution because they will not go away.

Statistics show that only 10 to 15 percent of family businesses make it to the third generation and only three to five percent make it to the fourth generation.

Typically, the business is started by the first generation and the founder’s children go to work in the business.  While the founder is alive and well, he or she takes the lion’s share of the compensation and profits and, most of the time, everyone appears to get along.  After the founder is gone, the second generation may continue to get along, but in many cases, it becomes a competition to see who can take the most and work the least. This puts a great deal of financial stress on the business because it now may have to support two, three or more families at the level that it previously supported one.

If the business does make it to the third generation, there are many more children involved and the problem grows exponentially, which almost always leads to its demise.

Compensating family members fairly

When it comes to family business, fair is not equal.  Although the business may be owned by many family members, the ones that actually work in the business must receive fair compensation for the jobs they do.  If one family member is the company’s top salesperson and her older brother is a part time worker, they should not receive equal compensation.  For a family business to succeed over multiple generations, there can be no entitlement.  The top performers can get a job anywhere; they do not have to stay in the family business.  If the performers leave, the entitled people are in trouble.

If after everyone receives fair compensation for their services, profits can be distributed to all owners, but only in an amount that will leave the business with enough cash to continue operations.  The business should never make the mistake of borrowing to make distributions.

To succeed in the end, business decisions must be right for the business and family decisions must be right for the family.  All of the children may not be interested in the business, or your youngest daughter may have more to contribute than your oldest son.  When it comes to the business, each family member should be evaluated based on what they bring to the table, not who their parents are or the order in which they were born.

We’ve got your back

At KRS CPAs, we know business is personal for you and your family. Learn more about our services for family-run businesses and contact me at 201.655.7411 or [email protected] to discuss your situation.