University of Northern Iowa



Assumptions are the Death Star of Family Business

Posted on Thursday, September 6th, 2018

We all know the old saying our parents told us – “when you assume, Daniel, (I always knew I was in trouble when my parents used my formal first name), you make an (fill in the blank) out of you and me.   

The road to conflict in a family is paved with assumptions.  (It’s also paved with perceptions, triangular conversations, and dead beat son-in-laws, but we’ll cover those topics later)

At the very top of the list of Assumptions that kill a family business is this one:

Generation 1 – “I don’t think the kids have any interest in taking over and I don’t want them to feel burdened with carrying this legacy forward.”

Generation 2 – “I’d like to get involved in the business but Mom/Dad hasn’t brought it up as an option, and I don’t think it’s my place to ask.”

And there you have it.  A recipe for a slot on The Jerry Springer Show – complete with chair throwing to be sure.

So what is the solution?  Simple and complex at the same time – you need to Communicate!  And like voting, you need to do it early and often.

We only need to look across the Galaxy to the Skywalkers to see how the lack of communication can get out of control.  Before you pull out your lightsabers and whack off your son’s hand, take a breath or two.  There is another way. Let Yoda be your guide. If you wait too long, the Force and the Dark Side become too different and you’ll never be able to unite the Galaxy.  

If you need some help, give this a read – it’s tremendous at providing ideas on how to have these life-changing conversations.  

Need more help?  Come to our Family Business Forum.  You can sign up HERE.  We’ll be doing a 3-part series of panels featuring Iowa families talking about how they have navigated the waters of transition from one generation to the next.  

It’ll be in Ankeny, so a lot closer than a Galaxy far, far away.  Use the time in the car to talk with your family about plans for the future and everyone’s role in it.  Have a great breakfast with us, and listen to other families share their experiences going through the exact same things.

If you need more than that, you can apply to be on Jerry’s show here.