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Baseball is Back

Posted on Wednesday, July 29th, 2020

It’s the end of July, and we finally get some baseball back in our lives!  I know you are as excited as I am – the stars are aligning for my MN Twins do well.  Please no comments from any Yankees readers – though who am I kidding – there are none. 

Anyway, it’s time for a good ol baseball metaphor to help us all think about the planning necessary to have a successful family business.

One thing the announcers always love to talk about is the way a starting pitcher’s effectiveness/success will diminish the second, third, and fourth times through the batting order.  Can you see where this might be going?

The exact same scenario plays out with family business every day.  The first Gen is typically a husband/wife team and the can hit it out of the park (keep the metaphors coming baby!!)

The second time through the order we see the kids step up to the plate (I’ve got this all day!).  That is when the breakdowns start.  Many siblings can keep it together, especially if the business is doing well.  But as soon as the crowd gets unruly or you enter a rain delay – we can see the wheels start to come off.  Yes, I am mixing metaphors like crazy now!

It’s well-known to all family companies that the stats are not in your favor – Just more than 30% of all family-owned businesses make the transition into the second generation. 12% will still be viable into the third generation, with only 3% of all family businesses operating at the fourth-generation level and beyond.

So what do you do?  I’m glad you asked young grasshopper.  You’ve got to change speeds, change locations, create deception with your delivery and arm angle, and….Oh, wait, you mean what do you do as a family business?  It really comes down to one word – “Communicate”

It doesn’t have to be fancy or formal, it just has to happen, often. Business families have to take the time to talk about leadership, decision disagreements, sibling rivalry, compensation, succession, etc. etc.  You’ve got to make time for it or you’ll end up like Dylan Bundy against the Royals in 2018.  (Yes, I had to Google that one)  Needless to say he gave up a lot of runs.

Find a time to get your family members together, at least those working in the business.  Start with easy topics – this doesn’t have to be a fastball up and in (last one, I promise).  Take on topics like the Next Gen, philanthropy, or others that won’t put a bullseye on anyone in the room.  Ease your way into it – you can’t hit a home run on your first at bat (sorry)