Women in Family Business: The Lure of Distraction

By Patricia Annino, J.D., Thomas Davidow, Ed.D. & Cynthia Adams Harrison, Ed.D., LICSW

The Lure of Distraction

Frequently, parents’ inability to acknowledge and address a child’s problematic behavior is a sign that something is wrong in the marriage. Rather than deal with a difficulty in their relationship, parents allow their child’s negative behavior to serve as a distraction from it. As a result the child comes to believe, albeit unconsciously, “If I continue to act out, my parents will stay together rather than confront their own issues.” In clinical terms, he becomes the “Identified Patient.” What he is actually doing is signaling a dysfunction in his parents’ marriage.

Any time there are unresolved core problems at the heart of a marriage, those issues are going to splatter all over the walls of the family business. In that light, think about the following difficult questions:

When you state that your husband does not accurately assess your children’s talents and weaknesses, are you saying that you do?

Is it your husband’s fault alone?

Have you managed your child in a way that has proven to be successful?

How long has the problem existed?

Have you and your husband figured out how to work together to have your child perform?

Opportunity, Not a Right

While children in a family business may eventually acquire assets from it, they should not automatically have the right to work in it. Parents can create estate plans through which they share their assets-the monies their business generates, their wealth-among their children, but they ought to differentiate between sharing assets with their children and offering them employment in the business.

It is one thing to give your child a job in the business if he needs one. It is another to move him into a management or leadership position for which his only qualification is that he is a family member. If your child expects to work in the business, you can manage his expectations by talking to him honestly, so that he has the chance to adjust to reality sooner rather than later. If you postpone the discussion about reality for too long, a chasm can develop between expectation and reality and create a huge problem.

One facet of reality to share with your child is that as a family member he will have a leg up in terms of opportunitties within the business, but he will also face disadvantages. For one thing, he will be working under a microscope. His every little error will loom large. In addition, he will be wedged between the employees and the family. Non-family employees will approach him with complaints about events in the business; and since he has to keep his relationship with other employees harmonious, he will not know what and what not to share with you. That is a difficult position to be in.

Patricia Annino is a sought after speaker and nationally recognized authority on women and estate planning.  She educates and empowers women to value themselves and their contributions in order to ACCOMPLISH GREAT THINGS in the world – and in so doing PROTECT THEMSELVES, those they love, and the organizations they care about.  Annino recently announced the release of an updated version of her successful book, Women and Money: A Practical Guide to Estate Planning to include recent changes in the laws that govern how we protect our assets during and beyond our lifetime.  Annino’s book is an exhortation, resource and trusted companion for women in all facets of life.  To purchase the book visit:  http://amzn.to/hOHuEV or for more about Annino, visit: www.patriciaannino.com




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