A Family Business Story: From Dysfunction to a Life and Business by Design

This is the story of a family my team worked with over the course of 18 months. 

Names have been changed to protect their privacy. 

Since the early 80’s, Brad had seen his family business flourish and grow into two businesses. But over the years, his businesses slowly began running him. He often found himself in the weeds with a family, two companies, and over 50 employees. Brad was at a crossroads. 

Succession planning became a serious option. Brad wanted to devise a plan that would eventually let him step back from the helm of the company and let his two children take the reins, but how? This is where he reached out to us for help. 

Discovering Misalignment and Creating Vision 

We began by working closely with Brad and his wife to create a Vision plan to move forward. Brad had originally intended to focus just on succession planning but our work together allowed him to see more within the business that needed attention.

At the time, each member of the family had a role in the business: Brad’s son Geoff was part of leadership, his daughter Kelley was an active participant, Brad oversaw the daily operations, and Brad’s wife Heather managed the office and marketing work. 

After interviewing each person involved in the business, we took at a look at the books, listened to what customers were saying, analyzed the situation, and worked with the leadership team to address the organization’s health. 

But what I didn’t do with Brad was just dole out answers or simply act as an accountability coach…

 “I know they have the answers, or at least I think they have them,” Brad said. “They make us work towards the answer and solve issues along the way. They make us work hard at learning how to be better. I see things so differently now and I want it. I want the success of my family and my business.” 

Few consultants avoid this type of work, as family dynamics can be messy. Our job was to work with the management team and the family dynamics, and then find a way for this to work. Sometimes, like in this case, we have to talk about some of the family issues. 

Every family has stuff to work through and so we do it. Bringing family dynamics to light, putting them on the table, and working through them is at the heart of the work that we do.

Learn more about how we work with family businesses.

“My son and I have struggled,” Brad admitted. “He has worked in the business for six years. And our relationship is a struggle.”

My goal in cases like this is to help them get through this issue or these issues, and help them all improve as a family, even outside of the business. That’s the real work. It’s also important to take a look at the team and see who is working for the business and who may be taking advantage of the fact that this is a family-owned business.

My team and I worked with every single person who was involved in the companies to create a Vision that would get things back into alignment. 

We needed to get the right people in the right seats and help Brad to let go of what he had built so he could latch on to what is next.

After zeroing in on what the family and the business were doing successfully, we discovered a “secret sauce” of a unique communication style that the family could build upon to grow the business and double it in time with half the workload.

Where are they now?

In about six to nine months, Brad’s company made several changes in leadership. Brad showed up in a different way and was in charge of operations less and less over time. Brad’s son Geoff was pulled out of his role and was brought back in later in a new way that was more aligned with his strengths and his purpose, and Brad gave his daughter Kelley more leadership so that he could slowly phase out and more toward retirement.

As a result of working together, Brad was able to understand the value of having a strong leadership team within the company to manage accountability. He also now sees the importance of growing with technology and planning strategy. 

“Chris showed me how important effective communication is with my staff to get the company to a new level — I’m listening now and not always doing all the talking. We are working together in a way that makes sense.

We also aligned the core values of the businesses to interpersonal relationships and communication. “I think I was too lax of a parent, and especially a boss,” Brad says. “I gave my son a lot of leeway and thankfully I’m learning how to bring him in so that my son and my daughter can run this business together in the future. I know without Chris’ guidance and advice I wouldn’t have been able or willing to learn more about myself to help myself and my family.”


“Chris and his team made me look at myself within and evaluate how I deal with people, my family and friends. Inside 6 months, he got me thinking and acting in a way that is better for everyone around me. I’m now looking for solutions for problems instead of thinking that they will just go away.”

The final piece of our process was taking a step away from the business and focusing on how the person or persons we were working with want their lives to look. We look at what the person really cares about, what they value and how they want to spend their time.

I believe that success is achieved through hard work and a willingness to open up and improve. Success doesn’t just come from a coach eventually giving you a stamp of approval. That’s not what we do. My team works with the family collaboratively to get from Point A to Point B.  Additionally, we work with you to become the person who “owns” the change.   Permanent behavior change is what we are after, 

Brad admits that he wasn’t always on board with change. He was comfortable before we started doing the work together. He didn’t see the need to change until it was presented to him in a new way.  

 “I wanted him to tell us what to do. That’s what I thought he should do. We didn’t know it, but he was walking us down a path of self-realization and understanding of one another. He wanted me to understand the potential that he could see right away. For that I am forever grateful.”

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