5 Things to Know: Asking for Help for a FamBiz
This week we’re back into the “5 Things to Know” series, and the topic comes from something that happened again recently, happens to others, and will surely happen in the future.
I’m talking about a member of a family business reaching out for help, and then backing off. So here are my 5 things on asking for help for your FamBiz.
It’s Not Easy, or Even Simple
If you’ve read my stuff, you know that I make a distinction between what’s easy and what’s simple.
People who haven’t lived in a FamBiz often think that our issues are “easy” to deal with. My response is that the issues are usually “simple” (i.e. easy to explain) but rarely easy to actually handle properly.
For a family business member to reach out to an external resource is not easy or even simple.
Family businesses almost always have a culture of inward stuck-togetherness that looks down on asking for outside help
A lot of good stuff stems from that type of culture, but a reluctance to ask for help is one of its main drawbacks.
It Takes Courage
Because of the family dynamic that “we’re all in this together”, if one member of the family is troubled by what’s going on inside the group, it takes plenty of courage to even think about bringing in an outsider to help.
It’s much safer to stay quiet and hope for the best. That’s why so often they wait until the “pain point” is so great that it becomes a choice between asking for help and simply walking away.
(Note I said “simply” walking away, not “easily”)
Some think that asking for help is a sign of weakness, but it’s really a sign of courage.
It Starts and Ends with Trust
I will overuse the word “trust” here, I apologize in advance, but please trust me.
You need to trust your gut on this. When things are bad and there’s no reason to believe they’ll change, trust me, hope is not a strategy.
You already have folks you trust on the outside, so if they’re not the ones who can help, then ask them who they would trust.
When you first contact someone, do they seem trustworthy? Do they listen more than they talk? Do you have reason to believe that others trust them?
Finally, do you believe that they’ll be able to win the trust of your other family members? If not, you’ll probably need to start over.
You can “disqualify” people quickly if you don’t feel you can trust them, but unfortunately you can’t “qualify” someone very quickly.
It’s Possibly the Most Important Move You’ll Make
It’s not easy, it takes courage, and it involves that nebulous thing called trust, but what’s the alternative? Is it really “walking away”?
One of the biggest issues in business families, and the main culprit in most FamBiz failures, is poor communication among the family members.
It’s normal for conflict to be present. You probably can’t “solve” all of the conflicts, but you can certainly try to understand them better, so you can manage them.
But that won’t likely happen, until you bring in someone from the outside to sit around the table with you: someone with a different last name.
If You THINK You Should, You Probably Should
Timing is everything in life, so when should you reach out for help?
Well, if you’ve been thinking about it, if you can feel it in your gut, trust your gut. If you think you should, especially if you’re lying awake at night thinking about it, then it probably is time.
If you reach out to the right person, they’ll understand everything I’ve written here; how difficult it was for you to reach out, how much courage it took, that you’ll be on the lookout for clues on trustworthiness, and why this move could prove to be so important to your family.
If you reach out and then stop responding, the outsider should give you space but not cut off completely. They’ll “get” the fact that the timing may not be right.
They’ll recognize that you’re dealing with internal issues, and that you’ll occasionally make some progress on your own, and believe that an outsider won’t be necessary, or at least you hope so.
And they might even write a blog about it, and send it to you.