Honouring FamBiz System Exits
I was born into a family business system over five decades ago, and I’ve been working in and writing about the FamBiz space for over five years now.
The fact that a family is actually a “system” is one of the important realizations that I’ve come to, yet not necessarily one that I’ve shared much about here.
There have been some blogs relating to Bowen Family Systems Theory (A Systematic Business Family?) (My Beliefs on Family Legacy Advice) and I have shared with many people the fact that I’m beginning to work on my next book, which will be all about the intersection of BFST and the world of FamBiz.
But there have been a couple of events in the last little while that made me want to address the subject of “systems exits”, i.e. situations where someone who has been a part of a system is suddenly no longer around, and some of the consequences.
A Matriarch’s Retirement
The first situation draws on an annual meeting with a family business client of mine, where the matriarch of the family made the sudden announcement that she would be retiring from the business, effective immediately.
I took her at her word, and after she left the meeting, I mentioned to her children and nephews that they should begin to find a way to honour her service and announce this news to all the employees.
They looked at me with curious expressions, which I eventually realized were caused by the fact that few of them believed that she was serious.
Well, that was over three months ago, and she has been true to her word, and they have yet to do anything in line with what I had suggested.
Leaving a Door Open
My idea for announcing the retirement decision stemmed from my view that clarity is of utmost importance in any family business.
There are so many ambiguities that are inherent in systems where family and business overlap, that it behooves everyone to work extra hard to be clear on as many things as possible.
By not announcing the retirement of the matriarch, a proverbial door was being left open for her return, and that leaves the situation more open to confusion among the ranks of the employees.
Losing Man’s Best Friend
The second situation regarding a systems exit was not about the exit of a human, but it was about the loss of a member of the family.
The photo accompanying this post is the last one we have of Caedmon, our companion for the last nine years.
He had an interesting life during his time with us, and I’ve got enough stories about his adventures to last the rest of my life.
I wrote about one of them a few years ago (Sharing my Warmth Goes to the Dogs) and then that story was followed by another interesting turn of events that even got us on the news, first locally and then nationally. (Go Labs go! (Don’t worry) Carey Price gets his dogs back)
Honouring Those Who Have Left
You may think that this is a bit of a stretch (and I’d have a hard time arguing against you if you do) but I’m trying to honour this family member by writing about him here.
When we first got Caedmon, we jokingly referred to him as “Bosco’s dog”, because we got him to keep Bosco company after Rufus went to doggy heaven.
Bosco was the subject of a blog post in 2014 when he followed his “brother” Rufus to the pearly gates (R.I.P. my Old Friend)
Don’t Pretend They Weren’t There
I get some interesting looks from people sometimes when I refer to people who have died when we have family gatherings.
It’s so easy to not bring people’s names up because we don’t want anyone to feel bad about the absence of those who are no longer with us, but I like to buck that trend.
At funerals, we usually hear that we are there not to mourn, but to celebrate the life of the dearly departed.
That can be difficult when it is still so fresh and when the person was important to us. But after years have passed, I hate to act like the person never existed.
It Is Better to Have Loved and Lost…
When someone has exited the system, you can mourn them, honour them, grieve them, and celebrate them.
Just please don’t forget them, act like they were never there, or write them out of the story.