“Professionally Emotional” – A FamBiz Oxy-Moron?

Following up on last week’s post, Three Pillars of Family Governance from a Pro, in which I invoked the wisdom of Barbara Hauser, one of the veteran contributors to the field of family enterprise, I’m going to do something similar this week.

This time I’ve been inspired by Randel Carlock, a professor at INSEAD, who has also been a major contributor to this field for decades.

And whereas last week’s post came about as the result of my reading a piece from CampdenFB, this week it comes from a post I came across  from Tharawat Magazine.

Many of my blogs have their genesis in conferences I attend and interactions with families and colleagues, but these two websites have provided many sparks as well.

(LinkedIn and Twitter are great ways to stay abreast of things in this space, by the way).

 

Professionally Emotional

What struck me was this quote, from A Family Business on the Moon – Lessons from the Author, where Carlock says, “…we encourage families to become professionally emotional, which may seem like an oxymoron, but it works.”

As someone who loves to play with words and gets excited by the potential paradoxes in any oxymoron, this one ticked a few boxes for me.

While many people might feel like “professional” and “emotional” cannot naturally coexist, I think that those who inhabit the world of enterprising families will immediately recognize the possibilities this expression gives rise to.

Let’s take a closer look at what Carlock is driving at.

 

Professional Governance and Strategy

When it comes to the running of a successful business, it’s always important to have a professional approach to the strategy and the governance of the enterprise.  Few people will argue with that.

Of course, too many family businesses continue to operate with less than professional business operations and strategy, but that is a subject for another day.

In terms of running and guiding the company, “professional” is certainly the way to go, or at least something to aspire to.

 

Emotional and Caring Leadership

But family enterprises need to be a bit different than their non-family brethren in how they exercise their leadership.  

When you have several family members involved, and you therefore have more than a simple business relationship with the others around the table, other factors come into play as well.

It is in the leadership of these enterprises that the emotions and the caring need to be present.

So, “Yes” to the professionalism of the “what”, but also “Yes” to the caring about the emotional side of things in the leadership, or the “how”.

Parallel Planning Process

Carlock is encouraging families to work on their business and their family planning in parallel.  In fact, he coined the term “Parallel Planning Process” many years ago, in a book he co-authored with John Ward from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

That book, Strategic Planning for the Family Business, details everything quite nicely.

Not only is it important to do planning for the business AND to do planning for the family and its members, a major point is that they are equally important.

And because they are both important, they need to be done in a coordinated and aligned fashion.  They are interdependent, so you need to make sure that they’re both progressing side-by-side.

 

Match the Speed of Evolution

What often occurs is that many plans are made, professionally, concerning the future of the business.  The focus continues to be on making the business strong, and having it continue to grow. The family can be an afterthought.

That’s when things can get out of sync with the family.  When there is business planning without regard to the family members and the human capital that they can offer, many possible contributors can get lost in the shuffle.

The other version can occur too.  How many of us have heard of family businesses that get sold to outsiders, because no family members want to take over?  Typically, the next generation have all become professionals and have great careers going, so coming back to the family business can seem like a step backwards.

All the more reason to try to keep the plans for the family and for the business properly aligned. None of this is necessarily easy to do, it takes effort and diligence.

That doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it though!