David Karofsky Joins The Family Business Consulting Group

David Karofsky

The Family Business Consulting Group is pleased to welcome to its team David Karofsky.

David brings over 25 years of experience in coaching and consulting to individuals, families and companies to develop better cross team communication and build alignment among leadership. His client work is focused on executing the transition of ownership and leadership, professional development, conflict resolution, strategic planning and forming governance structures for family and closely-held businesses.

David is a recognized practitioner in the field, international speaker, and co-author of So You’re in the Family Business: A Guide to Sustainability with his father, Paul Karofsky. David joined his father’s firm, Transition Consulting Group, when he began his family business consulting practice, which has given him a personal appreciation for the joys of family business. David feels the move to FBCG offers the best of both worlds. “When FBCG approached me about joining its practice, I saw it as a wonderful opportunity to become part of a new team and expand the value I provide to my clients, while still being able to collaborate with my father.”

“We’re excited to have David on board,” shared Drew Mendoza, Managing Principal. “We have a lot of respect for the work that David and his father, Paul, have done with families over the years. David brings great energy, knowledge and expertise around family business, and he’ll have much to contribute to the FBCG team and the families that we serve.”

David is a graduate of Bowdoin College and received his Ed.M. in Counseling Psychology from Boston University and his MBA from Northeastern University. He is based in Boston, where he lives with his wife and two children.

Next Generation Development: Put Your Family Enterprise to the Test

Michael Fassler
Michael Fassler

Next generation development is a critical component of multi-generational continuity.[1] An effective process for developing the next generation of leaders requires a significant commitment of family resources. A test of whether your next generation development process is being effective involves answering three questions:

  1. Are family members developing the competencies to perform in their current and future family enterprise role(s)?
  2. Are family members developing the confidence that they can deliver in their current and future family enterprise role(s)?
  3. Are family members building credibility with family members, non-family executives and independent directors?

Development of competency, confidence and credibility go hand-in-hand. Competency is the combination of behaviors, knowledge and skills necessary to be well-qualified to perform in a particular family enterprise role, whether it be management or ownership. The opportunity to demonstrate competency combined with accurate feedback on performance is essential to developing confidence. Experiencing demonstrated competency sets the stage for family members to trust in themselves to further develop and prepare for increasingly complex roles. Experiences where learning is taking place and value is being created for the family enterprise is a powerful combination which builds family member credibility.

As individual family member competency and confidence build, credibility with other family enterprise stakeholders also increases as they come to believe and trust in the family member. Essential to building credibility includes having, and applying, a well-defined next generation development process which is understood and accepted throughout the family. This helps ensure that stakeholders believe decisions regarding access to development opportunities, including employment roles, are in line with what has been agreed upon.

As your family considers the significant commitment you are making to your next generation development process, test its effectiveness through assessment of the impact on developing competency, confidence and credibility in the family’s next generation of family leaders. This assessment will provide you with important feedback to drive needed adjustments and to encourage your family to continue to invest in this critical component of multi-generational continuity.

[1] See, for example, Developing Next Generation Leaders in Family Business; Stephen P. Miller; The Family  Business Advisor; 

Next Generation Development: Put Your Family Enterprise to the Test

Michael Fassler
Michael Fassler

Next generation development is a critical component of multi-generational continuity.[1] An effective process for developing the next generation of leaders requires a significant commitment of family resources.

A test of whether your next generation development process is being effective involves answering three questions:

  • Are family members developing the competencies to perform in their current and future family enterprise role(s)?
  • Are family members developing the confidence that they can deliver in their current and future family enterprise role(s)?
  • Are family members building credibility with family members, non-family executives and independent directors?

Development of competency, confidence and credibility go hand-in-hand. Competency is the combination of behaviors, knowledge and skills necessary to be well-qualified to perform in a particular family enterprise role, whether it be management or ownership. The opportunity to demonstrate competency combined with accurate feedback on performance is essential to developing confidence. Experiencing demonstrated competency sets the stage for family members to trust in themselves to further develop and prepare for increasingly complex roles. Experiences where learning is taking place and value is being created for the family enterprise is a powerful combination which builds family member credibility.

As an individual family member’s competency and confidence build, credibility with other family enterprise stakeholders also increases as they come to believe and trust in the family member. Essential to building credibility includes having, and applying, a well-defined next generation development process which is understood and accepted throughout the family. This helps ensure that stakeholders believe decisions regarding access to development opportunities, including employment roles, are in line with what has been agreed upon.

As your family considers the significant commitment you are making to your next generation development process, test its effectiveness through assessment of the impact on developing competency, confidence and credibility in the family’s next generation of family leaders. This assessment will provide you with important feedback to drive needed adjustments and to encourage your family to continue to invest in this critical component of multi-generational continuity.

[1] See, for example, Developing Next Generation Leaders in Family Business; Stephen P. Miller; The Family  Business Advisor

Our Best Family Business Resources of 2016

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hr_in_the_family_business_cover_loresHuman Resources in Family Business
This new book shows how HR practices can help family firms achieve their values-driven goals as a family and a business. Filled with case studies, frameworks and practical tools, this book addresses how to successfully anticipate and manage people issues and opportunities. Details…

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Too many one-size-fits-all and elaborate continuity plans fail to take into account the idiosyncratic family factors that can interfere with continuity planning. This book explains how building the right foundation will help families implement the best continuity plans. Details…

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Dana Telford and Michael Fassler Named Principals

The Family Business Consulting Group is pleased to announce the addition of two of its seasoned experts to the top position of principal in 2016: Dana Telford and Michael Fassler.

“Both have fantastic family business acumen, academic and career pedigrees,” said Drew Mendoza, managing principal of the firm. “Their contributions to the field not only as advisors, but also speakers and writers, are superb. Most importantly, both have shown tremendous leadership in our company and great respect for our vision and values.  Every client I have spoken with has provided outstanding reviews of their work with the family and the business.”

Dana Telford
Dana Telford

Dana joined the firm in 2011 and has advised hundreds of business families from many business sectors in a variety of sizes on six continents and in more than 18 different countries. His former and current clients include leaders from Forbes’ list of the world’s wealthiest, a royal family and two of the largest privately held businesses in the world. Dana earned an MBA from Harvard Business School.

“Dana brings wonderful experience as a consultant and an excellent mind to the continuing development of The Family Business Consulting Group,” shared Craig Aronoff, co-founder, principal and chair of the board. “He represents the ‘next generation’ of ownership which will assure the continuity of our firm and the achievement of our commitment to remain an independent firm providing unconflicted service to our family business clients across generations.”

Michael Fassler
Michael Fassler

Mike has been serving family businesses since 1984, across industries and internationally. Since joining our team in 2013, most of his work is focused on family businesses owned by sibling teams and cousin teams with an emphasis on helping clients balance the tension of family and business as their families and businesses grow. He is a certified and active member of the Family Firm Institute and earned his BBA in Finance from the University of Notre Dame and graduate degree from Michigan State University

According to Craig, “Mike is an outstanding addition to our ownership team with decades of experience and a great understanding of practice of professional advisory services and building our capacity to better serve our clients. We look forward to having his voice in our decisions concerning the continuous growth and improvement of The Family Business Consulting Group.”

Established in 1994, The Family Business Consulting Group’s ownership group today includes Craig Aronoff, Drew Mendoza, Christopher Eckrich, Stephen McClure, Amy Schuman, David Lansky, Joe Schmieder, Greg Greenleaf, Dana Telford and Michael Fassler.

Our intention is similar to that of many of the family businesses we serve: to perpetuate The Family Business Consulting Group across generations by constantly identifying and attracting outstanding professionals and continuously facilitating their improvement while reinvesting in our organization, methods and intellectual capital.

Welcome to your new leadership roles, Dana and Mike!

Nicole Bettinger Joins The Family Business Consulting Group

bettinger_200x300The Family Business Consulting Group is pleased to announce the addition of Nicole Bettinger as its newest consultant specializing in communication, conflict resolution and training next-generation family business owners. Her experience includes facilitating family meetings, educating families and aligning ownership.

“Nicole is a wonderful example of what we seek in next generation family business specialists,” said Managing Principal Drew Mendoza. “She brings solid business and family communication instincts, broad experience, career commitment to the field and great care for the families she serves.”

Prior to joining the firm, she served as as the operations manager for the University of Wisconsin-Madison Family Business Center. Her work in programming helped the Center support family businesses through a variety of services including discussion forums, training programs and educational resources. Nicole also facilitated peer group meetings focused on the training of next generation family business leaders.

She has a personal passion and understanding of family business as her family owned a grocery store for 95 years before converting into a community operated co-operative.

Nicole’s education includes a BA in History and International Studies from UW-Madison and an MBA from Roosevelt University in Chicago. She is a recent graduate of the Family Firm Institute Certificate program in Family Business Advising and is pursuing the Advanced Certificate in Family Business Advising.  Nicole also has completed coursework in group facilitation and mediation through DePaul University.

Justin Craig Joins The Family Business Consulting Group

Craig_200x300The Family Business Consulting Group welcomes Justin Craig, Ph.D. as a consultant to our team. His areas of advisory expertise include issue-selling by next-generation family members, business and family governance, and the use of strategy measurement and management tools, such as the Balanced Scorecard, in family firms.

He is also a Clinical Professor of Family Enterprises and Co-Director of the Center for Family Enterprises at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

Justin’s research focuses on the strategy, function, management and performance of multi-generational family enterprises and those who lead and steward them. He is especially interested in the behavioral aspects of the family and, increasingly, the business family-influenced drivers of socio-economic impact. Before Kellogg, he held faculty positions at Northeastern University in Boston, Bond University in Australia (where he co-directed the globally renowned Australian Centre for Family Business) and Oregon State University.

Today he works closely with family business leaders and advisors, and has trained and presented to members of family firms from most business sectors (technology, consumer goods, manufacturing, retail and many others) and countries worldwide, including the United States, Columbia, Mexico, England, Ireland, Finland, South Africa, China, South Korea, Pakistan, India, Dubai, New Zealand and his home country Australia.

Justin completed undergraduate degrees in Business and Psychology (with Honors) at Griffith University, a Master’s degree in Counseling and a Ph.D. in Behavioral Science at Bond University.

The Greatest Issue of Destructive Family Dynamics

Deb Houden
Deb Houden

In my last post, I shared the parallels I found between the marriage research of John Gottman, Ph.D. and how it applies to any familial relationship especially those who own/work together. Gottman dubbed the four most detrimental behaviors for a marital relationship as The Four Horsemen: criticism, defensiveness, stonewalling and contempt. (Criticism is discussed here.)

Defensiveness , says Gottman, is a way of blaming the other for the issue and blame has never solved any dispute. By accepting responsibility for at least your own part of the problem goes a long way in having a constructive discussion. Being defensive is like having a rubber wall around a person, never letting in any type of constructive feedback. The defensive person takes feedback and twists it to fling back at the person in order to protect themselves. Communication and problem solving get increasingly difficult with this person because attempts to better a situation are stalled from the beginning and the conflict escalates. Teenagers and young adults need to learn to graciously accept feedback and hone their own ability to change and grow. Defensiveness is an inherited trait.

The third part of The Four Horsemen is stonewalling: when one of the participants of a relationship withdraws from interaction. How many times do we see people go quiet and withdraw when things get difficult? How many times do people get flooded and not know how to manage the situation so they shut down? It happens a lot. People falsely believe that by not interacting in a time on conflict that there will be a better outcome than by confronting the negative, but the research shows that is not the case. It’s a death knell for a relationship.

Being able to talk with someone (or even argue in a constructive way) is better than shutting down. I have worked with more than a few families who have the culture of not “fighting.” The problem is that no one learns to manage conflict effectively. Stonewalling is a fierce form of control over the other person. There is no emotional connectedness with the person who is stonewalling because they have emotionally built an impenetrable wall around their psyche.

Finally, Gottman argues that the greatest predictor of divorce is contempt, and I argue it is the greatest issue of destructive family dynamics. Contempt displays include sarcasm, cynicism, eye-rolling, name-calling, tsk-ing, sneering and hostile humor. (There are more, and you know them when you see them).  Parents don’t understand how their children can act that way towards their siblings yet they demonstrate those same behaviors to their own relatives in the firm.

Contemptible actions are made to discount the thoughts, feelings, and actions of the other in such a way as to inflict incredible damage. To ignore someone who is doing that takes Herculean strength!  I have been the recipient of contempt and it is probably, to me, the absolute worst treatment anyone can do. I feel silly, angry, not valued, and completely turned off.

Imagine if that happens every day when you work someone who is related to you?  I have been in situations where parents do this to children.  What does that teach?  The parent is keeping the child one step below, always on the lower rung. How can we prepare a child to have good relationships, have confidence to take on challenges when they are made to feel inferior?  To me, contempt is akin to hatred. Who needs enemies when family members display contempt?  There is NO PLACE for displays of contempt.

I am not naïve to expect that none of the above will happen in even the most loving, respectful and constructive of relationships. Sometimes emotions take over and we become our worst self – especially with those whom we trust will forgive us. But the preparation of our children is such an important task that we really need to teach them emotional skills that help with relationships. When you find yourself behaving a little subpar (and that might take some reflecting time to let the anger subside), acknowledge your actions and admit that you are not your best self sometimes.

Gottman’s final word of advice to couples is to try to have a ratio of 5:1 in positive to negative interactions (over a long span). By conceding less than stellar behavior and combating it with some positive interaction, you will mitigate the damage from the Four Horseman. We can do that with our next gen, too. Try to remember the golden ratio to keep the Four Horseman of the Relational Death at bay. Then you will have prepared your next gen well.

For more information about next-generation development, read Deb’s article published in The Family Business Advisor: Introducing Teens and Young Adults to the Family Enterprise.

Leading the Next Gen by Example: Constructive Family Relationships

Deb Houden
Deb Houden

I was reading On Wisconsin, the alumni magazine for the University of Wisconsin, when I came across an article highlighting John Gottman, Ph.D., who graduated from Wisconsin in 1972.  I knew of Gottman’s research because I used it often when teaching an undergraduate course at Wisconsin on Interpersonal Communication.

Gottman has devoted his life study to the indicators of what makes a successful marriage. I was in the process of writing an article on preparing teens and young adults for the family enterprise and I thought this is the most important aspect of preparing anyone in a familial relationship, especially those who own/work together. A constructive family relationship is key to continuance of the family firm.

While Gottman is a noted researcher on marriages, I believe his research applies to any familial relationship, especially when preparing the next generation. Parents can teach teens and college kids how to have a constructive, open relationship with family members by treating their own relatives in the business in a healthy manner. Gottman suggests that the four most detrimental behaviors for a marital relationship are criticism, defensiveness, stonewalling and contempt. In fact, his accuracy in predicting divorce (when he sees these behaviors) is at 94%!

Gottman defines criticism differently than a complaint. A complaint focuses on the specific behavior, whereas criticism focuses on the character of a person. When I teach negotiations, I tell the students to separate people from the problem; focus on what the problem is at that time.  Don’t get caught up in the behaviors of the other person because that causes one to lose their most critical leverage piece: their ability to think clearly.

The same is true of familial relationships.  Don’t slay the character of the other family member.  Examples such as “He always needs to be in control” or “She is lazy” is a direct slam at their character. It solves no problems but instead exacerbates the downfall of the relationship. In some of my most conflicted family enterprise work, I see character slams repeatedly happen. The manner of character slamming becomes a habit and is passed down to the next generation.  Children mirror these types of habits and begin to believe that this is how we treat relatives.

Not good preparation for the future!

For more information about next-generation development, read Deb’s article published in The Family Business Advisor: Introducing Teens and Young Adults to the Family Enterprise.

Family Relationships and the Power of Affinity

Michael Fassler
Michael Fassler

It never ceases to amaze me how family members in some family enterprises are able to function with relative ease while communicating and making decisions. Their ability to function this way results in uplifting family relationships along with enterprise growth and continuity. An observation about families with this level of functioning is that they have a high degree of affinity for one another – a natural liking for one another.

A high degree of affinity among family members is often not the case. This may cause family members to function with relative difficulty as they govern their family enterprise. However with deliberate effort the opportunity remains to overcome these difficulties. By family members rallying around some common purpose, they are often able to engage in rewarding family relationships along with growing and continuing their enterprise.

To begin, accept the reality that just because family members share the same genetics and grew up in the same environment, that does not necessarily result in a high degree of affinity. There is going to be diversity in beliefs, behavior, talent and interest among family members. Affinity is a natural occurrence, you cannot mandate or will it into existence. However, the following actions can help what affinity exists to express itself:

  • Maintain an ongoing dialogue to uncover (or discover) some level of shared purpose for working together.
  • Acknowledge one another’s contributions within the family and the enterprise as they are made and express gratitude for the impact they are having.
  • Through assessment and study, develop a basic understanding of your own and other family members’ behavioral tendencies. This understanding can lead to increased acceptance of other family members and can help you manage your own behavior as well.
  • Remind yourself that your family enterprise is a group of people working together. To be effective as a group there are times when self-interest must be secondary to the group’s interest.
  • Add structure to conversations and decision making whether they are in the realm of family, management or ownership. Both informal and ad hoc communication and decision processes can get in the way of productive interactions.
  • As your family and your enterprise evolve, know that evolving your governance process will contribute to rewarding relationships, growth and continuity.

And one final thought: Yes, when there is a low level of affinity productive interactions can be really difficult work. The pay-off is protection of relationships with family members you love.