“What’s the most important thing I need to know to be successful in my family’s business?” asked the young MBA student with his soft Southern accent. This question after I had just been interviewed by his professor for over an hour in a family business class! We had covered everything from family councils to family constitutions, from family unity to family politics, from having strong family values to having inspirational family vision statements, and now he wanted to know the most important thing.
Sharing the ancient secret of the Oracle at Delphi, I whispered to him: “Know thyself.” While it is crucial to have the best governance possible in a family business, I explained to this serious student, there are many ways of learning why you are the way you are, why you do the things you do, and how your communication style differs from the communication styles of others. The more you know about yourself, the better you will be able communicate.
If you are in a family business you need to ask yourself, how does your birth order affect your personality? What can you learn about yourself from taking the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator? What is your Enneagram type, and what does it say about you? Then once you’ve learned about yourself, learn as much as you can about the personalities and communication preferences of your family members, especially those who are in the family business with you.
Good communication is critical to the success of your family’s business, and understanding each other’s personality types makes communication easier. When you’ve invested time and energy to know yourself and your family, those little misunderstandings that have the potential to grow into big problems never materialize. Then there is no cause for resentment, retaliation, or retribution. So go on a journey of self-discovery—and take your family with you!