In over 40 years of working with family businesses, I have dealt with many families who get sibling rivalry right and others who get it so wrong that not only does the family business suffer but the family is torn apart – sometimes never to come together again. Dealing with the issue early is critical because assumed expectations need to be monitored and adjusted as required. If handled properly, there is a fair chance that while the sibling rivalry may still exist, it can be controlled and dealt with.
Often the fault really lies with the parent(s) because the parents cannot or will not deal with the inevitable issue of who will run the business when they are gone or retired. Not only who will run the business but who will work in the business and what position they will take on. The worst case that I have had to deal with ended up with a family torn apart because the father was unable to deal with the toxic relationship between the two brothers. He had already spoilt both sons by giving them everything that they asked for over the years and the older brother believed it was his right to take over the business so he did everything he could to shut out the younger brother. I was eventually able to negotiate a buy out for the younger brother and the older brother “took over” the business without any consideration for the family. In doing so the older brother even went so far as to ensure that the father’s personal assets were tied up as security for “his” business which left the father unable to make adequate plans for his retirement. The family has never been the same, however, unfortunately, the real blame lay with the father because he simply would not or could not manage the situation. Another relevant aspect of this discussion is the fact that too often the father believes that the future ownership of the family business is seen as the right of the sons(s) rather than considering the daughter(s). In 2021, the gender issue has become the most talked about problem facing not only our politicians but families and business in general. All siblings should be treated equally when considering who should work in and/or own the business moving forward. In the example above, the daughter, who was probably the most sensible and competent sibling, was never ever considered for a role in the family business. If she had, things would have been so different! In summary, I would suggest the following: 1. Parents – think about your succession planning early. 2. Discuss your plans with your children and your advisors. 3. Treat sons and daughters equally. 4. Seek appropriate independent advice to select the best person to work in or run the business based on experience and ability – not just the oldest son (or daughter).
About Graeme Beveridge
Graeme has over 40 years of experience in providing complete business solutions to SMEs and has been an FBA Accredited Advisor since 2011. Previously a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants, Graeme established Control Your Business in 2004 to more effectively relate to his main role as a family business advisor. Family Business Australia and New Zealand provides this article for your information only. The content of the article should not be taken as advice. If you wish to explore this topic, please consult an advisor who you consider to have the expertise to provide specific advice in relation to your family business.