The examples below are not about any single real families, but rather compilations of fact patterns of families that we have worked with either directly or indirectly.


    Dad got the business from Grandpa, and built it up very nicely. He has just turned 60, and his children, early 30’s are working in the business. Who will be responsible for what, given their education, talent, and ability to work together. How will they separate management decisions from ownership decisions?

    A family retreat would be a great idea, along with some individual coaching of the G3 members on an ongoing basis.


    Dad started the company and built it up his way, with little education, lots of street smarts, long hours, and hard work. His son is a smart engineer, enjoys much more work-life balance than Dad ever did, and they don’t see eye-to-eye on many things. Dad has a hot temper and his son’s work style make him question whether the business has any hope after he leaves.

    Sometimes an advisor gets called as a mediator first and foremost. Once he can get the parties to understand each other better, including the things that set the othe party off, business coaching and family meeting facilitation can be added to help make the transition flow more smoothly.


    Mom and Dad built the company, but it was mostly Mom’s business to run. The two daughters have been brought in very nicely, each having the best education and training. The sisters even get along nicely, and their responsibilities are nicely separated to avoid potential conflicts as much as possible. The problem? Mom can’t let go, and insists on looking over their shoulders and second guessing them.

    This one is a bit tricky, because Mom needs to be reassured, but mostly needs to be told to butt out. The girls have trouble doing this tactfully, and don’t want to make waves. A combination of mediation and coaching (for both Mom and the girls, one-on-one) can go a long way to finding the right balance for Mom’s involvement, as well as a scheduled diminishing role for her.


    Mom and Dad both had great careers and built up significant assets, not as a business, but individually in the arts. Their untimely passing within a few months, left their 4 children, all in their 30’s, kind of directionless.  Ed, the oldest, has taken the lead, but does not want to impose his ideas on his siblings.

    Family meeting facilitation, as well as some individual coaching to bring them onto a more level playing field with respect to financial literacy would make sense. The heirs need some guidance in figuring out if there is a reason to “stick together” financially, or each go their separate ways. They should rely on an independent outsider to guide them through this time.


    Dad built his company from scratch, brought in one of his children, and then sold the business due to a tough economy. He left enough to keep his family pretty secure financially before passing away.

    After he died, his widow and children needed some outside guidance to figure out how to work together. A trusted, independent outsider was brought in to work with the family on governance development, which is not complex but benefits from his independence. He organizes and chairs the annual family meeting, and helps guide everyone with his perspective and wisdom.


    Dad built a very nice business and sold it at an opportune time in his early 70’s. His 5 children are set to inherit substantial sums of money, but only after he passes away. He has been losing touch with reality lately, but remains physically healthy.

    The G2 siblings need to begin to figure out how to work together. A coach could be brought in to help them figure out what issues they will face, what information they should be getting from their accounting and legal advisors, and help them transition control of some of the decision-making. The coach can also help guide them in how to proceed, mediate any of their disputes, and act as a sounding board moving forward.


    Mom and Dad have built a nice business, from scratch, into enough of a business to sell and retire on, The kids like the business, have worked in it off and on, and do not have any clear career paths, despite good education and street smarts. The kids are a bit directionless, but could come in and run the company, maybe, if they wanted to. But do they?

    This family needs to talk about these issues, but it is not an easy conversation to have. An outside facilitator could be brought in to work with each family member individually to get their perspectives, and then convene a family meeting to figure out the best way forward. If one or more of the kids has a real interest, then Dad will need to figure out how and where to bring them in, if nobody wants in, then the kids may benefit from some career coaching, and he should begin to run his business to position it for sale. But none of this can happen before he gets the lay of the land from his children.


    Roberta and Kyle are brother and sister, and they set up a company that is starting to grow nicely. When they needed more managers, each brought in their spouse, and they are now 4 owners, all siblings or siblings-in-law. Oh, and Dad and uncle Stan have lent them money.

    This family could really benefit with some governance that applies to the business, because that is where the major issues lie, running the company in the best way possible. But there are family issues too, because of the siblings and their spouses. The advisor will require good mediation and communication skills, as well as a thorough understanding of business issues, especially in a family setting. Facilitation skills will be put to the test, but will provide a huge service to the family, and the company.


    Dad began the business after a career in some large companies, and eventually hired both his boys to work with him. They have a pretty good thing going, only they have never broached the subject of transitioning ownership to the G2’s. Also, the brothers work well together now, but will that remain the same after Dad retires? What about after he dies?

    These people need to start to have the important conversations that should have started to take place a god 10 years ago, when the boys were in their 30’s. But it is never too late. A skilled facilitator, with family business experience, would be able to guide the discussions productively, raising the hairy issues and helping them work to mutually agreeable solutions.

The above examples are just some of the possible situations that business families may face. An independent advisor can be brought in from outside the family, to handle the roles of facilitator, coach, and/or mediator, to help the family deal with the current situation, while looking to create the harmony they need, to support the legacy they want.

STOP working in your family BUSINESS,
START working on your business FAMILY

About Steve Legler

Some people work their butt off for their whole life trying to build a business for their family. They often dream about how great it will be for the family to work together with a common purpose.  But the dream doesn’t always work out the way they imagined, because it is a LOT more complex than they ever imagined.

It isn’t usually the business part that trips them up, more often it is the family part. The roadblocks usually show up when it comes time to truly transition the business to the next generation, and this is where Steve comes in.  He specializes in helping families turn their dream into a workable plan, using a step-by-step method to get everyone on the same page.

Once the family has completed his Business Family Continuity BluePrint, all family members will see the family’s goals, and they will understand their roles. Steve then helps them all figure out how they can move forward, working together.

Steve is a proud FEA Designate (IFEA) and holds ACBFA and ACFWA certifications (FFI), in addition to having an MBA (UWO-Ivey) He is also a CFA charterholder (CFA Institute), and the author of Shift your Family Business (Friesen Press, 2014)

“If you own a family business and want to read a fun book on how to become a business family you will enjoy this one. It is written from the business owner perspective and is straightforward. I’ve shared my copy with a number of people.”

If you are in a Family Business or you deal with a Family Business, and you are so busy that you cannot see the forest because of the trees, I would highly recommend you take some time and read this book. It reads very quickly and feels as if you are having a conversation with a friend of the family who understands what you are going through because he has gone through it with his own family. Very enlightening, very clear, and actually fun to read!

I strongly recommend anyone that has a family business to read this book. Steve Legler will open your eyes as to what it takes to run a successful family business all while keeping family harmony. He provides lots of tips and advice in a way that is easy to understand. You can really feel his enthusiasm in the way he writes, and how he is committed to helping business families create the legacy and family spirit they really want.