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Common Areas of Challenge

By Dr. Paul White

Family Decisions

Many times families have decisions which they need to make together, but it is difficult to get everyone together, sit down and “talk through” the issues, and then come to a mutually agreeable decision for all involved. This can occur at the senior generation level, for example, when the couple is having a hard time agreeing on how much to give to their children and grandchildren (including when to do so, and how).

More and more, family meetings involve adult siblings (and sometimes with their parents) to decide about how to manage common investments together, what to do with the family vacation home or condominium, or other commonly held assets.

Family Business Issues

Often families in business have to deal with transition issues related to the future management of the business. Sometimes this is related to the process of the founder transitioning out of the business. Another common situation is that the current founder/CEO is experiencing some serious health problems.

Many times there are issues related to siblings who are managers in the business, but who are not ready to take over senior management leadership positions. Developing a plan for both interim management succession and then a long-term development plan for family members is often necessary.

A second, critical issue has to do with transferring the ownership of the business to the next generations, and the complicating factor of some family members working in the business while others do not. Often, the challenge of maintaining financial parity among family members while also retaining control of the business in the management’s hands is an issue which needs to be resolved.

Family Relationships

There are two common scenarios within the area of family relationships. First, often there are relationships that need some strengthening. The relationship may not be “bad”, but if work is not done to improve trust and communication, there may be problems in the future. This may include conflictual relationships between siblings, a tense relationship across generations (for example, between father and son, or mother and daughter-in-law), or poor communication among the siblings’ spouses.

The second area is the need to continue to build strength into already positive existing relationships. This is especially important as the family grows older – there is less day-to-day contact among families, and the stages of the family’s development (college, marriage, young children, career building) create challenges in getting together regularly.

Career Direction and Life Purpose

A repetitive theme among families today is that they have one or more family members who need assistance in determining “where they are going” with regards to their education and career. This can be for high school students, as well as for students who are in college or who have recently completed college. Many family businesses also have a family member who is not in the “right place” – either for them or for the business.

As a result, a common service family coaches provide to business families is to conduct some career assessment and then ongoing career coaching to help members of the family find a positive and rewarding career direction.

Managing Finances

Most senior family members are concerned about the younger generations’ ability to appropriate manage the money they have now and will be receiving in the future. Some family members may be demonstrating good skills in this area, while others are clearly struggling.

The type of assistance needed often depends on the stage of life of the family member. For adolescents and college age students, the skills are at a very basic, personal level – with helping them learn and understand the use of credit cards, reconciling their checking account, and beginning to track the spending of their money.

For young adults, they usually need assistance in developing a personal budget and setting up a setting for this. There can also be some foundational education with regards to accounting and investments.

Interestingly, most people view this area of training as primarily financial (and informational) when in actuality, the issues associated with wise financial management is reallybehavioral – controlling one’s impulses, setting goals and implementing a plan, and then consistently making the right choices.

Values Transfer

A common area of concern for senior generation family members is the desire that the younger generation family members learn important lessons in life and develop solid, core values. Commonly expressed values include: a good work ethic, not being self-focused, being frugal, caring about others, loving God, being generous, and developing their skills and abilities to the fullest potential.

However, most families are not sure how to really transfer these values across generations, and actually are seeing the opposite character qualities developing (laziness, a sense of entitlement, a lack of personal responsibility). A huge problem in our culture today (and thus, in families) is the focus on issues and experiences which actually undermine the development of core, foundational values in our young people today. Fortunately, there are steps parents and families can take to counteract these forces.

Additional information may be found at

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