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How to Grow Your Family Business

Less than one-third of family businesses survive the transition from first to second generation ownership, and half don’t survive the transition from second to third generation, according to Forbes. 

Steve Treat, senior therapist and former director and CEO of Council for Relationships (CFR), attributes those failed transitions to a lack of dynamics and dialogue in families. During an education session at ASI Orlando, Treat shared insights on how to strengthen family ties and build strong connections that flow into the workplace. 

Treat says that the key to maintaining strong relationships with your family is to process those relationships out loud. “It’s hard to take feedback without personalizing it,” Treat said. “But you should ask your spouse how you’re doing as a couple. Ask your kids how you’re doing as a parent.”

By sharing your strengths and weaknesses with your family, you develop a deep level of trust. Over time, you’ll feel safe enough to share your narrative – all your trials and tribulations that made you who you are today. “If we knew the depth of each other’s stories, we’d be able to love each other more,” Treat said. “We’d have more forgiveness, more room to make mistakes.”

The toughest skill to master is reflection without reference, Treat says. It’s extremely difficult for people to realize they feel a certain way not because of someone else’s actions. “We often blame our problems on somebody else, particularly family,” he said. “When you can look at yourself as the root of your problem, then you won’t have a negative attribution for others.”

In order to build and foster strong relationships, Treat says you must engage in dialogue with your family, listening to their concerns and exploring their words. For example, when your spouse says, “You hurt me today,” ask them how you hurt them. Have them help you understand what they’re going through. It’s all about response rather than reaction: When someone says “I don’t like you,” the common reaction is “I don’t like you either.” But the response should be “Why don’t you like me?”

“Go after kinder and gentler ways of seeing each other,” Treat said.