September 29, 2011

“I am their consultant only!”

He came to the meeting with his daughter and son. He had established the company 30 years ago. From his explanations it was obvious that he knew his business well. He was proud of this fact. He said, “I am almost 70 years old; 2 years ago I left the management of the company to these young guys. I talk only if they ask my opinion.” Their turnover was rather low for a company in the business for 30 years.

During the meeting we asked each of them some questions. The questions to the younger generation ended up by being answered also by the father. This is a behaviour that we are used to. The fathers always know better. :-) At one point his forceful approach disturbed his daughter so that she needed to assert herself by saying, “That is not how you know it, father”.

By the end of the meeting the father became so bossy that I had to ask him, “Can you say that you are responsible for the whole history of the company?” He answered, “Of course, I have given my years to this company. “ The next question I asked was necessary to establish concord around the table: “Then could you please explain how you plan to answer your potential acquirer when he asks you why you have been able to grow your business, which you know so well, only this much in 30 years?” Of course, there was a silence and we had to explain them how to formulate the answer.

It is not always easy for the founder of a company to delegate the management to someone else, even if they are his family. Although they may say, “I am their consultant only”, usually they cannot keep themselves away from managing the company.

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