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Any business requires 110 percent effort, but a family business demands personal and professional attention in a unique way. There is potential for a great amount of personal and family stress, even disputes. A professional mediator can make all the difference. Read about how a professional consultant can be one of the best assets available to a family business.



You have worked all your life to build a successful business. Do you realize your chances are only 1 in 7 that your grandchildren will inherit your company? Too often, the business becomes entangled in family ties that undermine company success. Consequently, many owners find it helpful to develop a plan for the family and the family's role in the business. This creates a link between the family and the business.

The starting point for linking family with the business is a Family Retreat. This is the forum for setting the stage for the family to work together as a team. The primary goal of a family retreat is the development of a Family Business Plan. This plan enables a family to work out a vision of how it sees itself and how it sees its business in the future.


Retreat Outcomes

Although the specific objectives of each Family Retreat will vary, typical outcomes include the following:

A family vision statement

A statement of family philosophies

Family objectives

Specific strategies and action plans to achieve objectives

Family programs for:

  • governance and decision-making
  • resolving conflict
  • educating family members
  • achieving family harmony and unity

A communications profile of family members for:

  • helping members understand and cope with family dynamics
  • reducing interpersonal stress
  • improving communications
  • increasing trust, respect, and acceptance


Our Retreat Process

We design your Family Retreat to meet your individual family's needs. Your retreat is the beginning of linking family with the business. An important result should be the establishment of periodic family meetings and retreats in the future.

Our method for leading your family through its business planning process is thorough and complete. The cornerstone of this method - our more than 30 years of experience in working with closely held and family businesses to put their ideas into motion. Our practical business and behavioral management expertise brings an appropriate balance to the family business planning process. Our goal is to make your family's experience comfortable, and yet compelling, as we guide and contribute to the process.

We expect you will eventually run your family retreats without our assistance. Therefore, we also coach you on how to effectively lead and facilitate your own retreats and family meetings.


A Family Retreat will help you secure the well-being and future of your family, the productivity and future of your business, and the quality of your life. We invite you to contact us to learn more about how to design your own family retreat.

Family Business Matters provides timely strategic business information for closely held and family businesses. Here is one of our featured articles:

"Strategic Routes"


After a decade of downsizing, strategic planning is making a comeback in the organization. But the new strategy has little in common with the command-and-control methods of past business.

Corporate Planning Adapts to Changing Business Realities

A STRATEGIC PLANNING RENAISSANCE is emerging in corporate America. The new methods are abandoning the authoritative mindset of centralized planning for a style fitting the turbulent commerce of the '90s.


Today, the task of charting a future course has been dispersed throughout the organization. Every employee, customer, and vendor holding vital information has a role to play in the process.


This outward, "democratized," approach has arisen from necessity. In the 1980s, many companies found that traditional strategic planning did not fit the rapidly evolving rules of business, embodied in unpredictable markets, rapidly emerging foreign competition, new technology, globalization of labor and trade, and other trends.


Senior managers once mapped out strategies in isolation, and often without the "in-the-trench" knowledge of market changes, arising threats, internal ability to execute, and competitor developments. The plan took months to draft and accumulated in a weighty document that was often obsolete before distribution. This cumbersome strategizing was impractical and dangerous in a world where product life cycles were measured in months rather than years.


Over the past decade, many theories and techniques have been arising to address these challenges. While they embody diverse philosophies, many are based on common trends in the market. Your business should consider these themes when forming a plan:

Broad participation.

All levels of the organization can contribute meaningfully to planning. Insight from frontline staff is essential, as they are operating nearest the action and usually feel the early winds of change. They also may have practical insight regarding problems or conflicts that may arise during implementation.

Quest for new opportunities.

Market forecasting and other number crunching is important. But, todays strategic planning does not revolve around quantitative activities. Rather, your firm might explore intangibles, like identifying and testing unconventional avenues of growth.


One such concept involves the business ecosystem -- a network of customers, suppliers, and rivals who cooperate with specific aims in mind. Their shared motives might include improving applied technology, opening an entirely new market, creating a sub-industry and sharing research. These parties co-evolve by feeding off each others resources, information and discoveries.

Cross-disciplinary team.

By combining diverse functions, skills, and experiences of its employees, a firm applies "think tank" planning that encourages cohesiveness.


Such alliances may unveil open space opportunities -- market niches previously unrecognized because they didn't exactly match the competencies of any business function. From a team perspective, however, these opportunities are more easily defined and developed.

An external perspective.

Customer experiences, competitor moves, and industry developments should influence planning more than internal factors, such as budgets and past policy. Customer surveys, focus groups, sales force input, and other intelligence gathering helps you identify strengths and weaknesses within the firm. This feedback also can lead to policies which encourage flexibility and responsiveness.

Managing the process.

Don't carve the strategy in stone. Think of it as a starting point for flexible navigation. And don't leave the process to itself. You should continually compare actual results to expected outcomes -- and make mid-course adjustments as needed. This approach demands an efficient, two-way flow of information through the hierarchy of management.

Creativity over analysis.

As markets, technologies and strategies become less predictable, a firms planning emphasis must change from projecting the future to reshaping it through innovative and ambitious initiatives.


This orientation encourages creative thinking among those involved in planning. By making a conscious effort to challenge, and even destabilize the status quo, the organization creates an environment ripe for generating major strategic shifts. To fulfill this role, a leader must be willing and able to move against internal and external currents. Accordingly, you should remain intimately involved in the process so that you can direct the major activities of business strategy.


In its highest form, strategy-making is a perpetual and seamless management activity. But this capability is refined over time, and through considerable thought, sweat and risk-taking. Your strategic approach may not appear efficient at first. But the tangible gains will come.


Perspectives will also change. When leaders begin to crunch more ideas and fewer numbers, they can change rather quickly.


  • The Ethnic Thread
  • Small Business Pensions
  • Siblings in Business
  • Succession Planning Truths
  • Family Philanthropy
  • Growing Entrepreneurs
  • Nonfamily Managers
  • Funding in the Future
  • Limited Liability Company
  • Managing Business Growth
  • Your Employee Handbook
  • The Business Couple
  • When It's Time to Lead
  • Retirement Myth
  • Working Together Apart
  • Family Traditions
  • The Small Business Era
  • Work, Work, Work
  • Hiring Out--Outsourcing
  • Estate Plan Update
  • Beyond the Founder
  • Managing Emotions
  • In-Laws as Outsiders
  • Strategic Hiring
  • Buy-Sell Agreement
  • Strategic Routes
  • Family Minded Firms
  • The Founding Epic
  • Small Favors
  • Relative Humor
  • Standard Thinking
  • The Productivity Factor
  • "S" Corporations
  • Kids at Work
  • Customer Service
  • Family Wealth
  • Outside the Box
  • Choosing a Leader
  • Productive Conflict
  • Family Misfortunes
  • Investment Policy
  • Just Compensation
  • Outside Advisors
  • The Business Spouse
  • Tax Relief

We have facilitated the successful consummation of a merger, consolidation, or acquisition transaction for several companies. The following responsibilities are a part of our role as Consultant Facilitators.

  1. Facilitating negotiations.

  2. Establishing ground rules for negotiation and information exchange.

  3. Facilitating communications, and helping all parties involved separate "fact" from "emotion."

  4. Selecting and building the negotiation team (directors, staff, outside professionals, i.e., attorneys, accountants, etc.).

  5. Assisting with and in the assessment/evaluation of the transactions economic feasibility.

  6. Making recommendations, i.e., costs/benefits of the deal.

  7. Providing advice on the preparation of the plan of merger, consolidation, or acquisition.

  8. Coaching board chairmen and management on presenting the plan to members at information meetings.

  9. Providing advice on implementing the plan.



The Workplace Environment


Miscommunication, emotional disputes, and conflict are common occurrences in the workplace, costing companies immeasurable amounts of money and countless lost, and unproductive, hours. These situations cause valuable relationships to end in bitterness and anger, with creative and innovative work frequently hindered, or worse, eliminated. This results in the loss of new markets and potential profits, causing damage beyond measure.


Knowing when to call for help is a critical step toward resolving conflict and disputes in the workplace. Mediation can prevent such loss and damage.

Mediation is a process in which a neutral facilitator coaches two or more parties in finding a mutually agreeable solution. Professional mediators help these parties rebuild a "spirit of collaboration" and become "partners" in brainstorming, and designing solutions to their problems. Individuals need guidance with their own negotiations; they don't need someone telling them what to do. Mediation experts facilitate collaborative processes to establish synergy and cohesiveness in the workplace, which leads to the resolution of disputes and conflict.

Warning Signs

Very often, business owners, managers, corporate leaders, and business associates fail to admit their relationships are in trouble until it's too late for them to be saved. Watch for these warning signs of deteriorating relationships:

  1. Individuals involved are avoiding each other. Tension and anxiety is high.

  2. You come to work and find decisions are made without you.

  3. Communication in the workplace begins to be unfriendly, and starts deteriorating.

  4. There is a lot of political maneuvering underway.

  5. Emotional flare-ups, hurt feelings, damaged egos, and arguments are on the rise.

If you are experiencing any of the above, it's time to get outside help to save a troubled situation. Mediators facilitate "getting to the bottom" of a dispute, and help craft a complete and concise resolution. They help you put in motion a plan for resolving conflict.


Our Initiative


We help business owners, managers, corporate leaders, and business associates find solutions to disputes, conflict, and miscommunication.

Communication is the key to an efficient workforce, and highly successful business projects. Typically, miscommunication in the workplace is at the root of a dispute. Once miscommunication factors are identified, the parties to a dispute can be coached to establish true communication. Then, mediating an acceptable solution to the dispute becomes a matter of course.

The human factor plays an instrumental role in initiating and maintaining a dispute, and in creating conflict. Therefore, it is the focal point of our mediation and communication programs.

Our approach to conflict and dispute resolution actively engages individuals in educational and collaborative processes. We utilize state-of-the-art tools to facilitate implementation of "true communication." These tools include employee opinion surveys, job fit and 360 degree feedback assessments, team & individual personality trait and communication analyses, team building exercises, and management retreats.


Here are some examples of the types of disputes for which our Mediation and Communication services are best suited, and have been utilized by our clients:

  • Employee/Employer
  • Employee/Employee
  • Shareholder/Partner
  • CEO/Board
  • Family Business
  • Merger Integration

Implementation of our professional mediation and communication programs can improve efficiency in your workplace, reduce the costs of your operation, enhance company-wide morale, and boost your profits.


Our CEO and CFO Executive Forums are special opportunities for sharing experiences and exchanging ideas. They are comprised of owners, CEOs, CFOs, and controllers of privately held companies, family businesses, and cooperatives. Membership is by invitation only.


Participants meet two to three times a year to help one another resolve critical business and financial problems, explore promising opportunities, share business and financial experiences, learn from expert speakers, and act as a general sounding board for each other, in a "no holds barred," small group environment of total confidentiality.


The CEO and CFO Forums are designed to help members openly share experiences and expertise with a group of their peers in whom they can trust and confide, find solutions to a wide range of issues that could undermine the success of their companies, sidestep mistakes that can result when they "go it alone," and effectively deal with the sense of isolation at the top.


We invite you to contact us for further information about membership in one of our CEO or CFO Executive Forums.



We have assisted several companies in identifying and selecting CEOs, general managers, chief financial officers, sales and marketing managers, plant managers, quality assurance directors, and other key personnel. Our search process follows a thorough, nine-step approach.

  1. Define Your Positions Needs. Leadership qualities, skill-sets, and experience.

  2. Develop Position Description. Duties, responsibilities and qualifications.

  3. Identify Candidates. Prepare recruitment strategy and target selected industries and prospects.

  4. Evaluate Candidates. Assess management style, fit, credentials, and interview candidates.

  5. Present Qualifications. Review fit prior to on-site interviews.

  6. Moderate On-Site Interviews. Facilitate the interview process.

  7. Check References. Coordinate thorough background and reference checks.

  8. Facilitate Selection. Advise on selection, compensation, and employment negotiations.

  9. Follow-up Follow-through. Help facilitate the new manager's smooth transition into the team.

Take the Mystery Out of Deal-Making

Harvey A. Meier, Ph.D., CMC


This article is for entrepenuers who want to master their deal-making skills. Nine guidelines are presented to help you optimize returns and minimize the risk of potential loss  when making business investments. It is not intended as legal or accounting advice.  You should consult an attorney, accountant, and/or business advisor/consultant, prior to making your business investments.


Guideline #1   Get Your Money Back Plus A Fair Rate of Return


The objective in a business investment is to get your capital investment back as quickly as possible plus earn a fair return on your investment relative to the degree of risk involved. The greater the risk, the greater is the expected percentage rate of return. The lower the risk, the lower is the expected corresponding rate of return. More often than not, business investments promising high returns are by their nature higher risks. Therefore, you should exercise care when making these types of investments. Each business investment opportunity should be evaluated in terms of seeking answers to at least four questions:

  • How fast will I get my money back?

  • What's my rate of return?

  • What's the degree of risk or probability of losing my entire capital investment?

  • When will I get my money back and/or how can I exit the investment and remain whole?

Guideline #2   Validate the Business Opportunity


Validating the existence of a genuine business opportunity is one of the most critical steps in making a business investment decision. This is accomplished by reviewing a written business plan. This plan provides you with valuable insight into the business, including its prospects for success or failure. Some of the key elements included in a business plan are: a mission statement; sales and marketing strategies; resumes of top management and sales and profit projections for at least five years. The business plan is like a road map. It tells you where the venture is today, where it wants to be in the future, and how it plans to get there. Sales and profits don't just happen. They must be planned. Remember this axiom: "A Goal With Out a Plan is Just a Dream." Business investments should not be made without first evaluating and fully understanding a new and/or existing ventures business plan.


Guideline #3   Management! Management! Management!


The rule of thumb in making real estate investments is "Location! Location! Location!" Likewise, the rule of thumb in making business investments is "Management! Management! Management!" Don't confuse technical know-how with management capability. Technical acumen is not a substitute for management ability. It alone does not guarantee success. Both technical know-how and solid management capabilities are needed. Therefore, you should thoroughly review the abilities and experience of a business venture's management team. It is imperative that you validate their capabilities and knowledge of the business and industry in which you are contemplating an investment. When there is more than one individual in management, you also must validate that the team demonstrates a willingness to work well together in accomplishing the goals outlined in the venture's business plan.


Guideline #4   Confirm the Market Niche


Establishing a market niche is a venture's key to success. This assumes the existence of a market to be served. You should confirm that the market described in the business plan does indeed exist. Validation should focus on researching answers to the following questions:

  1. Does the product/service actually work or fill a need?

  2. Has it been tested in the field?

  3. Who has purchased or used the product/service?

  4. How attractive is the market for the product or service, in terms of total potential sales dollars?

  5. What is the outlook for growth in the market over the next five years?

  6. Who are the current competitors, and how do/will they react to this business venture? (Often, this is a step overlooked by potential investors.)

  7. What will the future competitive condition be like?

  8. How will the business venture differentiate and perfect its competitive position and market niche over the next five years?

Guideline #5   Evaluate Products, Services


The existence of innovative products or services that are proprietary in nature (i.e., patented or copyrighted) may indicate a high probability for success. Also, the presence of specialized expertise and/or technology may contribute to the success of a business venture. The extent to which these are responsive to market needs, and/or that they create market opportunities, must be verified. A well-defined and workable marketing strategy must be in place to carry the products/services to market at a profit with staying power. Venture capitalists place substantial emphasis on these factors and include them within their investment decision-making criteria.


Guideline #6   Study the "Financials"


Three financial statement projections should be studied prior to making a business investment: 1) a projected balance sheet; 2) a projected profit and loss statement; and, 3) a projected cash flow forecast. Projections should be presented for five years. Historical financial statements for the past three years also should be analyzed if available. This will help you determine how well an existing business has used its resources to produce profits. The projected "financials" provide insight into the future ability of the business to service debt, meet the demands of growth, respond to changes in economic conditions, and produce positive cash flow. Most importantly, the "financials" must demonstrate what must occur in the business in order for you to get your capital back and to earn a fair return on your investment. Concurrently, if other investors are involved, you should evaluate what they have at risk in terms of their capital investment. If you are assuming the majority of financial risk, you may want to forego making the business investment.


Guideline #7   Share the Wealth--Reap the Rewards


Optimum sales, profits, and employee productivity usually results when effective profit-sharing incentives have been installed in a business venture. You need to validate the existence of, and/or potential to, install effective incentives as a means of motivating management and employees to ensure achievement of the venture's goals. Sharing profits with key employees, when agreed upon performance standards have been met, is a proven method for achieving a high rate of return on a business investment.

This also helps assure the timely return of capital invested in the business venture. These profit-sharing incentives must be backed up by a systematic approach to personnel management that optimizes employee productivity and performance.


Guideline #8   Separate Fact From Emotion


On occasion, entrepreneurs make a business investment decision based on emotion rather than on the basis of facts. It is critical that you separate your emotions, or the chemistry of a business opportunity, from the facts that support or negate making the investment. Business logic must prevail over emotion when making the investment decision. You may want to seek the advice of a business advisor/consultant to help you identify and weigh the pros, cons, costs, and returns of the business investment you are considering. This will help you clearly separate facts from emotion and avoid the perils of having emotion override sound business judgment.


Guideline #9   Build Your Team


Get a Second Opinion

Your success in making sound business investments can be ensured by building a solid support team. Most successful entrepreneurs who specialize in making business investments get a second opinion. They include an attorney, accountant and business advisor/consultant on their team. You may want to consider identifying and including these kinds of professionals on your support team also. Personal interviews should be conducted with each professional to ascertain their compatibility with your business investment objectives. It should be agreed in advance that payment for professional services is to be made solely in accordance with actual services performed. This tactic enables you to use individual support team professionals on a selected and "as needed" basis. It also allows you to keep your professional fees in check.

You should be wary of those professionals who claim to be all things to all people. Your success is dependent on the specialized expertise that each professional's discipline provides. Each of your support team members plays an important role in performing due diligence evaluations, and in facilitating business investment negotiations on your behalf. They serve as excellent sounding boards. They also can help you: set realistic business investment goals; take the necessary steps to achieve those goals; provide on-going advice and monitor your progress.

Ultimately, the business investment decision is yours to make. You, and only you, are responsible for making this decision. However, retaining professional counsel will enhance your ability to make informed and well thought out business decisions that lead to financial success.




This article presents several deal-making guidelines. After using these suggestions, and discussing your needs with your attorney, accountant and business advisor/consultant, you will be better able to increase your chances of making a fair and reasonable return on your business investments. And, you will be more likely to increase the probability of recapturing all of the capital you originally invested.


Nine Tips for Making Business Investments

  • Get your money back plus a fair rate of return.
  • Validate the business opportunity.
  • Management! Management! Management!
  • Confirm the market niche.
  • Evaluate products and services.
  • Study the "financials."
  • Share the wealth - reap the rewards.
  • Separate fact from emotion.
  • Build your team - Get A Second Opinion.

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