Proud Waves Break
In the Bible, Job was a very righteous individual and a wealthy businessman who enjoyed great standing in his community. He was well respected and sought after by those who aspired to be as successful as he. However, when Job lost his riches and rewards, he became deeply depressed. He was tormented about what he considered gross injustice. He had always believed that goodness, work ethics, loyalty and obedience should ensure lasting omnipotence.
This video draws a comparison between the trials of Job and those experienced by many heads of today's family businesses. In particular, it looks at two individuals who also struggled with their omnipotence - to the point where it greatly affected their families and the succession of their businesses.
P.J. Phelan successfully guided CARA Foods through a period of tremendous growth. Just like Job, he was extremely highly-respected and considered by his own family to be somewhat of a genius. But as the years passed, P.J. became seriously depressed - not so much over a concern about the next generation running the business successfully, but about his eventual loss of position and control of the company. He became alcoholic and was incapacitated to the point that the family members ended up fighting over the future control of the company without his direct involvement.
Many entrepreneurs will empathize with P.J.'s feelings. When it's time to surrender your position as head of the company, it seems like you are also stepping aside as head of the family. As was the case with P.J. Phelan, successful entrepreneurs do not generally bare their souls. They often feel alone and unable to deal with the process of succession planning.
A similar situation was brewing in New Mexico. Jim Thorpe had given up his original career goals to take over the running of the family resort when it became too much for his mother to handle. Being part of the family business was totally expected of Jim's three daughters and his first-born son. As the years went by, each one of them became very attached to their homestead and unconsciously assumed that one day they would eventually take over the running of Bishop's Lodge. Unfortunately, Jim Thorpe never discussed his thoughts, ideas or plans with any of the children, so, when he died suddenly from a heart attack, the family really didn't know what his 'wishes' were, never mind how to carry out them out. For a number of years, Jim's wife struggled to keep the business running while the family members discussed and fought about how the business should operate going forward. Each one felt that Dad would have wanted them to take over. When an offer to purchase arrived out of the blue, the family felt forced to accept it as an end to the trauma they were experiencing.
Jim Thorpe denied his aging and his mortality and lived off his need for respect and power. He didn't learn to trust his grown children enough to hand over control. He could not bring himself to even have an outside board of advisors looking over his shoulder. Instead he left his children to face the unpleasant task of dealing with the division of control. Letting go of the business was hard for these kids who, as one of Jim's daughters explained, developed a sense of pride and stewardship from a very early age.
After much suffering, Job eventually surrendered his thirst for justice. He accepted that this was his position in a bigger plan and began to enjoy peace and serenity. He began to see the world's beauty once again and his health, family and position were eventually restored.
As the head of a family business, you too need to come to terms with your mortality and learn enough trust to hand over control of your business. It takes courage to allow others to take over, but a lack of courage is a serious detriment to the future of your family and your business.
Proud Waves Break was produced by Davey Productions of Toronto. To order a copy, contact Davey Productions via email to:firstname.lastname@example.org or call (416) 421-9898.