Conflict in the Business – 5 Key Takeaways From the UCLA Steinbeck Family Business Conference

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By Jean Santos

Conflict in the Business was the theme of this year’s UCLA Steinbeck Family Business Conference. If you missed the conference you’d have really enjoyed the conversations that centered around family business. In fact, lots of learning happened for all in attendance. Business Consulting Resources is proud to be one of the sponsors of this program and to support all those involved in family-owned businesses to grow and learn.

I look forward to this conference every year and was intrigued by the Conflict in the Business theme. Anyone who has any involvement or connection to family business knows that conflict is inevitable. The real issue is how you learn to use that conflict productively to propel the family and the company toward their respective goals. 

Here are the 5 key takeaways we walked away with:

  1.  Do not be afraid to take on a challenge that seems to be bigger than life itself.  That’s what husband and wife Michael Palmer and Eva Ein did when they bought McConnel’s Ice Cream when it was on the edge of bankruptcy.  Their focus on their core values, especially their brand values and super teamwork enabled them to become one of the key brands in the gourmet ice cream niche.  
  2. Take a stand and make a difference in your community.  Giving back is essential. Family-owned companies have the power and the purpose to do that.  Heidi Roddenberry and her family got through their differences in stellar fashion and now fund and support The +1 Global Fund, The Roddenberry Fellowship, The Catalyst fund, and Prize, all of which offer opportunities for original thinkers, activists, and innovators from all walks of life to pursue significant, lasting change.  All of us in family business should aspire to make our mark in our communities too.  It can start small….
  3. Always be humble and raise your kids to be humble too.  Humility was everywhere when the entire Galpin Motors Family joined us for Beau Bouckmann’s story about his family and their journey to create and grow Galpin Premier Collection and Galpin Auto Sport.  Beau’s wife and 5 children came to support him.  It was amazing to see the love and commitment this family has to each other.  We should all learn from that example.  
  4. There will always be challenges with generational handoffs.  Elizabeth Tene from Access General shared her experiences of managing a transition from her parents to her and her brother.  Lots of differences of opinions, arguments, and power struggles took place, and yet, because all of them had the same end goal in mind, Elizabeth and Albert are well on their way to seeing the possibilities for Gen 3 to get involved with the company too. 
  5. Be sure to exercise your sense of humor.  We all tend to take ourselves too seriously, especially when we have high expectations of the rising gen in the family and how they want to influence the company.  All the families we met seem to have a great balance between knowing when they need to be totally focused and serious and when they can relax and have some fun together.  And all of them have a LOT going on in their companies and their families, yet they have found the balance between intensity and calm.  I love that lesson the best, and it is one I know I need to stay focused on! 

If your family business is experiencing conflict, we invite you to reach out to us at Business Consulting Resources. We have over 40 years of experience supporting family businesses through the ups and downs. Reach out and let’s talk about how we can support you.

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