Practicing as a Family Business Consultant

Practicing as a Family Business Consultant
by Dennis T. Jaffe, Ph.D.
Saybrook Graduate School, and the Aspen Family Business Group

Mario S., CEO of Altman Properties, calls and says we need to talk. He is entering his fourth year as leader of the family’s real estate empire that dominates not just our own skyline, but those of several cities around the world. Wearing a denim shirt and Jerry Garcia tie, Mario picks me up for lunch the next day in his Bronco. He takes me to the trendiest new restaurant in town. At 45, Mario is tall, wiry, intense, and self-assured. It seems perfectly appropriate that nearly every person we pass on the way to our table greets him by name.

I know from the newspaper that he is in the midst of negotiating to sell partnership in several hotels to a foreign investor, and that unlike many of his contemporaries in real estate, he is doing quite well. But that isn’t what the urgency is about. He launches right into it. His brother-in-law Bob, 35, married to Mario’s younger sister (who also works in the business although she is currently on maternity leave), and he have had a blow-up. Bob, who manages some of the larger properties, came into his office a few days before, and in a loud voice, proceeded to tell Mario that he had a real problems in the company: he was burning his people out, not paying them enough, and his management style was terrible. Mario asked him to go into more detail. Bob said he couldn’t, because he couldn’t violate the confidentiality of the people he talked to. More…

Happy Families

Happy Families

by Michael Carp and Keren Ludski
Kez’s Kitchen

Our business started out as a paying hobby – we didn’t even know what the running costs were! But as Kez’s Kitchen quickly grew into a serious venture involving many more members of the family, we were determined not to let rifts or arguments over money or hiring and firing issues ruin our lives and get in the way of success. So we set up a Family Council and appointed an independent Chairman of the Board. We haven’t looked back. None of us initially had any skills to run a business and we would have “drowned” if we hadn’t made these decisions.

Michael was the logical choice as CEO with his business and legal background and Keren says there is no-one else she would rather trust in the job. Our mother wanted to scale back her involvement in the business and Keren was planning to have more children. Despite having founded the business, Keren didn’t want the day-to-day stresses of running the company. She was already feeling “torn” by the conflicting demands and family values have always been extremely important to us. So, while it was a difficult decision for her to let go of this “other baby,” the family unit always comes first. Keren is still very involved in the business as Director, Business Analysis and has a say in all decisions as a member of the Board. More…