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…