Business has never been easy - this is especially so today.  The pressure of a difficult economy has required businesses to make tough choices simply to remain viable, and this pressure has been felt by all.  In the case of family-owned businesses this kind of pressure is often compounded by another layer of dynamics - a much deeper layer with longer term consequences than the current economy.

With over 80% of business ventures in the United States being closely held, often times with the ownership structure primarily composed of family members, it would make sense that dispute resolution professionals who serve these types of business clients have an added layer of skills to deal with the unique dynamics that exist within the context of a "family business" conflict.

Over the next several weeks, I will be blogging about the unique issues and challenges that face mediators who work to assist the parties engaged in a family-owned business dispute, and some of the ideas and tools that are available to help warring factions within a family owned enterprise to move through the conflict and move forward.  Sometimes these can lead to a peaceful resolution of the conflict - other times it is an acceptable outcome for the parties to simply work out their differences in a more civil fashion.  In any case, the use of mediation skills and other forms of private diplomacy in these areas by a trusted neutral can make a significant difference in helping the parties with their conflict, which is often framed as a "business problem", but which is most likely a personal problem in disguise.

I hope that these mini-articles on family-business conflicts will be of use to both family members engaged in them, as well as to the mediators, lawyers, and other professionals working with their clients to navigate these sometimes treacherous waters.



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