Do Emotions Ever Belong in Family Business?

November 15, 2023

You’ve likely heard before that “emotions don’t belong in business,” or “it’s not personal, just business.” But when you’re running a successful family business, your decisions are personal, and they have the potential to impact both the future of your business and family dynamics.

While people tend to argue that emotions cloud our judgment, it’s actually emotions that inspire people to take action and make changes (when necessary) that are for the good of both their family and their business. In fact, business owners commonly come to WillKate because they’re experiencing a range of emotions — frustration, stress, fear, and apprehension. They may be struggling to get family members to agree on important decisions or worried that the next generation of business leaders will mess up all the hard work and progress that’s already been made.

Where they are now, these business owners don’t feel like they’re being seen or heard by their loved ones, and they crave a safe space where they can communicate honestly, feel heard, and make decisions that are in the best interest of all parties involved.

In short, these business owners want to replace emotions like fear and frustration with feelings of peace, calmness, and security. When children and grandchildren are involved, it’s nearly impossible to put your emotions aside and think with a 100% objective, diplomatic mind. And truthfully, we don’t think you should.

Here’s why emotions do have a place in your family business, why they can pose a challenge, and how a family business consultant can help.

The Challenges With Expressing Emotions in Business

Family business owners know they experience a range of emotions based on their desires to balance the good of the family with the good of the business. The problem is, they don’t always know where to turn to for help. Worse yet, they’re afraid of what reaching out for help may eventually lead to.

If they reach out to other family members for support, what will the reaction be? Will the other family members shut them out of the business decisions? Mock their opinions for being wrong? Or stop speaking to them entirely? When your legacy and lineage are so intertwined, it’s certainly challenging to separate the two once emotions come into play. What would otherwise be a practical and impersonal business decision can easily lead to severed family ties, hurt feelings, and hard-to-mend cracks in relationships.

Many times, people who are in this position don’t know about family business consultants and assume they can only turn to other family members for guidance. In reality, a family business consultant can provide an unbiased, third-party perspective as well as a safe space to talk through concerns and build a thoughtful, strategic plan for moving forward.

Even business owners who have contemplated working with a consultant may be concerned that other family members won’t be on board. But again, a consultant can reach out to those family members and explain the importance of communication and transparency when making important, forward-focused business decisions.

What Is a Family Business Consultant?

We’ve expressed so far the concept that emotions (despite popular belief) do in fact belong in business. In fact, it’s those emotions that can catalyze the greatest changes. However, with changes to the business comes the possibility that emotions will get even more heightened. Or, that more family members will begin experiencing their own set of emotions regarding recent changes.

These are the reasons why a family business facilitator is so important when it comes to managing emotions and making business decisions — all while maintaining family ties.

A family business consultant can help you:

  • Have productive, honest dialogue among family members.
  • Prepare the next generation of leadership for succession.
  • Align the business goals with your family values.
  • Communicate your legacy wishes with the next generation.
  • Discuss changes to the ownership structure.
  • Educate and train your family members on being good stewards of their wealth.
  • Work through conflicts and develop resolutions that work for all involved.

Is WillKate the Right Fit for Your Family Business?

Yes, your emotions do have a place in your family business. In fact, your emotions have the power to serve as a catalyst for change. A consultant or facilitator can give you a safe space to express your emotions while allowing other members of your family to share their thoughts and feelings as well. When everyone feels safe enough to talk candidly and have productive conversations about the well-being of the business and the family, that’s when real change starts to happen.

Recognizing the need to bring in an outside expert is the first step in restoring your family dynamics and making positive, forward-focused decisions that are right for everyone. Our team of experienced family business consultants and advisors have worked as consultants, coaches, and facilitators for family businesses for decades — and we’re here to help you too.

To learn more about how we help, schedule time to talk with our team.