100 Year Company Blog
Shortly before my father died, at the age of 80, I asked him why he and my mother had decided to up-root the family and move with their four sons to Canada from Edinburgh. His response was immediate, if he didn’t do it two sons would make the move and he didn’t want the family separated. My father was in his mid-fifties when we came to Canada, he was over sixty when we finally found our place in our adopted land. When he died he had a net worth of about $5,000.
My father told me you can’t have progress without friction. When I go to the trusty Thesaurus (that is only a click away when I am writing my blog) there are many synonyms for “friction” including: resistance, abrasion, hostility, antagonism, conflict, strife.
Judith watched in disbelief as the paramedics wheeled the stretcher carrying Fred’s body past her office. A distraught Emily, Fred’s wife, followed, supported by Al, Fred’s partner in the business.
Emily had come in for a lunch date and found Fred face down on his desk. It was too late.
Judith sat there, her attention taken away from the month-end bookkeeping she had been working on. Did it matter anymore? What would happen now? Fred was in his early fifties, with no real signs of health issues, or was there? Was there something we missed?
Authority and control exercised by a leader can serve to constrain the team members or provide guidance and direction through what I call strategic leadership.
Family business management operates at two levels, operational and strategic. New businesses, still in the “survival” stage function largely in the operations level, living day-to-day, chasing customers and staying ahead of creditors; there is an element of excitement to this and simplicity. When times are tough, retreat to the day-to-day is often the natural response.
There is a story, quoted in James E Hughes “Family Wealth: Keeping It in the Family” that I like.
Marshall Lyautey, was one of Napoleon’s greatest generals. General Lyautey was famous for having the most beautiful gardens in France. One day as he and his head gardener were looking over the estate and the great trees planted there from all over the world, Lyautey said to the gardener “I see no Copper Beech tree.”
The gardener replied “Mon General, it takes over 150 years to grow a Copper Beech tree.”