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Family relationships survey: digest

First, some good news. Overall, respondents were positive about the relationships they had with other family members who work in the family business. More than half (53%) described such relationships as being close or very close. Just 8% said their relationships were cool or distant. A significant minority (39%) described them as being satisfactory.

Communication is key to any relationship, so we asked how respondents would describe the communication they had with two distinct groups: family members who work in the business and family members who do not.

When it came to describing communication between family members who work in the business, the news was less good as a majority (48%) said it was mixed. Some 43.5% said communication was either open or very open, while 9% said it was limited or very limited.

When it came to describing communication between family members who work in the business and those who do not, the results were similar. A majority (54%) said it was mixed, but a higher number (18%) said it was limited or very limited.

The ability to share problems with other family members is vital so that any difficult issues can be overcome and any misunderstandings avoided. When we posed the question, a majority (55%) said are able to discuss difficult problems, but it can be difficult and there is room to improve. Just 7% said they are unable to share problems with family members, while 38% said they were very able.

Consequently, it is no surprise that, in answer to our next question, how would you rate your family's problem-solving ability, results followed a similar pattern. The majority (58%) said they would be able to overcome any business problems once they had got past some family challenges first.

Family issues would hinder or seriously hinder a family's ability to overcome business problems in 10% of cases, while 31% said any problems would easily be overcome.

When it came to detailing the exact nature of relationship problems that respondents had experienced in the last 12 months, the results were as follows:

Unresolved personal conflict    41.5%
Lack of trust    38%
Difficult interpersonal relationship    51%
Sibling rivalry    34%
Generational trouble    35%
All of the above    11%

Other responses included "sometimes being taken for granted", "a difference in values", "other family members have experienced unresolved personal conflict but I have been "in the middle", "some decision-making roadblocks",  "third generation has limited voice and representation as stakeholders"

It wasn't all bad news, however. Several replied "none of the above" while one said "we have a very active leadership council that works well in resolving such challenges."

Defining boundaries between the family and the business is another crucial topic that can have far-reaching consequences – business can suffer if family disputes boil over into the boardroom and vice versa.

It was promising to see that a third (33%) said the boundaries were well defined, although there is room for improvement in 47% of cases who described them as being only adequately defined. One fifth of respondents (20%) said the boundaries were poorly defined.

Two thirds (66%) of respondents said their personal goals were aligned closely or with those of the business compared to 28% who said the two goals were slightly aligned. Just 6% said their personal goals were not aligned with those of the business.

Finally, we asked what positive benefits and advantages existed when family members worked together. The results were as follows:

Keeps family together better than if there were no business18%
We meet together more regularly    8%
We work together to create a lasting legacy 46.5%
Brings together family members who wouldn't otherwise get to
meet each other    4.5%
All of the above    23%

Over two thirds of respondents were male (76%) while the majority (50%) who answered came from the 40-59 age group. Respondents from the 26-39 age group accounted for 24% of answers, the over 60s provided 23%, while just 3% came from the under 25s.

We also asked which generation of the family respondents came from. More than 72% came from either the first, second or third generation, while 24% were part of generations four, five or six. Just 3.5% of respondents came from seventh-generations and above.

The majority of respondents (56%) were family members with operational responsibility in the family business compared to 44% who said they had an ownership role. Several respondents pointed out that both options were relevant to them.

Geographically, 39% of respondents came from North America, 32% from Europe and 16% from Asia-Pacific. The rest came from South America (9%), the Middle East 4% and Africa (1%).

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