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Succession Fireside Chat: How do business families deal with conflict? Part 1 – Key themes when helping business families

Succession Fireside Chat: How do business families deal with conflict? Part 1 – Key themes when helping business families

5 Minute Read

How do you deal with conflict during the succession process? Conflict resolution expert John Radford joins MNP’s Lynne Fisher and Eben Louw to discuss recurring themes of conflict and best practices to overcome obstacles during the succession process, including:

  • Encouraging communication
  • Leveraging relationships
  • Embracing conflict as an opportunity
  • Anticipating tension

These steps can help you successfully address challenges and reduce conflict during the succession process.

Conflict is a normal part of interpersonal relationships — however, it can lead to complications in the context of business families. How can you deal with conflict to achieve your desired outcomes during the succession process?

In the fifth episode of our Succession Fireside Chat series, conflict resolution expert John Radford joins MNP’s Lynne Fisher and Eben Louw to explore recurring themes that surface when helping business families navigate through conflict during the succession process.

Watch the full video above or read the article below to discover how to address the challenges that you may encounter on your succession journey.

What are the recurring themes of conflict?

Succession is an inherently emotional topic. Every member of your family has a complex history with both each other and your business — and a transition in ownership has the potential to significantly alter family dynamics or spark old resentments.

The subject of conflict is uncomfortable for many business owners. However, it’s important to understand the recurring themes of conflict to overcome obstacles during the succession process:

No-go areas

You value your relationship with your family members — and may not approach sensitive subjects to avoid conflict and maintain positive relationships. But leaving these subjects unaddressed may prevent necessary changes to your business during the succession process.

For example, an outside CEO may be experiencing issues with a family member involved in your business. When you approach your family member about the problem, they shut down the subject — and you decide to avoid to topic to preserve your positive relationship.

Designating the problem between your family member and the CEO as a no-go area allows the issue to continue. It also has the potential to negatively impact the operations and value of your business for as long as the situation remains unresolved.


Conflict is uncomfortable and many family members seek to avoid direct confrontation. Instead, they may address conflict through triangulation — or discussing problems such as performance or decision-making with a different member of the family.

In some cases, triangulation can be positive if the other family member is in a position to work with everyone to achieve a solution. However, triangulation frequently enables family members to avoid addressing key issues — preventing the business from running effectively.

How to deal with conflicts during succession

Your company is just as complex as your family — and succession introduces significant changes to both your business and family relationships. Some members of your family may be resistant to these changes in dynamics and create conflicts throughout the process.

These best practices can help you manage potential conflicts you may encounter during the succession process:

Encourage communication

Addressing issues directly instead of avoiding sensitive topics can help you resolve the problems you may face during the succession process. While it may be intimidating to risk conflict, leaving these issues unaddressed can have a significant impact on the performance of your business.

It is essential to approach each issue with empathy and understanding. Reframe your approach from a confrontation to a conversation — and encourage each of your family members to communicate openly with each other to create a safe and respectful environment.

Leverage relationships

Leverage your existing relationships to handle conflict in your family business. The CEO in the example above may consider approaching the board chair about the issues they are facing with the family member involved in the business.

If the board chair has a more positive relationship with this family member, they may be able to approach them to discuss finding a solution to the problem. This introduces positive change in the system and enables the business to run more efficiently.

Embrace conflict as an opportunity

Embrace conflict as an opportunity to create change in your business. Most conflicts stem from longstanding issues — and addressing those issues will enable your business to move forward instead of remaining in the same situation.

Reframing conflict as an opportunity for change has the potential to transform how your business operates and improve your family dynamics. This mindset will benefit more than just your business — it will benefit your family as well.

Anticipate tension

Fully consider your business, your family, and the situation that you are working in to anticipate potential areas of tension on the journey toward succession. Talk and listen to your family members to determine their perspective on their current position as well as their expectations for the future.

Comparing these current and future perspectives can enable you to gain a better understanding of your family members. It can also reveal potential problem areas — such as where their goals for the future may not align. Discuss those potential issues openly with your family to identify opportunities to resolve conflict before it begins.

Take our ExitSMART™ Succession Assessment

You’ve worked hard to create a successful business. Use our free assessment tool to discover if your succession planning is on the right track to get the most out of what you’ve built.

Take the next steps

Conflict is an uncomfortable subject for most business families — however, avoiding sensitive topics only prolongs the issues you may be facing in your business. An approach that reframes conflict as an opportunity for change and encourages open communication can benefit both your business and your family.

For more information, contact a member of MNP’s Succession Services team. We have the experience to help you build a succession strategy to minimize risks, capitalize on what you’ve created, and secure the future you’ve worked so hard for.

Lynne Fisher

National Team Leader, ExitSmart



[email protected]


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