Finding Business Solutions to Family Business Disputes


Business disputes are challenging enough without the added pressure and tension associated with family dynamics. When we are involved in these matters, we often hear comments and advice about “not rocking the boat” or “don’t get this person or that person upset.” Yet, at the end of the day, for many matters that are resolvable without a trial, if handled correctly, this pressure can actually assist in the overall resolution of the dispute. In fact, sometimes, the more pressure, the better the outcome. Seems counterintuitive? Yes, it does; in fact, very much so.

Then why does it work, or better stated, how does it help bring about resolution? As “business neutrals” with experience and training in multiple disciplines, we pay attention to the group dynamics from a business point of view. Our process seeks out business solutions to what are in essence business problems.   While all disputes are different, basic business tenets can often be used to fashion a resolution. For example, if the complaining parties are shareholders or beneficiaries (or the equivalent), and if conditions warrant, attention might be paid to the values of their ownership interests. Additionally, or alternatively, focusing on distribution amounts or rights to distributions might also provide a path forward. Unproductive (or worse) family employees, who may or may not be business owners, might be addressed via a custom designed employment or consulting agreement that factors in the family member’s particular “talents” in a manner that is not disproportionate to the other family members/owners.

By viewing such disputes through a business filter that recognizes concepts such as costs vs. benefits, opportunity costs, and finite resources, business solutions can often be identified that help bring an end to long-lived or potentially long-lived disputes. Again, each dispute is different, but looking at a family business dispute as a business problem and considering a business solution may lead to a practical resolution that allows the family to get back to running its business.


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