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Family enterprises face the same business pressures their industry counterparts are exposed to, for example technology disruption, competition and changing trade, regulatory and economic environments. In addition, they often have to navigate family dynamics, where interpersonal issues spill over into – and affect – the family business. Where can they find support for dealing with challenges that may be highly personal?

“There are many resources available that relate to the business IQ, for example for growing the business or improving profitability, but when it comes to issues affecting family dynamics, things are not as straight forward,” says Bill Brushett, president and CEO of the Family Enterprise Xchange (FEX). “We focus on what we call business EQ – emotional intelligence – which is largely about relationships.”

Among the issues many family businesses grapple with are a lack of alignment about the roles different family members play within the business, differences in views and expectations for the business among members of different generations, and competition between siblings, explains Mr. Brushett. Another common challenge relates to transitioning the business to next-generation leaders.

“When business families don’t have the right support, they may feel alone and overwhelmed,” he says. “They often believe their situation is unique, when in fact there are a lot of commonalities among the issues they deal with. Many of the underlying themes are related to communication and the ability to clearly define desires and goals.”

Due to these commonalities, people can gain much from sharing their experiences and learning from others, says Mr. Brushett. “While each circumstance may be different, we have found that there are some proven approaches for navigating through these complexities.”

FEX’s Personal Advisory Groups (PAGs), for example, provide a platform where people share experiences and knowledge in a confidential environment. Everyone signs a non-disclosure agreement, giving participants the confidence to be completely honest and open.

This kind of peer mentoring and support can help members of family enterprises work through challenges, says Mr. Brushett. “Many business families face issues related to transitioning leadership or sibling rivalry, for example, so there is a good chance that someone in the group has gone through that and can share personal insights,” he explains. “I often hear from our members that they see tremendous value in being able to share their experiences with others who are in similar situations. In some cases, the value they receive from these confidential forums has been described as life-altering.”

FEX also provides relevant educational resources to PAGs as well as its membership at large, adds Mr. Brushett. “We have an online resource centre providing our members with access to materials like articles and videos, as well as providing in-person learning events.”

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