Bill's Story

Bill (not his real name) just acquired a majority interest in a third-generation construction company. Bill’s parents had both been involved in day-to-day work with the business; Dad in operations and Mom with “the books”.

Dad was given the company by his parents and felt it was his baby literally saying, “This thing can’t live without me.”

Bill has a sister who has never really worked, although she’s on the company payroll. Bill’s Mom and Dad put everything into the business and never saved much for retirement. They’ve begun wintering in Arizona at a place they just bought.

Bill is feeling all kinds of pressure to deliver for everyone – family, community, employees and customers. He’s read the statistics: how many family businesses fail in the third generation.

He wants to please his mom and dad – make them proud. He knows they need money. He can’t fire his sister.

On top of all of this, Bill has an opportunity to buy a competitor in a nearby town. If he doesn’t buy that company he has heard that a regional company may buy them, and given their reputation, that could make it even tougher for Bill’s company to thrive going forward.

A friend of Bill’s has been a client of FBC’s for a number of years and suggested to Bill that he talk to someone on the FBC Team. Bill called the office and set up a lunch at the FBC office. During that introductory lunch Bill began to share his life story and the pressures he felt from all directions. 

Bill had never worn the “Majority Owner” hat before, and so expressed some real anxiety about whether he really has what it takes. Bill’s wife, Mary, was not at that first meeting, but FBC quickly got the sense that Bill and Mary may not be on the same page at all. Mary doesn’t work in the business, but has strong opinions about the business.

FBC quickly assessed that Bill had too many plates spinning. Through FBC’s Discovery process, the “plates” were identified and then prioritized. Together, they built a Timeline and Bill realized he didn’t have to solve everything TODAY. That realization was a big relief to Bill.

While he’d been able to bounce ideas off Mom and Dad along the way, he’d never had this kind of sounding board. He quickly grew to value and appreciate his “chats” with the FBC Team.

Six months into their engagement, Bill came to the FBC Team and said he was not going to pursue the acquisition of the competitor. Through the monthly meetings with FBC, he had decided what plates he had to keep spinning and this acquisition wasn’t one of them.

Bill asked the FBC Team if they’d be willing to meet one-on-one with his sister. That meeting took place and it became clear to all that there were some issues more appropriately addressed by a licensed family therapist. She was able to make contact with someone FBC referred her to in a nearby town. She gave her permission to share this with Bill. Bill expressed how even that took a huge weight off his shoulders.

One of Bill’s big “aha” moments came when, as he was expressing to FBC the weight of the world on his shoulders, it dawned on him that the folks at FBC had seen dozens of family businesses experience what he experienced.

Part of what FBC brought to Bill was other “stories” to help Bill navigate his own story. Bill saw that the issues he faced were similar to the issues the others faced, and that if he regularly took this time with FBC to work ON his business, he was able to be more productive and a better leader IN his business.

At one of the meetings with FBC, Bill tossed out what seemed like a throw-away comment: “How can you place a value on these kinds of conversations?”

While some of the load has lightened, not everything is smooth sailing. Bill knows he needs to talk (or have the FBC Team “broker”) a conversation with Mom and Dad.

Between mom and dad financial concerns and increasing anxiety over their health, Bill feels like he’s becoming his parents’ parent. 

He’s expressed his thanks to FBC on numerous occasions, saying, “We talk about things in your conference room we don’t talk about anywhere else.”

The FBC Team has asked Bill to share a bit of his story at an upcoming Family Business Forum. Bill has agreed.

He now sees the value in having someone outside the business open up space for crucial conversations and also bring an outside/in perspective. He sees many other small family businesses wrestling with the same kind of family and business issues he’s faced.

Bill knows if these family businesses could just start these conversations, there would be a way forward to a hopeful vision for the future. Bill is more convinced than ever that small businesses are where jobs are created.

Bill is ready to pay forward his experience and share it with others. Bill has discovered a purpose that goes way beyond the survival of his third-generation family business.

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