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UFB Newsletter Issue #070 Divorce Expert
August 02, 2007
The Key To Family Business Success
ISSN 15465640

Understanding Family Business brings you articles and tips from Family Business Experts who understand family values and business systems.

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Understanding Family Business

August 2, 2007 Issue #070

Dr. Jane Adams is our Family Business Divorce expert. Dr. Adams is a social psychologist, author of best selling books and a sought after speaker. She has appeared on many of the top TV news and talk shows, including the Oprah Winfrey Show.

In the last issue, we presented her article "Breaking Up is Hard to Do: Divorce in the Family Business".

Our interview with Dr. Adams reveals some of our divorce expert's wealth of experience and her own insights into boundary issues.

FBE: You've been researching families and their relationships since the beginning of your career. How did the topic of family businesses come to your attention?

While my first book, Sex and the Single Parent, involved changing family relationships after divorce, my next two research and writing projects focused on the personal as well as professional lives of high-achieving men and women. (Women on Top, and Making Good: Conversations With Successful Men.) Many of those I spent time with and interviewed extensively were entrepreneurs, several of whom were involved in family businesses. I found the dynamics of their relationships and the way they balanced work and family life, between the personal and the professional, to be fascinating.

My other focus has been relationships between parents and their adult children; like my first book, it came out of my personal experience as my kids grew up. I began writing about that topic in I'm Still Your Mother, which led to many media appearances; as a generation, baby boomers have different expectations for their relationship with their grown kids than our own parents did, and from the Today Show to Oprah, people wanted information about what they could do to improve their own.

After I appeared on Oprah, a number of people wrote and asked me for private consultations about their kids who didn't seem to be coping very well with adulthood. And when I did a Today show on dealing with your adult kids' divorce, the response was also very strong. So that led to a follow-up book about the "dark side" of "postparenting" - When Our Grown Kids Disappoint Us.

As a result of that, I began speaking to associations of family business owners , many of whom had concerns about how and if their kids had a future in the family business, how to deal with issues of suitability, fairness, and legacy. That became a primary focus of my lectures and workshops.

FBE: What did you find to be the biggest challenge for family business owners?

Navigating that often-invisible boundary between those two different spheres. In families who work together, certain roles, patterns and styles of relating carry over from one sphere to the other. Some of them are positive influences in one, negative in another.

FBE: What led you to focusing on the issue of divorce in the family business?

Divorce is a major life event for the family as well as the individual. Custody issues aren't just about the children , they're about the business, too, the family's 'other' child, Again, navigating the boundary between individual needs and goals and those of the business during times of heavy emotional stress requires flexibility, which is one of the key tools of what I call 'boundary intelligence,' a topic that has particular resonance in my presentations, workshops and lectures for family businesses like those sponsored by FBI.

FBE: Do you deal with the legal, financial, and business issues involved in the divorce?

Only to the extent of pointing out how personal emotions influence and often obscure those issues. I'm more focused on helping people understand cope with how those emotions influence the business itself, determine its future, involve other stakeholders, etc. So I'm often called in to consult with business owners when divorce, theirs or their children's, affects the business as well as the principals' personal lives.

FBE: Are you a psychotherapist? What training have you had that enables you to counsel people going through a divorce?

I'm a psychologist who's studied family systems, had training in psychodynamic psychotherapy, and been a coach for several years. I don't have a clinical practice; insight is important and useful but I'm more interested in people's futures than their pasts, and I find that my clients want to put their energy there, too.

FBE: Is 'boundary' just psychobabble and jargon or is it actually an important concept for family business owners to understand?

Probably more important for them than for anyone else because their 'boundary style', how they distinguish between self and other, work and family, friends and colleagues, etc., and how they act out those distinctions, is such an important factor in the two most important aspect of their lives. 'Boundary Intelligence' is a basic human capacity that, like emotional intelligence, strongly influences human relationship. It's a capacity that exists in everyone, and activating and using its four key tools - insight, awareness, intention and action - can improve all your relationships, particularly in a boundary-crossing area like family business.

FBE: Do boundaries change after divorce?

They must, not only in personal relationships, but in family business as well. They affect not just the relationship between the principals, but among other family members, employees, clients, customers, even investors. And flexibility is a key dimension of boundary style.

FBE: What's your own life like? Where and how do you live?

I'm lucky enough to live in two wonderful places - New York and Seattle - with my Portuguese water dog, who's a seasoned frequent flyer! My kids are grown and my grandchildren live in Florida, California and Washington but we manage family vacations which often feature scuba diving, since that's something all three generations enjoy! My guilty pleasure is mystery fiction - I often review new titles for, which for me is like being paid to sample chocolate at the chocolate factory!

I coach clients from all over the country and offer a variety of workshops and presentations ; whether they're about family business or parenting adult kids, the central theme is coping with change and managing yourself, your relationships and your professional life in challenging times. My work leads me to interesting places and interesting people, some of whom have become personal friends as well as colleagues and contacts - for me, that more permeable boundary between those two aspects of my life is a plus rather than a disadvantage.


It costs you nothing... zip...nada... to ASK THE EXPERT. Most of our site pages have a link to a form that lets you submit your question to one of our experts. We try our hardest to respond within 48 hours.

Our Family Business Blog [Blog is short for "web log"] mini-journal will keep you updated about site changes and other family business matters. Check it out regularly on the site from the NavBar button. Better still, subscribe to the blog using the RSS feed information on any of our pages, such as

Understanding Family Business.

And remember to Take our fr*ee assessment on the 29 Leadership Practices...

Family eBusiness

Content and Pre Selling

Last issue we wrote about the importance of writing, and pointed you to two excellent fr*ee resources.

Today, the message about writing continues - and it's short and sweet.

There are only two ways to get the vital visitors [called traffic] to your site who will eventually become paying customers...

Build Content, work with the Search Engines [SEs] like Google to get listed and work up to high ranking positions so that searchers can find you when they enter a search term.


Pay [sometimes a lot!] for advertising to get your ad in the sponsored or paid ads section of listings.

Naturally, lots of folks try to trick the SEs so that they can get a good position in the listings without paying or doing much work. Every day there are new techniques being touted.

But, just as fast as these schemes are hatched, the SE's change their algorithms to thwart this spamming and manipulation.

What the SE's really want is to point their searchers to sites that are relevant to what the searcher is looking for AND that deliver good content once the searcher gets there.

So, developing good content and not spamming the SEs is obviously going to be a critical factor to building or improving your ebusiness.

We at Family Business Experts knew from the outset that we faced a tough challenge to build a successful online presence. We compete with huge consulting firms that have deep advertising and promotion budgets and with a myriad of government-subsidized academic groups at nearly every college, so that spending for advertising would ensure a quick trip to bankruptcy.

We needed a solution to let us get known to our world-wide audience - without having to travel the world to promote ourselves!

Site Build It! was our choice, and it has withstood the test of time. We are the top-ranked family-business consulting site, and have done it with surprisingly modest cost.

We use the content on our site to project ourselves to potential clients. They can see through our content and writing what we are about, how we think about various issues, how we approach our work...

Sure, that same content also shows others who and what we are NOT, how we do NOT approach family / business problems. And that is valuable too - after all, none of us can be "everything to everybody". So, even for those who decide we are not for them, it has been useful and valuable and saved both of us a lot of tire-kicking time.

In your existing or new ebusiness, the same basics and benefits apply to you.

So, here's another fr*ee resource that we highly recommend.

It's not just for the web master or geeks who will be directly involved with your web site.

In fact, we view your web site and entire online presence as merely one segment of your marketing strategy and plan, so it should be your senior marketing executive who takes ownership and controls your online presence. Do not under any circumstances leave your online presence and web sites in the control and discretion of web masters and techies!

Perhaps I didn't make that point strongly enough...

Do not under any circumstances leave your online presence and web sites in the control and discretion of web masters and techies!

Make Your Content Pre Sell will help whether you're a Marketing VP, family business owner, or the web master. In particular, if your existing web site is under performing, you'll probably find the clue here about the problem and how to fix it.

That's it for this issue. If you have any comments, or if there are any topics you'd like to see covered, please let us know.

Comments, requested topics, blog messages...!

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