As someone who works with members of family-owned businesses, I read with both optimism and disappointment Robert Mamis's article "Sparring Partners" (March).
Owner/founders of family-owned businesses have forever tried to leave their family problems at home while employing spouses and children. At The Wharton School, we recognize that family businesses provide just one more stage on which family members play out their dramas, often handicapping a business's operations.
Members of family businesses come to us with a variety of problems, ranging from strategy to succession. Working with all family members who are involved in the business through either ownership or employment, teams of coaches guide these participants to produce measurable improvements in business effectiveness. Newly supportive relationships are created in the process. Family members who had been resigned to putting up with each other often find a common ground that had been obscured by their unsatisfying interaction.
In addition, Wharton conducts seminars that prepare family members for the environment of a family business. Such preparation can allay the irresistible urge to escalate differences into conflicts to the point of helplessness and hopelessness for members of family businesses.