What is this thing called 9Stucks?
9Stucks is a dynamic business diagnostic tool. It identifies nine distinct yet interrelated business challenges that cause a company to underperform.

5 Pesky Plights Hurt a Family Business (Part 2): The Strategy Freeze

PolarBearsFightingInnovate and grow or maintain the status quo?

The process of making this basic strategic choice can be an exciting journey forward, or a source of conflict in a family-owned company.

Why? What causes a family company to be frozen in its tracks over this fundamental question? And what can be done to thaw the ice, or better yet, prevent the business from becoming Stuck in the Moment?

You may be thinking…’Conflict among the shareholders of a private company over strategic direction is common and good.’ You’re right! Debate over the best go-forward strategies and tactics can be healthy and productive. In companies that are not family owned, the conflict tends to resolve itself in a timely and orderly way. This is especially true in companies with outside institutional investors who don’t tolerate indecision for extended periods of time.

In some family-owned companies, the strategic discord festers and lingers. A ‘strategic fog’ permeates the boardroom, family gatherings and the company’s hallways and cubicles. Critical decisions are delayed and significant opportunities ignored. The disagreement can go dormant but then suddenly explode. This can be debilitating to the business and to the shareholders.

What has always intrigued me is not the presence of a rift over the strategic direction of a family business. My question is why the conflict becomes so pervasive and common.

My experience points to 10 ingredients:

  1. History and nostalgia
  2. Personality traits of the family shareholders
  3. Knowledge disparity
  4. Background noise
  5. Breakfast table scrambled eggs
  6. Cash (see Part 1 of this series – The SeeSaw)
  7. Mood of the day: comfort, fear, fatigue, ambivalence
  8. Age
  9. Lack of trust
  10. The family stew – a simmering salmagundi of any of the above

P.S. #’s 8 and 9 are smokescreens [Read more…]

What is this thing called 9Stucks?
9Stucks is a dynamic business diagnostic tool. It identifies nine distinct yet interrelated business challenges that cause a company to underperform.

Emotional Venting in a Stuck Company. Episode 2: External Forces


CEOs and employees of stuck companies reveal three recurring themes when I interview them during coaching sessions. These themes launched a series of three blog posts about ‘Emotional Venting in a Stuck Company’.

Episode 1 illustrated the importance of listening to the emotional reactions of a stuck company’s key people about LEADERSHIP – the unfiltered, raw, spill your guts variety. Their voices express what they live everyday. Episode 3 will cover internal confusion about OPERATIONS.

This second Episode documents the wide range of emotion about a company’s EXTERNAL FORCES. External forces have a decided influence on your corporate strategy.  The key external forces that impact your organization are:

  • economic
  • political, governmental
  • social, cultural, demographic
  • technological
  • industry specific
  • customer behavior
  • competitive pressures

The external forces can be an impending threat or they may present strategic opportunities for your business. Your interpretation of and reaction to these external forces directly impact the strategic decisions you make. 

The 9Stucks that relate to external forces are Another World, Rut and Traffic. The comments I hear from leadership teams about these stucks reveal a wide range of emotion: angst, indifference, measured confidence, or arrogance.  Their typical hot buttons topics are concentrated around:

  1. industries in flux
  2. unpredictable customer behavior
  3. constant competitive pressure.

From Angst to Arrogance

[Read more…]