MEMORANDUM that fits this situation would beMEMORANDUM that fits this situation would be



To:      Brittney Adkins, Robert Carnell, Travis Hayes, and Heather Nelson

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From: Catherine Fell

Date:   January 26, 20183

RE:     Proposal for Managing Generational Differences in the Family Business



The difference in generations can develop an abundance of problems within businesses. This can happen at a faster rate in a family owned business. At the center of family business is the goal of succession; passing the business down to the next generation. In order to efficiently communicate within the workplace, each family member needs to understand the others. To combat this problem, a family owned business can chose to implement a variety of different best practices. The best practice that fits this situation would be family meetings.


A family meeting is a business related meeting where the attendee list includes all family members working within the business and, in some cases, spouses and/or an outside director or mediator. Family meetings, as described by David Lansky, Family Business Consulting Group, “can be viewed as having two communication components: content and process.” The content portion of this view is where most of the generational discontent lies.     


Statement of Problem

The issue of communication between multiple generations in a family business can impact more than just the family health. Without healthy family businesses, America’s economy would not be flourishing as it currently is. Family businesses account for upwards of 80 percent of business enterprises in North America (Astrachan & Shanker, 2003). Other parties affected by the family business communication struggle is the consumer of West Michigan. West Michigan is known as the mecca of family owned businesses. With a large concentration of family businesses the consumers in the area likely shop at a family owned business on a regular basis.


The importance of managing multiple generations and their communication within the family business directly connect to the well being of the family owned business. The issue of communication is found when the differing generational communication types cannot adapt to those of another generation. To illustrate: a Baby Boomer born in the 1950s would likely have a different way of communicating than a Millennial born in the 1980s. Developing a method to  educate mutigenerational family businesses on how to effectively communicate with one another and implement quality family meetings will help the longevity of the business and assist in preparation for succession.



Proposed Solution

To better increase communication and understanding among the different generations in a family owned business, the implementation of family meetings could be considered. Based upon Greg McCann’s presentation in March 2017, family meeting can help those in the family business bridge communication gaps by practicing. The option to include an outside mediator to the family meeting could result in added benefit. Implementation of family meetings would develop through a series of steps where the family would be made aware of the gaps and shown solutions on how to better communicate to each family member. These teaching tools could be in the form of a guest speaker, webinar, or written materials.



Managing generational differences in the workplace is a daunting task for a family business. When family dynamics take a role in communication it can be hard to draw the line between dad and boss without an outside mediator.

·       How would an outside mediator help a family business implement family meetings?

·       How could family meetings be helpful without the use of an outside mediator?

·       What types of generational differences cause conflict between family members?

·       How can family meetings help develop healthy communication among family members?



To research this issue there are many forms of information to gather. Online sources include articles from Family Business Consulting Group and the work of their consultants to give in-depth content based on dynamics of family owned businesses and their own personal experiences. Access to an extensive family business library through the Grand Rapids based Family Business Alliance will be helpful in researching what types of family business best practices help the different struggles pf family owned business dynamics. In addition to text materials, I have attended a presentation by Greg McCann addressing how generational differences affect the family business. Family businesses in the West Michigan area could also be a resource, if it was decided to distribute a survey or poll.



I have attended twelve events centered around family owned businesses and their dynamics. In addition to attending these events, I have worked for Family Business Alliance for nearly one year as an administrative assistant, membership assistant, and events coordinator. I have made connections with many family owned businesses in the West Michigan area, including Grand Rapids Label Co., Kent Companies, and Bissell. I also have connections with consultants and speakers from Family Business Consulting Group (FBCG), along with other connections outside of the FBCG.



Limitations for this research would include many time restrictions. The first time restriction would be with contacting the FBCG consultants and speakers. Contacting these speakers will be as simple as emailing, but the response time for many would most likely not be within our timeframe. Another issue regarding time could be allotting time for surveying family owned businesses for more data.



To ensure economic well-being of areas like West Michigan where there is a dense population of family owned businesses, action is needed to maintain these firms. Starting at the stem of the problems stated above, the development and implementation of effective family meetings could improve the longevity of family businesses. Allocating time and resources to this solution would benefit North America’s economy by helping the vast majority of businesses. Research will begin immediately upon group approval.















































Astrichan, J.H. & Chanker, M.C.. (September 2003) Family business’ contribution to the U.S.           economy: Acloser look. In Family business review.

Cohen, A. R., & Sharma, P. (2016). Entrepreneurs in every generation: How successful family businesses develop their next leaders. Oakland, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc,.

Federer, D. (2015, September 16). Dealing with the “generation gap” at a family business. In     Federer performance management group, LLC.. Retrieved January 25, 2018, from         business/

Havens, M. (n.d.). Generational keynote: Stop acting your age!. In Matt Havens keynote           speaker. Retrieved January 24, 2018, from   

McCann, G. (2013). When your parents sign the paychecks: Finding success inside or outside            the family enterprise. DeLand, FL: McCann & Associates.

Schmieder, J. (2017, September 6). Four generations, one workforce: Valuing generational    differences in a family business. In The family business consulting group. Retrieved         January 26, 2018, from   family-business/