How EOS® Can Smooth the Dynamics of a Family Business


Family-run businesses are different from the rest. The closeness of a family management team can be a source of great strength, but it can also cause tremendous tension. Because that tension can spill over into home life, it’s especially important for a family business to have strategies for resolving challenges in the boardroom.

EOS® provides a framework for family businesses to get through the hard stuff. 

The dynamics of a family business are complex.

As a Professional EOS Implementer® I approach every business as a unique collection of personalities, each with their own goals. At the same time, certain things are true for most businesses. Everyone who adopts EOS wants to grow, and there are plenty of common barriers to growth.

When an organization is run by a family, I often need to shift my thinking due to the family dynamic. Even when a family-run business is relatively harmonious, the team’s relationship is inherently different from is found  at a company where everyone feels free to walk away (or be fired) tomorrow.

For every flawlessly aligned team of spouses or siblings, there are two or three teams that regularly get into shouting matches over the details that can be a source of conflict in any business. The personal relationships among the leadership team makes it harder to resolve tough questions like these:

• Who decides the vision and goals of the business, when family members have radically different ideas about these key elements?

• When personnel decisions are overlaid with conflicts of interest and differences of opinion, how does a business get the right people in the right seats?

• How should management transitions be handled, especially between generations?

• When management conversations in the boardroom continue around the family’s dinner table, how can the team members stay clear about each of their distinct responsibilities?

EOS offers tools for resolving even the toughest conflicts.

One of the big advantages businesses that run EOS enjoy over their competitors is the shared language the EOS Model provides to every member of a company’s leadership team. The people who run a family business together may ask: We already have ways of communicating that work for us, developed over years of living together, so why do we need another layer?

Families that routinely get into loud arguments about business matters may already know the answer. They need a shared strategy, crafted when everyone is calm and collected, they can rely on when disagreements arise.

The basic tools of EOS, like the Accountability Chart and the Issues Solving Track™, can lend clarity to even the most emotionally charged situation. Instead of every person coming to the table with his or her own ideas about how to overcome a challenge, the team arrives already knowing who bears ultimate responsibility for tasks, and they can tackle problems using a shared process.

A company I work with recently went through a generational transition, with the company’s founder passing the baton to his three (adult) kids. The initial transition went smoothly enough, mainly because each of the siblings had a clear idea of what they wanted to do at the company. But after six months, their sporadic management meetings frequently were collapsing into shouting matches. 

“Too many of our meetings are ending in tears without anything getting accomplished,” their CEO shared with me. 

EOS completely changed the dynamics of their meetings. Here are the key ways they’ve told me EOS has changed how they work together:

• Thanks to the Accountability Chart, they aren’t habitually stepping on each others’ toes anymore.

• They still argue—it’s just how they are with each other—but because their arguments are framed around the principles of EOS they are much more likely to end with concrete solutions.

• Using the People Analyzer™ has helped them address long-standing problems with personnel fit.

• The regular meetings required by EOS, especially the Level 10 Meetings™, together with the emphasis on open communication, have forced them to bring issues into the open so they can be addressed.

“We’re a rough-and-tumble kind of family,” the CEO has told me. “We needed EOS to get us to stop wrestling and start collaborating.” 

That’s the kind of thing I like to hear!

Use EOS to take your family business to the next level.

As a veteran of family business, I know how hard it can be to overcome differences of opinion when it’s hard to leave those differences at the office. How is your family business addressing its barriers to growth? I’d love to hear your stories. Send me an email or give me a call. Let’s talk about how EOS can accelerate your business’ growth and your family’s success.