ILMA Compoundings November 2017 - 32

BUSINESS HUB

Inspiration from the
Survivor Tree
Family Businesses as Both Firm and Flexible
By Amy Schuman

I

f you've ever been to Oklahoma
City, perhaps you've visited the
Oklahoma City National Memorial
and Museum, a moving monument to
the memory of the 168 men, women
and children killed in a domestic terrorist truck bombing in 1995. Central
to the memorial is a large American
elm tree, affectionately named the
Survivor Tree. Miraculously, this tree
survived the terrible 4,000-pound
bomb blast and became an inspiration
to people everywhere.
How did the tree survive, or even
thrive, without a combination of
flexibility and firmness, strength and
suppleness? The tree's trunk had the
durable structure and strength to stand
firm under intense pressure. At the same
time, its more delicate branches had the
flexibility and elasticity to move and
sway with the force of the blast. This
mighty combination of being both fixed
and flexible - often seen as opposites -
was a formidable source of strength.
If the tree had only been firm, it would
have snapped in the force of the blast.
If it had only been flexible, it would
have crumpled in the force of the blast.
However, the tree survived from a combination of apparent opposites, and thus
it remains with us to this day.
Successful family businesses are
like the Survivor Tree. They combine apparent opposites in powerful,
unexpected ways that support survival
across generations.
Many families and businesses find
great advantages in being firm. This
helps them to be crystal clear about the
rules, roles and responsibilities of the

32

NOVEMBER 2017

| COMPOUNDINGS | ILMA.ORG

business. As one example, when deciding whether to employ family members, being firm means having a clear
job description and strong performance
appraisal system so that only qualified
family members are hired and then
held to the same (or possibly higher)
standards as non-family co-workers.
Additionally, many families and businesses find great advantages in being
flexible. They are comfortable making
changes when needed and they adjust
their rules and systems in response to
changing conditions. For example,
many family businesses have done a
great job adapting their human resources
department practices to provide more
flexible work arrangements and work/
life balance for their workforce. These
practices are a flexible approach that
appeals to today's workforce and allows
for better talent recruitment.
These two seemingly opposite but, in
fact, mutually supportive values could be
referred to as a paradox or polarity. They
represent a special kind of problem that
cannot be solved, only managed. And,
in fact, many times a family or business
that is good at one of these values has a
hard time being equally as good with its
apparent opposite.
When working with a paradox, the
task becomes finding a "both/and solution" rather than an "either/or solution."
There are many examples of paradoxes
commonly found in family businesses,
including tradition and/or change;
harvest and/or invest; and family and/
or business. Firms that thrive have the
ability to find "both/and solutions" to
the many paradoxes they face. Like the

Survivor Tree, they are able to find the
strength of standing firm and combine
it with the vitality of being flexible.
Choosing one of these two values (firm
or flexible) to the exclusion of the other
is never a good idea. In fact, it can bring
predictable problems.
For example, choosing to be firm
while excluding any flexibility might
mean never updating rules or policies,
no matter what you learn along the
way. Taking firmness to an extreme,
one becomes rigid, stale and out of
date. On the other hand, choosing to
be flexible while excluding any firm,
stick-to-itiveness might mean never having clear, established rules or policies.
Taking flexibility to an extreme often
leads to unstable unpredictability.
The next time your family business
faces a difficult problem, ask yourself if it is a paradox. Are there two
complementary forces that appear to
be in conflict but are in fact, mutually
supportive? Are there two desirable approaches that appear to be competitive,
but can both be pursued?
If your problem is a paradox, remember the Survivor Tree. Rather than
choosing one option to the exclusion
of the other, see if you can find the
strength and sustainability that comes
from pursuing both.
Schuman is a principal
consultant with The Family
Business Consulting Group
Inc., a leading management
consulting firm serving the unique needs of
multigenerational family businesses worldwide.
Learn more at www.thefbcg.com.


http://www.thefbcg.com http://www.ILMA.ORG

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of ILMA Compoundings November 2017

LETTER FROM THE CEO
INSIDE ILMA
Company Callout
WHAT’S COMING UP
In the Know
INDUSTRY RUNDOWN
International Insight
Market Report
SHIFTING GEARS – INNOVATING THE FUTURE
NORTH AMERICAN SPECIFICATION UPDATE
DIGITAL MARKETING IN MANUFACTURING
BUSINESS HUB
COUNSEL COMPOUND
WASHINGTON LANDSCAPE
IN NETWORK
Member Connections
ILMA Compoundings November 2017 - Cover1
ILMA Compoundings November 2017 - Cover2
ILMA Compoundings November 2017 - 1
ILMA Compoundings November 2017 - 2
ILMA Compoundings November 2017 - LETTER FROM THE CEO
ILMA Compoundings November 2017 - INSIDE ILMA
ILMA Compoundings November 2017 - 5
ILMA Compoundings November 2017 - Company Callout
ILMA Compoundings November 2017 - 7
ILMA Compoundings November 2017 - WHAT’S COMING UP
ILMA Compoundings November 2017 - 9
ILMA Compoundings November 2017 - INDUSTRY RUNDOWN
ILMA Compoundings November 2017 - 11
ILMA Compoundings November 2017 - International Insight
ILMA Compoundings November 2017 - 13
ILMA Compoundings November 2017 - Market Report
ILMA Compoundings November 2017 - 15
ILMA Compoundings November 2017 - SHIFTING GEARS – INNOVATING THE FUTURE
ILMA Compoundings November 2017 - 17
ILMA Compoundings November 2017 - 18
ILMA Compoundings November 2017 - 19
ILMA Compoundings November 2017 - 20
ILMA Compoundings November 2017 - 21
ILMA Compoundings November 2017 - 22
ILMA Compoundings November 2017 - 23
ILMA Compoundings November 2017 - NORTH AMERICAN SPECIFICATION UPDATE
ILMA Compoundings November 2017 - 25
ILMA Compoundings November 2017 - 26
ILMA Compoundings November 2017 - 27
ILMA Compoundings November 2017 - DIGITAL MARKETING IN MANUFACTURING
ILMA Compoundings November 2017 - 29
ILMA Compoundings November 2017 - 30
ILMA Compoundings November 2017 - 31
ILMA Compoundings November 2017 - BUSINESS HUB
ILMA Compoundings November 2017 - 33
ILMA Compoundings November 2017 - COUNSEL COMPOUND
ILMA Compoundings November 2017 - WASHINGTON LANDSCAPE
ILMA Compoundings November 2017 - Member Connections
ILMA Compoundings November 2017 - 37
ILMA Compoundings November 2017 - 38
ILMA Compoundings November 2017 - 39
ILMA Compoundings November 2017 - 40
ILMA Compoundings November 2017 - Cover3
ILMA Compoundings November 2017 - Cover4
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