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What's the Problem? andThe Solution Is™ Addresses Family Business Problems and Issues

publication date: Nov 3, 2011
author/source: Mike Henning

    What's the Problem?  andThe Solution Is ?


Family Business Problems and Issues 


Mike HenningMike Henning,

Founder and Principal of Henning Family Business Center

Established in 1985, the Henning Family Business Center (HFBC) is an organizational consulting firm and seminar company focused on strategies for family owned and managed business ventures in the four areas of Business, Family, Succession & Estate.  www.mikehenning.com


Critical Questions


 It has been said, “Often the question is more important than the answer.”  When we give comprehensive thought to this idea, it becomes transparent why the question can and often is more important than the answer. 

Here is our reasoning.  Frequently the questions are about omissions, goals and the future.  For example, running a small to medium sized company requires the boss to wear many hats including day-to-day hands-on work in the operation.  Thus, working on the development of the company and addressing how to serve customers better is often left to chance or people adopt the strategy of the previous generations and take the direction “if it was good enough for the last owner it is good enough for us.” Omissions can be exposed when the right questions are asked, such as how can we best serve our customers?  Ask each employee what they would suggest about how they can do their jobs better or be more productive.  What exactly is your target market and how can you attract and serve them better?  What can we do to make sure our customers remain customers by coming back again and again?

The answers to questions such as these can have the power in an organization to shift patterns of customer service and employee productivity.  It will create action that was omitted before the question was asked and attention given it. 

Goal Questions

If you perform business strategic planning you will easily recognize the value of the goal questions and how the answers take you to strategies, tactics, people responsible, expectations and accountability.  You understand the discipline and accompanying rewards that are created when crucial questions are asked and thoughtful answers given.

For example, what is the driving force of your company?  Is it product, service, technology, sales or distribution driven?  In order to determine where you want to go and how to grow profitably, you must know where you are today.  Another example:  What major actions should be taken to increase revenues and reduce costs?  As you can see, the answers quickly become goals that will drive the company and its profitability. 

Future Questions

The answers to the future questions always seem to be the toughest to deal with.  The reason is simple; we are asked to think in a time zone of 5 to 10 years from now and this is so speculative that many conservative, hard working folks just can’t do it or have been molded and shaped to think that the future is 60 days from now.  Those who can dream and envision the future are the ones who tend to succeed consistently in their personal lives, family lives, social lives and business careers.  They are the rare ones who can make it happen if they can see it in their minds and imagine it being completed with proper execution.  They are the ones who have nurtured the personal characteristic of influencing others to help them achieve this future vision. 

What are some of the critical questions addressing the future?  What size do you see your company being in 5 years?  10 years?  What will you be doing?  What role will other relatives have?  Will company locations remain the same, change and/or be added and where?  How will the operation be organized and structured?  What gifts and talents will the top managers need to accomplish this task?  What challenges will likely need to be overcome on the way to achieving this dream?  What is missing in your vision and how can it be added? 


Check out the list of questions below that are likely to shift your mental activity, possibly your entire thought process - and increase profits as well.




¨ Do you hold regular employee, management and board meetings?

¨ Do you run your company(s) like a business, with detailed financial reports, plans & strategies?

¨ Do you listen to ideas from key non-family and family employees?

¨ Do you meet with outside advisors on a regular basis?

¨ Are you good at delegating?

¨ Do customers and employees know your values because you live them?



¨ Should you have ground rules for family participation in the business?

¨ Do family members feel fairly treated?

¨ Is family compensation comparable to non-family employee compensation?

¨ Who should be allowed to own stock?

¨ How should the next generation prepare to inherit wealth?



¨ Do you have a written succession plan?

¨ Do you have a buy/sell agreement that is understood by all partners?

¨ What or who should govern the distribution of profits?

¨ What should be the guidelines for ownership succession?

¨ How much money should the next generation leaders invest in the company?


To view more “critical questions” go to our website at

www.mikehenning.com and click on free survey. 

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