Dirty Little Secrets of Family Business: Ensure Generational Success


"Dirty Little Secrets of Family Business: Ensuring Success from One Generation to the Next" is a guide written by a consultant raised in the home of two separate business. This perspective helps readers explore what part of their "family problems" is affecting their family business.

Dirty Little Secrets Of Family Business

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As shared in Dirty Little Secrets of Family Business: Ensuring Success from One Generation to the Next, approximately 66 percent of family businesses don’t make it to the next generation. While this fact is known (think about the famous saying about family “shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations”), what isn’t well known is why. Most books focus on the rational aspects of failing as family business. This book focuses on the not-so-obvious aspects that can destroy a family business.

What “Dirty Little Secrets of Family Business” is About

The core concept behind Dirty Little Secrets of Family Business is not a “dirty little secret” at all. In fact, it’s an obvious realization: Families and businesses are not the same. The problem (and this is where the “dirty little secret” comes in) is that most under-performing family businesses don’t realize this. Serious problems can occur when you mix family problems with the family business and vice versa. When family members don’t communicate, are under-prepared or overpaid, the family business is destroyed.

The way out of this little conundrum for family businesses is proper planning, but author Henry Hutcheson is focusing on more than a succession plan or family meeting. His goal is to tackle five “traps” that family businesses often fall into. These are problems in:

  • Communication,
  • Delegation,
  • Financial Responsibility,
  • Fair Compensation and
  • Education.

By addressing these “traps” with policies and procedures, family businesses can steer clear of the majority of relationship-destroying behaviors that plague other businesses.

Henry Hutcheson (@HenryHutcheson) is a speaker, author, consultant, president and founder of Family Business USA, a consulting agency for family businesses. Hutcheson comes from a family of business owners. His mother worked for Olan Mill Portrait Studios and his father managed Peerless Woolen Mills.

What Was Best About Dirty Little Secrets of Family Business

The best part of Dirty Little Secrets of Family Business is the book’s focus on family as they are, not as they should be. Henry Hutcheson grew up in an environment of family business. This gives a unique perspective on issues like entitlement, differing attitudes towards money and personality clashes. They are things not covered in depth in another book on a similar subject, Linda Davis Taylor’s  The Business of Family: How to Stay Rich for Generations. While The Business of Family is good for wealth planning, Dirty Little Secrets of Family Business is good for relationship management that is crucial to the business.

This provides some measure of support for the obvious family issues that often seem intractable later down the line.

What Could Have Been Done Differently

The book is an overall great general guide to a wide variety of issues that can crop up during the operation of a family business. Because of that, this book does not provide a step-by-step map to addressing family problems. It provides an overview (often with an example) and some recommendations on how to fix them.

Why Read Dirty Little Secrets of Family Business

If you are thinking about or currently running a family business, this book provides a great exploratory guide to the potential obstacles in the process. The author demonstrates his own experience as a son raised around two home businesses throughout the book and uses that experience to share straightforward and common-sense recommendations on a lot of topics that some readers may not have even considered.

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Charles Franklin Charles Franklin is a Book Reviewer for Small Business Trends. He has a background as a professional reviewer, and is also a content provider and customer relations professional.

3 Reactions
  1. Charles,

    I have had some experiences with family businesses. My brother and I had a small hobby business back in the day, importing 3.5″ diskettes. I worked for 8+ years as a purchaser at a company owned by a family of three brothers and one sister.

    How about you? Do you have a family business or family members who are entrepreneurs?

    • Charles Franklin

      Unfortunately, I don’t have a family business or family members who are entrepreneurs. I’m wired a little differently, though.

  2. To tell the truth most ppl that NEED to read this won’t. Family businesses are an attempt by those who can’t or don’t want to work in the corporate world to succeed on their own. The issue is NOT everyone has the mental acumen to run their own business. It takes more than the bare bones of 1. Having a great idea 2. Having a market to purchase said product (demographics) 3. CAPITAL and 4. A loyal staff. For example if one is selling food which everyone needs because everyone eats and a business owner has the money to purchase a grocery store, then one must have systems in place to make sure the competition doesn’t trounce the business. In short one must offer more bang for a consumer’s buck. Lacking this one must offer superior customer service which some consumers will overlook in favour of a lower price. This is only part of the equation. That loyal staff of family may slack off figuring that family looks out for family and will not fire them. If a family business is franchised this adds more to the situation. The business NOW has the name recognition of a larger company but also has the freedom to skirt EEOC laws, practice extreme nepotism and the consumer has little to no recourse. A recent example of this is the McDonald’s franchise that blatantly discriminated against their workers. When the workers filed suit against the corporation the corp pointed fingers at the franchise who in turn shrugged their shoulders and displayed empty pockets. http://time.com/3678710/mcdonalds-lawsuit-fast-food-strikes/ In short family run businesses are the bane of the economy especially franchises and entrepreneurship is often a synonym for broke in today’s economy. Are there a few that ultimately make it? Of course but the odds are against many.