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My dad controls family business but he won't make decisions


Former Superquinn chief Feargal Quinn

Former Superquinn chief Feargal Quinn

Former Superquinn chief Feargal Quinn

I am in my early thirties and involved in a family business with my parents. My dad also has other interests and is only around part-time but still retains control over the total business, which means decisions just don't get made. I know what has to be done but am trapped with no power. Help!

Feargal says: Your story is not unusual in family businesses and indeed we have featured this as the story line for one of our 'Retail Therapy' TV programmes. Sadly, my experience is also that this situation can be hugely damaging to the business and can, in effect, paralyse the decision-making process.

I recommend you approach this in a structured way. Prepare a document that sets out all of the skills you can bring to the business, key decisions that need to be made and that will affect the future stability of the business as well as a list of reasons setting out why you should now be given greater control. Then arrange a formal meeting with your mum and dad present, having prepared them for the topic to be discussed in advance so there are no surprises.

Your father's biggest fear in letting go might be that sense of having run the business successfully over the last few decades and now being presented with a situation where he needs to stand back from that.

Of course, I am still sure you would welcome your parents' involvement in the business and this will be necessary for the next number of years as the transition takes place, however what you need now is the power to make decisions.

It might also be helpful, in a non-confrontational way, if you explain to your dad the problems associated with your not being allowed to make decisions are causing to the business. You must impress upon him the big risks this is creating for the business.

Right now, every business needs to be swift on its feet, decisive in its direction and nimble-footed.

For your company to be anything but this is creating unnecessary indecision.

My experience in Superquinn with my own family was that the most important thing we needed at all times was clarity with each other.

That eliminated any tension and avoided unnecessary distractions.


Question: You always seem to be very energised and motivated when I see you on TV, etc. What is the secret ingredient?

Feargal says: If I only knew, I would happily share it! Certainly I have always tried to do things that I was passionate about.

When working with my father in Red Island Holiday Camp, I really enjoyed meeting guests and making their stay pleasant and that allowed me to naturally deliver great service.

When I started Superquinn, I enjoyed the thrill of retailing and, in those early days, the excitement was all about bringing a new concept of self-service retailing to consumers. In later years, it was perfecting that model in fresh foods and customer service that gave me great joy. It's also about challenge. The challenge of trying to be the best at what you do; helping others; and the challenge of succeeding in your personal life.

And attitude. I always find myself trying to look towards solutions and not problems.

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