Business Advice Centre

Monday 25 March 2019

Problem Solver: Professional help needed to end family business battle

Feargal Quinn. Photo: Tom Burke
Feargal Quinn. Photo: Tom Burke

Feargal Quinn

Q I started a business with my sister five years ago, however we have different opinions on where the company should progress to and now we barely speak which is really damaging the business. Do you have any suggestions on how we might resolve the issue?

A I am sorry to hear things are not working out between you both, and furthermore that the business is being damaged by this.

Quite clearly you are going to end up damaging your family relationship and possibly losing your business.

In my experience, when you talk to individuals involved in situations like this, neither party really wants any one of those outcomes.

The problem is everyone becomes entrenched in a point of view and no one is willing to move.

My experience also says, that usually there is right on both sides but very often a lot of stubbornness or hot tempers.

There are really only a handful of solutions: you agree to close the business and move onto other new projects separately; one of you buys the other out of the business; or you both leave the business and pay a professional manager to run it.

The reality is the latter suggestion probably isn't going to work unless you have a very large turnover.

However, I did encounter a divorced husband and wife couple recently who have a paid manager running the business very successfully while they have moved out of the business to pursue other interests, while still retaining ownership.

I would recommend that you pay for the services of a trained mediator who will help you both find an agreeable path through this situation.

That will allow the neutrality of a third party to steer the discussion to an amicable place.

It would be a real shame if you can't come to an amicable solution that allows you both to find a space where you are happy and the business to move on.


Q With your lengthy experience, what do you believe are the traits of a good business?

A The textbook answer will give you a long checklist of things like on-trend, have conducted lots of research, building a strong brand, etc.

Over the decades I have managed to narrow it down to what I believe are the three core aspects of a successful business.

While it might seem obvious, the first is that the business owner's mindset has to be correct.

They have to be energised, have the ability to pick themselves up when they fall down and be highly focused.

The second involves the ability to fund the business growth.

You can dream all you want about funding the business growth from within.

But the truth is that most successful businesses have access to third-party funding or investors at an early stage which allows them to fast-track their growth.

The third point, and one of the most crucial, is having a robust distribution network in place and being able to get your product to market to all possible customers.

That is a real competitive advantage and one that any successful business cannot be without.


Send your small business questions to

Indo Business

Also in Business