Harmony and the family business: It might just come down to communications

Photo by Creatas/Creatas / Getty Images
Photo by Creatas/Creatas / Getty Images

Although communication is a simple concept, many families running businesses have difficulty communicating effectively with each other, hindering their progress and success. That’s according to Emily Griffiths-Hamilton, a family business advisory and author of Build Your Family Bank.

Emails and text messages are a recipe for assumptions to be made about intentions
— Emily Griffiths-Hamilton

Griffiths-Hamilton reckons that communication is something we don’t spend a lot of time teaching, but it’s essential for the success of any business. “Around 55% of communications is face-to-face, but much of communication is done today through emails and text messages, and these types of communications you don’t get the tone,” she says. “Emails and text messages are a recipe for assumptions to be made about intentions.”

Griffiths-Hamilton can pull on lots of first-hand experiences with family businesses given she is the daughter of the late Canadian media and sports mogul Frank Griffiths, who set up Western Broadcasting Company, which was later acquired by Shaw Media. The trials and tribulations that business went through was experienced first hand by both father and daughter. Griffiths-Hamilton is also a chartered accountant, an investment advisor and a certified conflict resolution coach.

The issue of communications and ways to improve communication are a big theme of Griffiths-Hamilton’s yet to be published second book that has a working title of: The Family Bank Approach to Your Family Business.

Griffiths-Hamilton says that the new book will also delve further into the importance of defining shared values and a vision between family members. Other issues explored will be the hiring of an external CEO, the art of ownership versus management, and how to diversity risk when everything is tied up with the family business.

In her first book, Griffiths-Hamilton explored the idea of the family bank, which, she says, is a metaphor for the family’s shared values and vision. “Once we get those worked out, the next step is to assess the human and intellectual assets, and then the financial assets,” she says. The concept is all part of Griffiths-Hamilton’s desire to empower families to make their own decisions around succession and money, rather than relying on accountants and lawyers.