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FUTURE PLANNING


Fire me... please


With a couple of double scotches behind them, both John and William were getting even more introspective. William was aware that at least four people were catching snippets of their conversation. William paused and finally whispered, “Did you ever want to fire your son?” Thomas Deans writes.


J


ohn considered this. “I suppose there were many days when I looked at some of the decisions Michael had made and thought, what the hell is he doing?”


“But you let him make the mistakes, right? You didn’t


second-guess him, did you?” “How would you define ‘second-guess’?” asked John. “All I’m asking is, did you let him make what you


thought were bad decisions or did you exercise your authority and override him?” “I know where you’re going with this, but it was my


company and I couldn’t just let him ruin something I had started and run myself for 25 years.” “What was your son’s response when you questioned


his decisions?” “He seemed okay with it. I actually thought he liked


having me there to back him up.” John paused like there was more he wanted to say. Sensing this too, William asked, “But?” “Well,” confessed John, “at a family dinner I once


overheard Michael’s wife complain that I was a bully at work and that I never gave him the credit he deserved. I took that to mean Michael was unhappy with me overriding him – but he never complained to me. I mean, if he had a problem with me, he would have said something, right?” “Are you sure you want me to answer that, John?” “Absolutely.” “Look, I can’t speak for your son, but I think the vast


majority of kids bite their tongues out of respect for their parents; it’s habitual. They probably defer more than a manager in a non-family business would to their boss. Unfortunately, while the kids are stifling their opinions, the business problems aren’t getting fixed. Sometimes a strong difference of opinion is healthy for a business if the points-of-view can be articulated without


86 FAMILY OFFICE: ASIA TOMORROW


personalising the issue or commenting on the other person’s character. I’m sure we would both admit that the needles on our sensitivity meters went crazy when we received even just a mild rebuke from our respective family members in the business.” John raised his hand in the air and murmured,


“Guilty.” “You know, John, you never really answered the


question: did you ever feel like firing Michael?” “Almost every day,” replied John, sounding defeated


by his own answer. “Some days, especially in the last year, I wanted to fire him because of his performance and other days I wanted to fire him to set him free of the business and to end my annus horribilis.” “I chose to sell the business so that I wouldn’t have


to make that decision. Nevertheless, I certainly got to the same place after the sale – a son full of anger and regret. As the acquisition looked more and more certain, I realised that I had boxed myself in. I was truly


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