REVIEW: Every Family’s Business: 12 Common Sense Questions to Protect Your Wealth

Written by Thomas William Deans, PhD ©2008, 2009

This surprising little book packs a punch with ideas that will have many of us scratching our heads and wondering why we never thought of them.  The book’s context is a dialog between two strangers on an airplane who happen to have their respective experiences in family businesses in common.   The readers are drawn into this flight and experience as though they were present.  William, as the author refers to himself in the book, starts out by saying that family businesses begin for many reasons, but all of them amount to being born of love. This is what makes family businesses “a powerful and emotional idea” that should be respected and treated as such. This book is dynamic in that is has two people on opposite ends of the same FOB situation.

The author, William Deans was a 3nd Generation family business member who was very involved in the selling of his company with his father. He is on a plane to Barbados with another man who happened to be a former 1st Generation business owner who sold his business without the involvement of his 2nd Generation family members who were employed in the company. Both men began talking about their respective experiences and how those experiences affected them and their relationships with their families in both positive and negative ways. By the end of the flight these two men knew that they had a lot to learn from each other and possibly to offer to many people who are going through a similar situation.

William describes to his flight partner the 12 questions that his family used to ensure that they had a smooth transition. These questions do need the context of the preceding chapters, so I will not write them here, but they all hang on this single premise: the family business will always be for sale to the highest bidder (whether or not that person is in the family).  What makes this book so interesting is that it makes the selling of a family business no longer a taboo. He argues that this actually saves the family and eliminates the conundrums existing in a family business regarding employment of relatives, performance based or relationship based compensation etc.  He has the temerity to wonder whether even acknowledgement of family relationships within a family business contributes to destroying it!

A good read — enjoy!