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A Founder Insists on Her Way

Dear Advisor:

My two sibs and I have agreed to buy out my parents and their business partner at fair market value. They are each getting more money than they’ll need to live very comfortable for the rest of their lives.

Mom started the business almost as a hobby. She made no money for a decade but after Dad changed careers and brought in a business-savvy partner, a tidy profit was regularly produced.

While Mom is willing to accept our money, she is angry because she will no longer be free to do whatever she pleases at the business. She admits that she’s not good at turning ideas into profits, but insists that we invest millions in a scheme that we don’t believe can be profitable. We’ve suggested retirement, but she says she’ll do it when she’s good and ready. That’s the real problem: she wants to do what she wants to do, not what everyone else agrees is good for the business.

Mom has called us disloyal, unappreciative and unfair, and now has ceased to even talk with us. What do you think?

 


While there are two sides to every story, you sound more like the victim of a guilt trip than bad children. Your mom seems to say that she should be above accountability, a position to which even beloved mothers cannot aspire.

The situation can be easily resolved from a business perspective, but not without serious family consequences. If you are unwilling to retire your mother, you’ll have to clearly delineate her responsibilities and prerogatives and insist she remain within them. Having sold her stock, she now serves the business at your pleasure.

You are unlikely to find a gentle solution to this dilemma. Perhaps intervention by her peers could help. But a family meeting is called for in which you three stand together, explain your plans, and emphasize that it’s now your business, success or failure. Tell your mother of your love, appreciation and respect, perhaps suggesting a retirement party in her honor.

Your business should not be encumbered by your mother’s actions – even though she founded it. Take the business forward and get back to being a good family.

 

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