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Helping Family Businesses
Prosper Across Generations®

Perspectives on Resentment

Many family firms have been started by or built by two brothers. They slave together, trust each other, and more important, have complementary skills. One is “Mr. Outside,” the task driver, gregarious, a great promoter. The other is “Mr. Inside,” excellent with details, sensitive to others, a wonderful operator.

Mixing these complementary skills and personalities helped the business become successful. The differences can also lead to some predictable resentments by their spouses in later life.

Spouse A Spouse B
My husband never gets enough credit. He always shares it with his brother. But it's my husband who made it all possible. He worked incredible hours, was gone from home so much... My husband never gets enough credit. He was always quieter an din the shadow and neve complained. If he didn't attend to the business, it never would have worked...
Our children deserve the first chance at leading this company next. They know what it takes. They have sacrificed so much with their father gone so much. Our children are best qualified to lead this company. They have their father's sensitivity to people and to process. Now the business needs a new kind of leadership. Besides, it's our turn...

Psychology tells us that brothers – all siblings, in fact – are very different from one another. They grow up looking for their own unique niches. Harnessing those differences can make for a great business.

But spouses often don’t appreciate the importance of the other point of view. Typically, they form their resentments because the husbands have been complaining about each other for years at home, while working effectively together in the business. The siblings complain at home because they each feel some inadequacy in what the other is good at, because they each need to rationalize their extraordinary commitment to the business to their spouses and to their children.

Eventually, the complaining game leads to resentment by the spouses and a real conflict over succession to the next generation. The business then is divided or sold. Sibling business partners need to work hard to truly understand their differences and how those differences all contribute to success. If they ever fall to the temptation to criticize each other at home, the ultimate price is usually much higher than they expect.




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