Las sociedades entre hermanos y primos casi siempre surgen por casualidad y no por elección. Las sociedades no familiares se forjan para aprovechar las oportunidades del mercado, mientras que las familiares se forman para que los padres sientan que han tratado a sus hijos por igual o para minimizar los impuestos sobre el patrimonio. A veces, aunque no siempre, estas sociedades se forman porque los hermanos y primos quieren hacer negocios juntos. Por tanto, tiene sentido que los socios de la empresa familiar se tomen el tiempo necesario para reconstituir sus sociedades en torno a principios fundamentales, lo que yo llamo las 7 C de las sociedades basadas en la confianza.

Mike y Jim Brown (nombres ficticios) se esfuerzan por gestionar su sociedad como hermanos, líderes y propietarios a partes iguales de una empresa manufacturera en crecimiento en el Medio Oeste. "Le quiero y le respeto", dice Mike sobre Jim. "Es un gran hermano, padre y marido. Pero si soy totalmente sincero, nunca le habría elegido como socio comercial". Cuando le pregunto a Mike por qué, señala que él mismo adopta un enfoque empírico y racional del negocio y sus retos, mientras que Jim es "mucho más emocional e intuitivo, toma las decisiones más con el corazón que con la cabeza. Además, gasta más dinero del que debería. Siempre está necesitado de dinero". Jim opina lo mismo de Mike. "¿Como hermano? Sí, Mike es un gran tipo, absolutamente. Pero como socio de negocios, es más controlador y paranoico de lo que me gustaría".

Los Browns representan un compuesto de muchas asociaciones empresariales familiares que he observado. Son socios por casualidad más que por elección. Con tantas asociaciones de hermanos y primos en todo el mundo, es crucial que los socios familiares cambien esta dinámica pasando por el proceso de construcción y mantenimiento de asociaciones basadas en la confianza.

El objetivo de cualquier asociación es crear un todo mayor y más valioso que la suma de sus partes, construido sobre las dimensiones de habilidades, capital, rendimiento y carácter. Aquí ofrezco las "7 C" fundamentales para la formación y el mantenimiento de asociaciones basadas en la confianza, que reflejan atributos tanto individuales como colectivos. Ahora bien, puede ser tentador considerarse fuerte en todos los aspectos. Pero le animo a que piense objetivamente en los aspectos que podría mejorar, como parte de un enfoque orientado a la responsabilidad personal, al tiempo que se esfuerza por identificar y mejorar estas cualidades en sus socios actuales o potenciales.

"Tus creencias no te hacen una persona más confiable. Tu comportamiento lo hace". Desconocido

Las 7 Cs de las asociaciones basadas en la confianza

Ask yourself: Does my behavior exhibit the character I seek out and trust in others? Character is fundamental. It’s the bedrock of any trust-based relationship, encompassing respect, integrity, empathy and other qualities that determine how we integrate and collaborate with one another.

When Warren Buffet was asked about what he seeks in managers, he replied, “I’d say intelligence, energy, integrity. If you don’t have the last one, the first two will kill you. All you have is a crook who works hard.” [1] He notes that if asked to bet future earnings on someone, most of us should pick the person most effective at working with people and avoid the person no one wants to collaborate with.

How do you recognize character in others? Historical analysis of a person’s decisions about potentially ethical issues is a good place to start, such as how to compensate people or manage toxic substances. But it’s also about the smaller things. For example, pay attention to how potential associates talk about those who are not present or treat wait-staff at restaurants or events. Is there evidence of disrespect based on social status or other? If so, consider what this might indicate about the individual and how they might function as a partner.

Can your partner trust in your ability to perform your role or tasks according to pre-determined measures of acceptance? In short, can you do what you say you will do? Like character, capability is essential for a strong partnership. I have seen instances where a partnership between high-character people with strong commitment failed to yield value because one or both parties lacked the right capabilities.

Measures of capability in family firms are most often related to business skills such as strategy formulation, problem-solving, financial analysis, marketing acumen, compliance, governance and others. Returning to our personal-responsibility approach, an important question to consider is: “What unique and valuable capabilities do I bring to this partnership? What is my highest and best use? In which areas do I bring skills and abilities better than 10,000 other randomly selected individuals?”

Commitments (as in “Keeping Commitments”)
Trusted partners keep their commitments. They do what they say they will do. They do not overcommit and under deliver, but instead think carefully about their promises before they make them. A telltale sign of an over-committer is one who seems to constantly be apologizing for missing a deadline.

How reliable are you as a partner?  Do you think carefully about your commitments before making them? Do you do what you say you will do when you say you will do it?

The mere presence of capability is not sufficient to create a highest-value partnership. Ideally, the skills, strengths and attributes present will fit together in a complementary way, both within and between partners, such that each supports, reinforces and maximizes the others. This goal is often the driving reason for creating nonfamily partnerships.

Here again, there are many dimensions of potential complementarity: hard and soft skills, “heart and wallet” (or emotional strength versus financial skills), capabilities with people management versus strengths with asset management. Of course, these skill sets aren’t mutually exclusive and a given person may have abilities in multiple areas.

But it’s how easily and well the contributions fit together that determine the partnership quality. Sibling and cousin groups are rife with differing skills and experiences. This variety is usually better than homogeneity, so far as there is a productive place for them to be applied. How do your skills and attributes complement those of your partners? What can you do to increase the value you are contributing to your partnership?

Some children are known by their parents and teachers to “play well with others.” There is substantial evidence that interpersonal skills (or lack thereof), or those related to collaboration, start at an early age and tend to be maintained into adulthood, influencing how we work with others. [2]

Collaboration is the beating heart of a trust-based partnership and is based on and strengthens the other Cs. Working well with others includes respect, sensitivity, empathy and communication (another C, discussed below), with an ability to monitor, anticipate and address any problems that come up in the relationship on business, family or other fronts.

It’s important to understand that strong collaboration is not the exclusive domain of extroverts, or people who are naturally more interested in social interaction and derive more energy from interpersonal relationships than their introvert peers. In fact, some of the most fruitful collaborations are between people on opposite ends of the introversion-extraversion spectrum, such a Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak (who were family-like in their decades-long collaboration and conflict at Apple), because they bring different strengths and perspectives to the table. [3]

Think about where you fall on this spectrum and how willing you are to overlook differences in opinion and style and collaborate with your family business partners.

Commitment is the invisible glue that holds a relationship together, no matter how complicated or conflicted it gets. While the presence of different ideas and perspectives are natural to business, it can be unnatural in a family context, contributing to greater discord. That’s where commitment comes in.

Just as in a romantic relationship, there can be different levels of commitment between family business partners. But remember, most family business partners did not choose to be partners and are starting out as involuntary associates. For this reason, I encourage family partners to take the time together to openly consider how committed they are to the partnership and the broader enterprise. Do we want to be business partners? Are we committed to seeing things through over the long term? Are we focused primarily on our own gain or on others’ growth and development? Am I willing to back up my commitment with real action, even when that means significant sacrifice?

Asking and answering these questions will go a long way to understanding how likely it is that the partnership will evolve from that of chance to choice. Let’s be honest — some partners may not be committed to the partnership for the long-run. Isn’t it better to know and plan for this circumstance now rather than later?

Can we talk? That sounds like a facetious question, but communication is critical to all relationships and lays the foundation of trust-based partnerships.

I think of good communication among partners as encompassing multiple features including these:

  • Coherencia: ¿Hablamos con regularidad y abordamos los temas importantes, incluidos los difíciles?
  • Claridad y concisión: ¿Comunicamos de forma sencilla pero contundente, sin explicar en exceso? (Mark Twain se disculpó por escribir una carta larga porque "no tenía tiempo" para escribir una más corta). A menudo, menos es más).
  • Conciencia de sí mismo y del equipo: ¿Sabemos cómo lo estamos haciendo como equipo y como individuos en relación con la asociación y en qué podemos mejorar? ¿Estamos dispuestos a hablar de estas cosas con regularidad?
  • Proceso: ¿Nos comunicamos sobre lo que queremos seguir haciendo (o dejar de hacer) y por qué? ¿Hablamos de la mejor manera de dirigir la asociación, incluida la frecuencia de las reuniones, los temas que hay que supervisar y la manera de resolver los conflictos?

Estas son las 7 Cs que subyacen en las asociaciones basadas en la confianza. ¿Cómo puede ponerlas en práctica en su empresa familiar? Reserve una hora durante su próxima reunión de la junta directiva o del consejo de propietarios para repasarlas y calificarse a sí mismo como socio y a su sociedad. No es realista esperar que usted o su sociedad estén por encima de la media en las siete, pero los resultados de su revisión le ayudarán a identificar los puntos débiles y a planificar su fortalecimiento.

Puede "navegar por las 7 Cs", por así decirlo, prestando cuidadosa atención a ellas, incluyendo cómo funcionan juntas y cómo pueden ser mejoradas. Durante la travesía, recuerde que el objetivo es ayudar a que su asociación evolucione de una casualidad biológica a una elección estratégica.

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[2] Véase, por ejemplo, Robert Hogan, Handbook of Personality Psychology, Elsevier, 1997.
[3] Para más información sobre la dinámica de las asociaciones entre opuestos, véase Jennifer Kahnweiler, The Genius of Opposites: How Extroverts and Introverts Achieve Extraordinary Results Together, Berrett-Koehler, 2015.