Not part of the plan

An article in Forbes magazine, July 23, 2007, by Alex Davidson talks about the trials of a married couple who owned and ran a business together. “Food Fight” tells the story of Lorene Reed and Larry Bearg, who bought Planet Organics, a produce delivery service, in 1997. As the article sums it up: “The business survived. The marriage didn’t.”

Two sentences stand out: “A former clinical psychologist, Larry had opened a chain of ritzy pet stores in the Bay Area with his younger brother and initially planned to stay out of the business; Lorene, a hair stylist, would deal with farmers and delivery trucks. The day after they bought the company, Lorene discovered she was pregnant with their second child.”

We can be sure that Larry knew something about human nature and situations with a potential for conflict because of his background in clinical psychology. We can guess that he knew a thing or two about the possibility of disputes in family businesses, based on his past experience running a family business with his brother. We can wonder if Larry’s knowledge about sources of conflict, and the pain it can inflict on both families and businesses, was a major factor in the initial decision that husband and wife would not be day-to-day business partners.

But then life happened, and they decided to run the business together. At times the business suffered, at times the marriage.

The lesson for conflict resolution? Even the best laid plans can run afoul of life’s twists and turns. When conflict arises, try to deal with it constructively — and sooner rather than later. If you need help, a mediator who has no stake in the outcome and no emotional baggage attached to the dispute can help.

Posted in Basics of Mediation and Conflict, Family Businesses, Tuesday, September 25th, 2007

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