Archives for July 2013

Are You A Problem Patriarch In Your Business

By all accounts family businesses are complicated. In my practice I often find myself exposing the “Elephant In The Room.” The colors of the elephant vary and this article deals with one that is particularly difficult. There are many factors that cause good people to become problem patriarchs (or matriarchs). By the time they are in that place the causative factors are less important than stopping the negative impact they are having.

This is an interesting diagnostic article. Read it and see if the shoe fits.


hbrBut there was a darker side to Carl’s success.

Although his first act was one of the best ever, he became a “problem patriarch,” a very hard-driving alpha leader who hired superb talent within the family and the business — and then consistently undermined that talent.

He drove his sister out of the company by placing her in a succession of dead-end jobs. His uncle resigned from the board saying that he wouldn’t be part of a “paper board,” in which Carl effectively made all the key decisions. Carl responded by maneuvering to buy most of his uncle’s shares. In the process, he created a leadership vacuum that threatened the very legacy he had worked so hard to build.

When he had a heart attack at 64, Carl’s doctors cautioned him to slow down. Worried both about his health — and about the prospects for the company — family members strongly advised Carl to step aside. Not surprisingly, he selected a relatively inexperienced CEO he knew he could control. People in the organization had no doubt about where the buck really stopped.

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Lessons In Leadership

You have heard me say (and you will hear it often) that funeral service is underled and overmanaged. This is a result of confusion on the part of our profession between the task of directing activities and the duty to develop your people.

Funeral home owners overwhelming hire employees that will do what they are told, push decisions upward and never make mistakes. Yet they say they want people who will think for themselves, grow in responsibility and take the burden off senior management. This schizophrenic perspective is simply the consequence of a wrong belief about what leaders do. The result: The majority of owners (I actually don’t know more than a handful of exceptions) really function as shop foremen.

This article offers some tips on how to stop being a foreman and start being a leader:


Screen Shot 2013-03-20 at 1.43.24 PMThink about a leader and chances are your first image is of someone giving orders — maybe it’s the quarterback in a huddle outlining the next play for his teammates, maybe it’s an army officer coolly  barking commands in the heat of combat. But chances are, when many of us think of leadership, we picture a person telling others what to do.

After all, that’s the essence of leadership, right?

Wrong, says Christine Comaford, an executive coach and author of SmartTribes: How Teams Become Brilliant Together who recently participated in a series of interviews on the website of fellow author Keith Ferrazzi. In the course of a long exchange about leadership, she tells the story of an executive she was coaching who couldn’t stop telling his employees how to do day-to-day things.

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The Dark Side of Customer Service

The practice of overcharging our best customers has begun to haunt us…no, hurt us! While not the only reason for the growth of cremation, many now believe that forcing our burial customers to bear the burden and subsidize our cremation customers has definitely accelerated the trend. This entertaining article makes the point well.

Screen Shot 2013-07-20 at 8.11.27 AMHave you ever done business with a company that initially offered great customer service, but it quickly faded? Or have you done business with a company for years and discover you are paying a higher price than what is offered to new customers? If so, you’re not alone.

Companies invest a great deal of time, money and resources to find and get new customers. When they aren’t completely transparent with customers, or lose sight of delivering great customer experience after a sale, they risk losing customers to their competitors. And this misses the entire point of acquiring new customers in the first place. The investment of acquiring new customers begins to pay off when a customer is loyal and continues to do business with a company. But too often, businesses, even entire industries, lose sight of this goal or worse, take advantage of customers.

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How Do You Handle Conflict With Families…With Colleagues…With Siblings…With You Name It


Let’s face it conflict is part of life, we all hate it, not many of us are good at it and we would all rather avoid it.  But like it or not we MUST become better at it.  Here are some great guidelines from noted management and leadership expert John Maxwell:

Screen Shot 2013-07-19 at 8.59.01 AM“I love mankind – it’s people I can’t stand.” Charlie Brown, in Charles Schulz’ timeless comic strip, “Peanuts”

Charlie Brown had a point: relationships with other human beings are wonderful – in theory. In reality, they can be difficult and messy. But nothing determines our success in life as much as our ability to work with other people.

And nothing is more messy in relationships than dealing with conflict. But I believe there are both constructive and destructive ways to approach it. Here are my top ten responses:

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Analytics Have Their Place…It’s People That Matter

Analytics feel so good because you can measure them. Peter Drucker is purported to have said, “If you can’t measure it you can’t manage it.” EXCEPT, he never said it. The point continues to be that DeathCare is overmanaged and underled. The recent trend towards analytics is, in fact, a positive one. It’s danger (and this is happening) is that it mistakenly supplants the role of Leader with the role of Shop Foreman.

This post from the Drucker Institute elegantly opens a better perspective:

Screen Shot 2013-07-16 at 10.39.12 AMBut for all that, Drucker also knew that not everything could be held to this standard. “Your first role . . . is the personal one,” Drucker told Bob Buford, a consulting client then running a cable TV business, in 1990. “It is the relationship with people, the development of mutual confidence, the identification of people, the creation of a community. This is something only you can do.” Drucker went on: “It cannot be measured or easily defined. But it is not only a key function. It is one only you can perform.”…More at Measurement Myopia – The Drucker Exchange – The Drucker Institute

At the end of the day, developing, caring for, caring about, nurturing people is what gives meaning, texture and purpose to life…maybe especially our work lives.

Tips For Turning Around Your Funeral Home

It has been my lot in life to be in leadership roles in a number of business turnarounds from banks to print shops, flower shops to funeral this article hits the top 4 needs (ignoring cash) I especially like 3 and 4.

Screen Shot 2013-07-12 at 3.32.50 PM However, according to Bennigan’s current president and CEO Paul Mangiamele — the man at the helm of the franchise’s resurgence – consumers didn’t abandon Bennigan’s, the brand was brought down by what Mangiamele describes as “brand drift.”

“Brand drift is an insidious disease that happens to many brands when the brand moves away from the many elements that made it successful in the first place,” says Mangiamele. “You need to constantly reinvent yourself so you don’t lose relevance.”

Read more: Fox Small Business

Family Business Infighting

Current literature abounds with research revealing that, despite added issues, family businesses tend to be sustainable longer than non family businesses.  Why is that?

hbrIt’s one of life’s sad ironies that folks who love one another can end up having far more acrimonious business relations than people who are unrelated.

And yet in our experience, conflict actually occurs less frequently in family businesses than non-family businesses. It’s just that when it does break out, the fighting tends to be more intense.

Why is that? The answer is devilishly simple. Fights in family businesses break out because they can. In non-family businesses, there are barriers to keep things from escalating. Owning the business removes many of these barriers. Once a conflict starts, it can easily spiral out of control.

It isn’t that the causes of conflict are any different in family and non-family businesses. In all types of companies, people disagree about issues related to strategy, money, status, and authority. No organization is immune to narcissistic leaders or difficult relationships between employees. But there is a fundamental difference in the two types of companies in what stops conflicts. The difference, in a word, is boundaries.

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