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Little People. Big Problems! Issues with Business Owning Families Truly Come in All Sizes

We are nearing great golfing weather in the Midwest, however while the pandemic still has me at home, my TV Remote continues to indulge my curiosity of real-life situations that seem to beautifully imitate issues I run into within my consulting practice. Family-owned business, or business owning families, rife with conflict and family dynamics that need to be figured out before the business can truly move forward.


My latest remote control stop is the TLC show, “Little People, Big World,” which follows the Roloff family. The Roloff family owns a family farm in Oregon, which operates as an events venue, pumpkin patch/family entertainment destination. The family is notable to viewers because many of the family members are short in stature, but certainly not small in personality and family complexity.


I became intrigued with the dynamics of their current situation. The parents of the family have divorced and each have new partners. They divided the farm into zones, with each parent living their life with their new partners on the same property. This situation, although admirable, is not working out. One parent wants to buy-out the other, and the three adult children (and their respective families) are also trying to simultaneously figure out who will carry on the duties of the farm and also eventually live there. The urgency of the situation includes health considerations, divorce considerations, generational ownership and ultimately and most importantly – family harmony.


As I watched a few episodes, it is apparent to me that the family (and new love interests) seem united in their respective values. They clearly care for one another and truly want what is best for each other and the children. Their family farm is at a key inflection point where decisions have to be made for the sustainability of the business, and the next generation is ready to step up or step out if decisions cannot be made. While all the conflicting opinions cannot be solved, the issues can be resolved with a skilled mediator. I hope behind the scenes there is an adept advisor, like myself, that can provide much needed counsel to keep the family peace and the farm going for generations to come.


This is reality TV, but it is also the reality for many families in the country. Navigating complexities of family and business are so important for the health of both. Having a skilled transition advisor to guide the discussion and the path forward is key.



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