My client, Robert, is the eldest child of the owners of a large manufacturing company in Asia. It has over 1,500 employees and is extremely profitable, but for over 25 years has been run as a “mom and pop” operation with all decisions made by the owners/parents. The lack of a professionalized, corporate structure has caused friction and conflict between some of the leading managers and the owners/parents.

In turn, as Robert matured into his mid-twenties and took on more roles in the company, some of those managers have pressured him to try to convince his parents to change how things are run in the company. The pressure Robert has felt as a result caused significant distress, created unnecessary interpersonal conflict, and threatened his capacity to assume more leadership capacity in the company.

My role was to help Robert out of this quagmire. In doing so, we also hoped that his parents and the leading managers of the company would derive significant benefits, and that this would help the company function as a large, modern business. Through brainstorming sessions with key players (including Robert, his parents, and the leading managers at the company), we collaboratively identified 2 changes that everyone thought would be beneficial.

First, an Executive Management Committee was constituted and empowered to meet twice a month, address major agenda items for the firm, keep formal minutes, and provide robust advice to the owners/parents. All agreed that this would relieve Robert from his untenable “intermediary” role and would be an essential step toward professionalization of the family business. Less than a week later, the Committee was carrying out its duties and Robert experienced significant relief as a result.

Second, the coaching/consulting experience led to a decision that Robert’s primary mentor in the company would be the Director of HR. Several sessions helped Robert, his parents, and the managers to identify the rationale for this structure. The HR director is a warm, passionate, knowledgeable man in his 40s who loves working with Robert. He was excited to help Robert learn how to manage the company and the people who work for it. He was able to structure a program for Robert that will promote greater depth and nuance in his leadership of the family business.

Robert was very excited about both the new Committee and his newly anointed primary mentor. He continued to have “extramural” coaching/consulting sessions with me by Skype. This approach has supported his further growth in leading the family business and ensuring greater profitability and productivity in the years and decades to come.