Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 5th 2013 Contents BG24 | COMMENTARY
BUSINESS GUARDIAN www.guardian.co.tt SEPTEMBER 2013 • WEEK ONE
August 28, 2013, marked the
50th anniversary of Dr Mar-
tin Luther King s famous "I
Have a Dream" speech.
Practically every existing organiser of that
march and its one surviving speaker have gone
on to say in recent interviews that when King
uttered those poetic and inspirational words,
he nor they ever dreamt that they would see
a black US President in their lifetimes.
King has been designated a founder of the
civil rights movement and the recent com-
memorations set me thinking about founders
of family businesses and their dreams.
In my experience, few founders started their
businesses with grand visions to create long
lasting family businesses. Often a founder has
job that does not pay handsomely enough to
support a family, and starts a business under
dire straits on a shoestring budget.
Or they always dreamt of being their own
boss and often, the dream goes only that far.
And upon reflection, 50 years later, when they
survey a burgeoning empire, they often com-
ment: "When I started this business, I never
dreamed it would come to this."
By this time, the business has grown mul-
tifold and the founder is watching his children
and grandchildren create and fulfil their own
dreams within the business---at least this is
So how do family businesses work towards
realising dreams and not enter into nightmares?
What are the right conditions to have those
sugar plum fairies dancing through our family
business members heads?
Sleep specialists have conducted numerous
studies of what causes us to have sweet dreams
and what sends us into nightmare land when
we go to sleep. They have discovered that
there are specific steps we can take to wake
up with smiles on our faces instead of bolting
up in terror in the middle of the night.
It turns out that what we put into our bodies
has a big effect on our sleeping deeply and
having pleasant dreams. Spicy foods too close
to bedtime can give us nightmares. Excessive
fighting among shareholders, continuous power
struggles within the business, ongoing conflict
are all the equivalent of too much zesty food
Constantly churning up battles gone by and
rehashing childhood rivalries induce the reflux
that prevents family business members from
sleeping soundly and summoning good dreams.
Conflict is not necessarily always bad and can
pave the way for better business solutions and
more robust relationships. Some pepper at
lunch may be palatable and we need to have
enough time to digest it before we go to bed.
Good conflict centers around ideas and tasks
, not around personal grudges that tend to
last long after the problem is aired and
Heavy doses of anti-depressants can actually
cause nightmares. So in family businesses, it
is not advisable to mask feelings or swallow
too much in the hope of finding and main-
taining peace. I have seen too many families
who seek to ignore and repress obvious symp-
toms of discontent, only to have things fall
apart with the proverbial last straw.
Check under the bed for the boogey man
and deal with his presence lest he haunts your
waking and sleeping hours and induce night-
Inducing pleasant dreams
Apparently the right doses of Vitamin B can
induce restful sleep and sweet dreams. Get
the external help that the family needs, and
that could range from communications training
to family therapy to mediation, among other
professional interventions. In the interest of
privacy, many families do not reach out to
seek help only to have to air the issues publicly
in court or have them aired in the newspapers.
Research confirms that warm skim milk
and a banana at bedtime can induce sound
and deep REM sleep which forestalls night-
mares. What provides this warmth and comfort
for family business members?
Trust is a big component for families in
business. And researchers have created many
definitions and pre-requisites for trust in any
For my part, trust in a family business means
that I know that before a family member acts,
he or she will consider the impact of their
behaviour on the larger group and seek to
avoid negative consequences. It is understand-
ing that individual actions need to rebound
for the good of all. Unless family members
work towards embracing that premise, then
there is the real and distinct possibility that
no dreams come true for anyone.
Family members who feel that they can cre-
ate and live their own dreams while causing
nightmares for others in the family business
will soon discover that theirs is a tainted reverie.
Superficial gestures will not withstand the
test of time either. Apparently, a sweet smell
in the room can induce pleasant dreams but
the scent usually fades too soon to ensure sus-
tainable and reliable results.
One march on Washington did not achieve
all the aims of the Civil Rights movement and
those involved then and now speak of more
work to be done. They do, however, recognise
that things get better with each generation.
King gave his life to that cause and his efforts
and sacrifice provided the impetus for those
Likewise with family businesses, if a strong
foundation is laid and there are foot soldiers
willing to do the work, then the family and
business will rack up tangible achievements
from generation to generation.
Family business founders may not define
far less articulate their vision at the start up
phase of the business.
And, by virtue of their sacrifices and hard
work, they create the conditions where their
descendants can have and realise common
Dr Annette Rahael is a family business
Family Business: FULFILLING DREAMS
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