Ultimately, the two reconciled, and Michael returned to the business and purchased it wholly from his father in 1991. Today, itâ€™s an immediate-family affair that sometimes includes his older son, Michael G. Jones II, helping out as a funeral attendant. With his younger son, Marcus, uninterested in working for the business, Nina is his only child with significant involvement. â€śIâ€™m not going to say itâ€™s perfectâ€”we do fuss and fight,â€ť Michael notes. â€śBut in the end we work it out.â€ť The Joneses, along with four full-time nonfamily employees, manage a thriving small business. But other companies arenâ€™t as lucky.
A FAMILY AFFAIR
The main reasons family-owned small businesses fail are simple:
â€˘ They donâ€™t plan for the future. â€śIssues that arise are often avoided until itâ€™s too late,â€ť says Dennis Jaffe, Ph.D., a family business adviser who is also professor of organizational systems and psychology at Saybrook University in San Francisco.
â€˘ Family considerations overrule business considerations. â€śThey do things for family reasons and based on family traditions rather than on business reasons. Those two issues show up over and over again,â€ť says Jaffe, who is also the author of Stewardship in Your Family Enterprise: Developing Responsible Family Leadership Across Generations (Pioneer Imprints; $19).
One way to counter the first of these two problem areas is to prepare the next generationâ€”the potential successorsâ€”for the future. Jaffe recommends starting the moment they begin working in the business, if not sooner. But going from dinner talks to talking business can be a tricky transition. Michael agrees. â€śTrying to listen to Nina as an adult, as an employee, and not as the child Iâ€™ve raisedâ€”thatâ€™s always a hard transition,â€ť he admits. â€śAnd I had the same experience with my father. We had bumpy roads.â€ť
Having a parent as a boss is not the same thing as having a third party as a boss, asserts Neil Raphel, founding partner of the full-service St. Johnsbury, Vermont-based Raphel Marketing, as well as co-author of several business books, including Business Success in Tough Times (Raphel Publishing; $17.95) and The Complete Idiotâ€™s Guide to a Successful Family Business (Alpha; $18.95). Raphel says those involved in a family-operated venture must â€śact like itâ€™s a business.â€ť