Alberta Business Family Institute (ABFI)

Sibling Rivalry

Gaining Control of Sibling Rivalry in the Family Business

Within a family-owned business, siblings who learn to manage personal issues can become very close, turning the relationship into a business asset. Statistics show, however, that when sibling relationships transgress into sibling rivalry, often after a parent dies or retires, this dissention can be dangerous for the health of the organization as a whole.

How can siblings in a family business learn to manage their relationships and not turn into a sibling rivalry statistic? By defusing the two most common, yet critical, issues: succession and compensation.

Although more family companies are considering collective governance (with the younger generation preferring a more egalitarian business culture), others still believe in the hierarchical structure. The question is how do you determine who will be in charge after a parent is gone? Research shows that the best method is to take a proactive planned approach to issues of money and power.

Sibling Rivalry Advice for Multi-Generational Family Business Partners

While sibling rivalry definitions often mention Cain and Abel, Nancy Upton, author of The Family Business Survival Kit, says sibling rivalry need not end in bloodshed. Smart planning around money and transition management neutralizes destructive family patterns.

Upton suggests that activities such as annual business retreats, family business meetings with a formal agenda, rotating leadership, succession management planning and formalized operating policies can effectively disarm rivalries.

Sibling Rivalry Articles, Books and Advice for Your Family Enterprise

Learn how siblings in your family enterprise can channel natural competitiveness into unified goals for your company. Research sibling rivalry articles and books at the Alberta Business Family Institute. Our advisors, programs and resources can help resolve sibling rivalry before it becomes a problem.