5 Realizations and Defenses from the Family Business

by Bill Brenner on November 2, 2015

Big pressures aside, I’ve learned much while cleaning up and selling off the old family business and managing trusts Dad left in my hands.

Mood music:

Until I took on this family business stuff, I’d never had to deal with lawyers or real estate people at this magnitude. I had certainly never managed this kind of money. Here are five realizations — and five defenses — that have saved me from implosion.

5 Realizations

  1. Lawyers are the best and worst of humanity. I have to deal with several of our own and other people’s lawyers for real estate matters and environmental remediation. The best ones guide you through traumatic minefields and save you from your own inexperience. The rest bleed you dry and bog you down — and bill you for every drop of blood spilled.
  2. Hurry up and wait. Lawyers, insurance companies, government agencies and vendors love paperwork. I’ve filled out more in the last six months than I have in the previous five years. They want their forms immediately, but once they have them, you wait months for resolution.
  3. Cost estimates are rarely accurate. There’s a huge disconnect between what vendors tell you something costs and what it actually costs. It’s usually more than you’re led to believe.
  4. A good financial advisor can save your life. Mine has guided me through the intricacies of trust management, investments and loads of related tasks. I never could have handled it alone.
  5. Insurance companies have nice people but evil policies. Processing Dad’s life insurance claims is a mind-numbing experience. When I call these companies and talk to real people, they’re nice enough. But the left hand never knows what the right hand is doing. This causes many problems.

5 Defenses

  1. Trust no one. Even when people work for you, blind trust is hazardous. When you have three or more lawyers who have to talk to each other, miscommunication abounds. One will tell you what they think is a solution and you’ll walk away thinking the matter is settled. Then someone else will contradict the previous information and send you back to square one. In business, trust is expensive.
  2. Take care of yourself. I can’t say I’ve learned to do this. But I’m realizing a poorly maintained body will fail under pressure before long.
  3. Paying work comes first. It would be easy for me to let the family business overcome every aspect of my life. There are simply too many moving parts. Early on I found myself taking care of family business before my real work. Then I remembered the real work is what pays the mortgage, the kids’ tuition bills, healthcare and the food on the table. That must always come first.
  4. Make them wait. Since paper pushers take their time, I’m learning to make them wait, too. It’s the closest I come to revenge — and to maintaining balance in my life.
  5. Follow your conscience. I was terrified I’d fuck up everything in the beginning. But when I trust in God and follow my conscience, things work out.

Survival book in the jungle

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

jonee November 3, 2015 at 9:26 am

Loved your “Realizations” and “Defenses”, having bumped into a few. I think you are so very smart being able to communicate all these things so accurately – in fact, not to be patronizing- I bet your IQ is way up there. Anyway, never heard this Queen song – liked it – sounded to me a combo of Ice Ice Baby and David Bowie.

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