What are Paradoxes and Why you Need to be Aware

Published: Feb 22, 2022

You have decided that you are prepared to hire, reward, and retain the best people to build your Family Office, and this will likely be dominated by non-family members.  Do be mindful that you face paradoxes that you may not be aware of. A paradox is a statement that is seemingly contradictory or opposed to common sense and yet is perhaps true.

As a family enterprise, you are faced with many paradoxes, two perceived contradictory truths.  These are two values that appear to be mutually exclusive, but can be in fact, mutually supportive.  There’s no right or wrong.  And where you see yourself today may be different than where you see yourself tomorrow keeping in account the ever-changing life cycle.

You must manage both and not think it is ‘either/or’. Paradoxes may come across as contradictory and it is a huge challenge to see and re-frame the knowledge that an individual is part of the collective. The ultimate paradox for a family enterprise is the dance between the “I” and the “WE”. A family often trades the “self” for “togetherness” and as a system the dance between I and We never gets resolved.

Families have a mindset that there is something to be fixed, that something is broken. They are not broken.  Paradoxes exist in all family enterprises. When faced with a paradox the best action forward is to flourish in the paradox: change the mindset to “Both…And” instead of “either.. or”.

Some examples of paradoxes family enterprise are faced with are:

  • Tradition vs Innovation: do you stick with the way things have always been done, keep to the traditions that have led to the success to date or do you innovate and bring in new ways for potential greater growth and innovation?  Traditions and what’s worked well is best to be recorded and remembered, pairing this up with innovation for continual growth is very advantageous.
  • Harvest vs Invest: do you begin to sell off branches of the business, so the growing family has funds to accumulate their own assets, or do you continue to invest and grow the business? Both, and…
  • Individual vs Family: do you focus on what’s best for “Me” the individual or the “We” the family?  Focusing on the individual human capital of the family is just as important as moving forward with what is best for the family as a whole. Speaking about where the differences are is a great place to start to achieve Both, and…
  • Family vs Business: do you put the family first or the business first?  While being occupied with the day-to-day operations of your business, you realize you’re no longer paying enough attention to pursuing your vision for the family. The key to dealing with such a paradox is to create a healthy balance. Make sure all that you are doing in the business is aligned with and contributes to your family purpose. There is a time the family is there for the business and another moment the business is there for the family.  It is not either, or…
  • Growth vs Dividends: do you reinvest all the growth to keep growing or is it time to payout some dividends. Growing the business today gives better opportunity for greater dividends tomorrow. And a dividend today may help your daughter who just got married start fresh now so she can dedicate more time tomorrow to further grow the company.  Again, taking the mindset of “both, and..” allows for better management of the opposing values.
  • Loyalty vs Autonomy: Similar to the values of Individual and Family there is great power in thinking We before Me. At the same time allowing your children the growth in being autonomous brings great value too.  There is great strength when an individual finds their own fulfillment and then brings that back to the family. And when there is loyalty to the family believing you are part of a greater whole and all you can do benefits this whole.  Both, And..
  • Self vs Togetherness: I like the way one individual called this paradox “living together AND alone”.  It’s not easy, but important. You can certainly appreciate support from your loved ones for both your grief and your victories, but the internal journey is yours alone. Instead of looking for approval from others you are together with, learn respect for differences and being your true self. 

Assuming power over others may sometimes be required to protect them, note in doing so you diminish their right to autonomy.  This may be resolved by re-framing the problem to reveal a false contradiction. A skilled FEA is aware of these paradoxes in family enterprises and can help a family re-frame and see the value of “both,… and.” Paradox is normal in family enterprises. When you allocate time looking for dual solutions and have a common family mission mindset with a team spirit you will achieve

In hiring, rewarding, and retaining the best people, the family should not be forgotten or left in the side lines.  These paradoxes come into play and can be the cause for conflict if not addressed. Hiring the right people who are aware and able to open the conversation with the family will lead to a more harmonious unit and add to the longevity of your family enterprise.

Congratulations! Continue as a Family Enterprise

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