Advising the Family Firm: Opening Pandora's Box (A)
In January 2018, a family business advising team entered a seemingly straightforward contract with members of the Graham family, who were planning to transition their business to the next generation. The first and second generations, who founded and grew their business into a portfolio of 50 grocery store franchises across the eastern United States, were concerned about the capacity and interest of the next generation in continuing the success of the family business. None of the five cousins in this new generation had experience pertaining to the family business, and there was uncertainty about the structural changes inherent in the transition. At first glance, the problem appeared to be about transition planning, but the advising team soon learned that transition was only the surface issue. The advising process uncovered a very dysfunctional family with deeper concerns. Communication problems, borne from the culture of conflict avoidance that typified the second generation's upbringing, needed to be addressed before the family could face any transition planning with confidence. This case is intended to be used with "Advising the Family Firm: Opening Pandora's Box (B)," 9B18M048. "Advising the Family Firm: Opening Pandora's Box (A)" should be assigned prior to class. "Advising the Family Firm: Opening Pandora's Box (B)" should be distributed in class following discussion of the (A) case. Vanessa M. Strike is affiliated with University of British Columbia.