Double Iron Consulting: Resolving Conflict in Family Business


Family businesses can be a source of pride, legacy, and wealth for generations. However, working with relatives can also lead to disagreements, tension, and even estrangement. Family conflicts in business can arise from various factors. These factors can be differences in values and goals, communication styles, roles, responsibilities, and personal issues.

Resolving these conflicts requires a combination of emotional intelligence, communication skills, and a willingness to compromise and collaborate. This article will explore how family businesses can resolve conflicts, using the advice given in articles from Iowa State University and Guthrie Jensen. Working with William Smith of Double Iron Consulting can also help families navigate challenging times.

William Smith offers conflict resolution, succession planning, and leadership coaching. Read on to learn more.

Understanding Family Business Conflicts

Before we dive into the strategies for resolving family business conflicts, let’s examine some of the common sources of disagreement:

1. Role ambiguity and overlap: When family members have unclear or conflicting roles and responsibilities, it can lead to confusion, resentment, and blame. For example, tension can arise if a son and daughter both want to be the CEO or if a brother and sister don’t agree on who should handle finances.

2. Communication breakdown: Effective communication is essential for any business, but it’s even more critical in a family business where emotions, assumptions, and personal history can cloud the message. Poor communication can lead to misunderstandings, mistrust, and avoidance.

3. Interpersonal conflicts: Family business conflicts can stem from personal issues, such as jealousy, favoritism, grudges, or unresolved past traumas. These conflicts can be challenging to address because they involve emotions and perceptions that go beyond the business context.

4. Succession planning: Family businesses face the unique challenge of transitioning leadership and ownership to the next generation. Succession planning can be a source of tension and uncertainty, especially if family members have different visions or expectations for the future of the business.

Resolving Family Business Conflicts

Now that you have a better understanding of the causes of family business conflicts, let’s explore some strategies to resolve them.

1. Acknowledge the conflict: The first step in resolving any conflict is to recognize it  and its impact on the business and family. Denying, minimizing, or avoiding conflicts can make them worse over time.

Instead, family members should be encouraged to express their concerns and perspectives in a respectful and constructive manner. Active listening, empathy, and validation can help de-escalate the conflict and create a safe space for dialogue.

2. Identify the root cause: Once the conflict is acknowledged, the next step is to identify the underlying issues that contributed to it. Family members should ask questions such as: What is the real problem we’re trying to solve? What are the assumptions and expectations we have that may be different from others? What are the values and goals that guide our decisions?

By exploring the root cause of the conflict, family members can gain a deeper understanding of each other’s perspectives and needs.

3. Brainstorm solutions: After identifying the root cause, family members can start generating ideas for solutions that address everyone’s concerns and interests. Brainstorming can be done individually or as a group, and it can involve creative thinking, open-mindedness, and a willingness to compromise.

Family members should focus on finding win-win solutions that benefit the business and the family as a whole rather than just satisfying their own preferences.

4. Agree on a plan of action: Once several solutions have been proposed, family members can evaluate them based on criteria such as feasibility, impact, and alignment with the family’s values and vision.

A consensus-based approach can help ensure that everyone is committed to the plan of action and willing to support its implementation. It’s essential to establish clear roles, responsibilities, and timelines for executing the plan and to communicate it to all stakeholders.

5. Evaluate and adjust: Conflict resolution is not a one-time event but an ongoing process that requires monitoring, feedback, and adaptation. Family members should regularly evaluate the effectiveness of the plan of action and adjust it as needed based on new information or changing circumstances. It’s also crucial to celebrate successes, learn from failures, and maintain open communication channels to prevent future conflicts.

Working with William Smith of Double Iron Consulting

[Alt Text: A person knocks over a chess piece with another, representing conflicts that Bill Smith, Royal Cup Coffee’s former CEO, can resolve]

While the above strategies can be effective in resolving family business conflicts, sometimes families need external perspectives and expertise to facilitate the process. William Smith, the founder of Double Iron Consulting, is a seasoned consultant, coach, and mediator who specializes in helping family businesses overcome challenges and achieve their goals.

William Smith, Royal Cup Coffee’s former CEO, launched Double Iron Consulting to help family business owners and executives achieve clarity and reach their business goals. Double Iron Consulting takes its name from William’s hometown and his lifelong commitment to fitness. His services include:

Conflict resolution: William Smith can guide families through conflict resolution processes that are tailored to their unique needs and circumstances. He can facilitate communication, identify underlying issues, and help family members develop solutions that align with their values and vision.

Succession planning: William Smith can help families navigate the complex process of succession planning by providing guidance on governance structures, leadership development, and family dynamics. He can assist in designing and implementing succession plans that ensure a smooth transition of ownership and management.

Leadership coaching: William Smith can work with individual family members or teams to improve their leadership skills, communication, and collaboration. He can provide feedback, support, and accountability to help family members fulfill their roles and responsibilities effectively.


Family business conflicts are a natural and inevitable part of working with relatives, but they don’t have to be a source of stress and division. By following the advice of experts and working with William Smith of Double Iron Consulting, families can resolve conflicts effectively, strengthen their relationships, and achieve their business and personal goals.