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Getting out of the sandbox: Managing sibling rivalries in the family business
By Caitlin Coakley Professional relationships can be tricky. Family relationships can be even trickier. And when your business partners are also relatives, the situation can get volatile fast. “I have stood between brothers who were going at each other to have a fistfight in their boardroom, brothers and sisters who are suing each other, and I have seen businesses have to be broken into pieces to settle these grievances,” said Robert Caldwell, founder of the family business consulting firm Family Firm Resources in Charlotte. “I see businesses run by people who are related to each other, but barely speak to each other.” Caldwell calls them “sandbox issues” because of the tendency for siblings to regress to their toddler-age selves, arguing over who’s right, what belongs to whom, and which one Mommy or Daddy likes better. And the issues, he said, often get worse as the business is passed through the generations and the family expands from rivalries between siblings to rivalries between cousins.