“Plásticos Holón”*(Holon Plastics): When the Name is the Brand
What the owner and his wife want
Viability of desire.
I remember the phone call from a person who expressed her regret for not being able to participate in a training event. We then agreed a first meeting in my office. She was a middle-aged woman with a request to change her difficult relationship with her father and his younger brother; whenever she tried to speak to them, she would shout and cry and would not be able to talk as adults or as partners.
We had met several times until she gained confidence and could tell me the real reason of her visit which afflicted and ashamed her: she was facing a lawsuit brought by her sister because of the use of the brand. She had opened a business in the same industry of the family business which was established by her father and had a prestigious career on the market because of the quality of their products and services. Her sister’s office, their competitor now, held a sign which was nothing less than the family name. This situation led to clients and vendors’ confusion since they did not know about the split up.
This conflict was creating the family to fall apart, strongly affecting the health of the elderly parents who were already suffering from serious chronic conditions. The lawsuit impacted in the social gatherings and family meetings while in the original business the “invisible costs” started growing in the internal working environment, because of the loyalty of some employees, as well as in the external working environment when explanations of the complex split up of the society had to be given.
Following the diagnosis of the situation, the working methodology consisted of meetings on how to negotiate and avoid a trial. After some time receiving training and having reinforced issues of communication, leadership and coexistence, Board Meetings with the three partners were held at the factory. To reach this stage was difficult because my client feared that her father, major shareholder of the family business, would not take into consideration a proposal made by women. The mother was also interviewed; although she did not participate in the business, she was an important factor as family link and support.
The settlement of the main conflict, “the lawsuit for the name”, involved jealously and rivalry from the older sister who wanted the leadership and considered herself her father’s natural successor; however, her father had chosen her younger brother to run the business. It seemed impossible to come to an agreement; the conflict involved almost the entire family and business systems and the roles of the parents, daughters, brothers, owners, managers, and partners overlapped. To the emotional difficulties, disunion among grandparents, grandchildren, uncles and aunts due to the fact that they did not longer see each other as before, it was added the economic and financial difficulties caused by the trial and by the crisis in the country.
In the consultancy process repetitive fights and disturbances arising from the partner’s different criteria of business were discussed. There were also joys because of the improvements and of personal and family events. We worked for four consecutive years, with breaks only on vacation.
This business family also lovable, responsible, working and emotionally committed to shared cultural and social values of the community posed a major challenge for me as we could discover little by little the real reason that made very difficult for these sisters to develop further than their brother: cultural gender discrimination.
We could talk about death, the importance of the father’s strong figure as leader which was very difficult to imitate. They learned to communicate more effectively, hold board meetings with the father and brother while managing business information, since “being together” did not mean being gathered in a business meeting. They began to make strategic decisions, to plan, to establish policies to address and negotiate the troublesome encounter with the sister and the painful trial facing them thus being able to create alliances and coalitions with relatives as well as in-laws.
In each meeting I tried to display all my resources, to implement and to transfer the methodology and tools, to look for alternative creative solutions respecting the family’s culture, distinguishing and differentiating what belonged to the family’s system and what to the company’s turning the conflict zone into one of agreements.
Two years after finishing the process of the generational transfer, the father dies and his wishes came true: his son took charge of the factory, his middle daughter was given a business whose main provider is the factory ran by her brother and the relationship with her sister was reestablished when they came to an economic agreement for the brand.
The family business still continues to operate and it is in good health.
A Holon insists on its self-preservation as a whole but also provides integrating energy as a part.
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