This was the first problem ever presented to me when I hosted a private Internet Chat for members of a family firm years ago. We “chatted” for about an hour, via our computers and covered a lot of territory. Even though the young man on the East Coast, he was able to get expert advice on the precise subject he needed help with because he was comfortable searching the Internet. And by the tone of his messages, he was pleased by the end of our hour to have a plan of action to present to his father.
This son didn’t feel comfortable calling his father’s accountant or attorney to talk over the problem. Nor did he feel brave enough to confront his uncle or even his father on such a touchy subject. He could have hired his own local consultant or psychologist, but it might have been difficult finding an expert on families in business. But from the comfort and privacy of his home, he surfed the web until he found just what he needed. In this case it was a psychologist whose specialty is helping families in business solve those sticky problems that cross over from loving relationships into the business marketplace.
Technological advances continue to make online education advantageous for all business owners, but especially family business members. Online education is tailor made for travelers and those who work odd hours. You can get on line anywhere, anytime. The convenience means that you’ll probably take advantage of the service more often and get to the bottom of the problem faster. Online education is attractive to those who are too embarrassed to bring a problem up fact-to-face.
Over the years, I’ve encouraged my clients to educate themselves about life’s problems by reading books and articles. Now in addition to some excellent books, I recommend highly regarded websites. Ignorance about life slows you down. Educating yourself helps reduce your fears and defensiveness. With knowledge comes confidence and with confidence comes creativity and with creativity, options and solutions start to materialize. And the convenience of online education shortens your problem solving time tremendously.
Of course there are downsides to this form of consultation too. How do you know who you can trust? Is your e-mail or chat confidential? In addition to a wealth of helpful advice, there is a wealth of garbage and damaging material on the Internet. The surfer does have to beware. You can’t assume because someone has a website that they are honorable, legal, credentialed, caring or experienced. However, if you use the same common sense you use in business to size up any person or situation, I think you can sort the wheat from the chaff.
If you have a family business and you’re wondering how to address a situation that’s impacting your business and your family please take a look at my Family Business column for some answers. If you could use some advice simply sign-up for a Remote Education session with me and get your work/home life questions answered.