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TimberWest November/December 2013

March/April 2015

ON THE COVER
The GP grapple processor head by Pierce Pacific allows a single carrier to accomplish tasks that normally tie up two machines.

Making the Cut
Mike Pihl Logging continues to find success with its ‘never give up’ motto

Making a Niche
Pacific Logging and Processing finds a niche providing services for small-scale private landowners, which the company calls “‘permits to planting”

Wood Biomass Column
Oregon Sen. backs woody biomass
for government buildings

Pursuing Innovation
Tolko Industries teams with Oregon Manufacturer to try out GP head are
small volume applications.

Teaching Teachers
Sustainable Forestry Tour
Opens Teachers’ Eyes

Stewards of the Future
Chilkat Logging is Oregon’s only certified logging operation located on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation

Oregon Logging Conference Review
Highlights of the OLC,
including pictorial review

RLC Review
Highlights of the 2015 Redwood
Logging Conference

DEPARTMENTS

In the News

Association News

New Products

Guest Column

 

 

 

 

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Dr. JoAnne NortonAlways in Motion: How Good Family Business Planning Can Save Your Business

By Dr. JoAnne Norton, Ed.D.

“Timmmmmmmmbbbberrrrr!”

Jim hears the familiar warning cry among the sounds of the busy chain saws and the staccato chop-chop-chopping as he bounces in his faithful jeep along the same dusty roads driven by his father and grandfather. Driving through the magnificent forest that has belonged to his family for the better part of a century, he gazes up at the brilliant azure sky as he counts his considerable blessings. It has been five years ago this spring since his dad had figuratively cried, “Timber!”

Jim remembers the somber look on his father’s face as he told his family he had just received a disturbing medical diagnosis. Tom was only 65 and had always been the strong leader of both the family and the business since taking over from Jim’s grandfather 30 years previously. His dad had begun the meeting by saying he was afraid he was going down, felled like a giant oak in the prime of his life. Jim remembers looking around the room at his mother, brother, and sister realizing no one knew what to do next.

Fortunately, Jim’s mother suggested he take a family business course at the local university. A huge Star Wars fan, Jim thought his professor, Dr. Hamilton, looked like Yoda because he had the same soft kind eyes, wise smile, calming presence, and inner happiness. Dr. Hamilton understood what it took to smoothly survive generational transitions not only in the business, but also in the family. In addition, Dr. Hamilton had great interest in the latest research in neuroscience. The teacher enthusiastically shared the most recent breakthroughs thanks to functional Magnetic Resonance Imagery and Positron Emission Topography. “We can actually see how the brain reacts to threats,” he excitedly explained to his students.

Based on the research by Dr. David Rock at the NeuroLeadership Institute, Dr. Hamilton explained the threats family members perceive at times of generational transitions. Rock calls these threats Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relationships, and Fairness. Dr. Hamilton said whenever a member of the senior generation considers leaving an important leadership position, his or her status is threatened, especially if being the leader is a big part of identity. This is exacerbated when adult children get frustrated and speak in a condescending tone of voice making the parents feel like they are losing their status not only in the business but also in the family. Dr. Hamilton added that an important lesson from long-lasting family businesses is to have regular family meetings. One of the purposes is to learn together how to communicate more effectively. Learning to treat each other with dignity and respect goes a long way toward removing threats to status.

The brain craves certainty, and when family leadership is in transition, uncertainty causes great distress. That’s why Dr. Hamilton recommended continuity planning complete with timelines, roles, and responsibilities. Because our brains yearn for autonomy, humans hate being told what to do, especially when it involves making changes. The professor emphasized using family meetings as a place to talk about strong core values and a realistic vision for the future because they can serve as anchors during necessary transitional changes.

Family meetings can also help strengthen relationships and ensure that no one feels left out. Dr. Hamilton cited Rock’s research suggesting that when we feel ignored, our brains react as if we’ve “put our hand on a hot plate.” Finally, Dr. Hamilton discussed the concept of fairness. Human beings can put up with almost any decision if they believe a fair process is being used. The professor urged family business owners to create a family constitution complete with a code of conduct and a family employment policy so family owners’ brains perceive there is a level playing field.

By the end of the semester, Jim had instituted monthly family meetings and gotten his father, mother, brother, and sister involved in discussing their family values, creating a vision for both the family and the business, and writing a family constitution. In addition, his family had begun designing a continuity plan and a timeline that was agreeable to all. Most importantly, they worked diligently on their communication skills, taking care to speak to each other respectfully. Now, five years later, family meetings are held monthly, and his family has agreed that Jim should be his father’s successor.

On this cool March morning, Jim heard “Timber!” shouted again from another part of the forest. He was grateful his father’s warning five years ago had not marked the end but the beginning of his family’s journey together toward the continuation of his grandfather’s successful timber business. He was proud his father had taken his doctor’s advice and had regained his health. His dad will be retiring tomorrow after a grand celebration with family, employees, and friends tonight. The business is thriving, and family members are happy. Jim smiles serenely as he remembers one of his favorite Star War quotes from Yoda: “Always in motion is the future.”

Dr. JoAnne Frese Norton, of the Family Business Consulting Group, has been working with multi-generational family businesses for well over a decade. She now consults with family business owners and family offices throughout the U.S. and Canada.