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Seminars give family businesses strategies to manage conflict

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Dr. Josiane Fahed-Sreih (standing), director of LAU's Institute of Family and Entrepreneurial Business, calls lack of trust the "killer" in a family business, during the March 18 IFEB seminar on family wars.

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During the March 18 seminar, Grant Gordon, director general and co-founder of the Institute for Family Business in the U.K., presented strategies to help families run strong businesses while avoiding conflict.

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Dr. David Pistrui (1st from right), industry professor of business at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, who also serves as the Coleman Foundation Chair in Entrepreneurship, led the second IFEB seminar (March 19–20) on building family intelligence.

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Several addresses were made at the opening of the day-long (March 17) public conference on "Managing Family Wars." From left: Dr. Josiane Fahed-Sreih, IFEB director; Dr. Joseph Jabbra, LAU president; Fadi Abboud, Minister of Tourism; Tony Frem, vice-chairman of Indevco Group and CEO of Interstate Resources Incorporation; and Dr. Wassim Shahin, dean of the School of Business at LAU Byblos.

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The conference included panels with the participation of Lebanese business leaders. From left: Frem; Dr. Khater Abi Habib, board chairman and director general of the National Institute for the Guarantee of Deposits and Kafalat; Riad Obegi, vice-chairman of the board and CEO of Bemo Bank; Michele Shammas Gharzouri, member of the Chamber of Commerce; Atef Idriss, president of MENA Food Safety Associates (MEFOSA); and Shahin.

Click on any photo above to view all five images.

March 26, 2010—

“One size doesn’t fit all in family business,” said Dr. Josiane Fahed-Sreih, director of LAU’s Institute of Family and Entrepreneurial Business, while leading a seminar on managing conflicts in family businesses, last week at LAU Byblos.

“Lack of trust is a real killer in a family business,” said Fahed-Sreih, who is also an associate professor of management at LAU, while explaining that the issue has torn apart families and destroyed businesses. “If you lose trust, the task of rebuilding it is one of the most difficult.”

The event was a part of a four-day program from March 17-20 organized by the institute, including a public conference on “Managing Family Wars” (March 17) — supported by the Indevco Group — followed by two seminars.

Held on March 18, the first seminar on “Family Wars: Managing Conflict and Risk in the Family Business” was addressed to family business owners and leaders, and their top executives and close advisers. The second seminar from March 19-20 focused on “Building Family Business Intelligence,” and was designed for business people, organizational leaders, professional service providers, educators and government officials.

Established under the School of Business, IFEB regularly holds seminars focusing on different issues in family business, while taking into account the cultural aspects of the participants who are mostly from Lebanon — where 95 percent of private businesses are family run, but usually include family business owners from other parts of the region as well.

“If you have an issue, we discuss it, but we don’t get personal,” Fahed-Sreih said, addressing the 18 or so participants that took part in the first seminar. “When it goes personal, the issue gets more intense.”

In addition to Fahed-Sreih’s presentation, the first seminar included a lecture by Grant Gordon, director general and co-founder of the Institute for Family Business in the United Kingdom, and co-author of Family Wars: Classic Conflicts in Family Business and How to Deal With Them. He presented strategies to help families run strong and viable businesses while avoiding conflict.

The second seminar on building family intelligence was led by Dr. David Pistrui, industry professor of business at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, who also serves as the Coleman Foundation Chair in Entrepreneurship.

Building family intelligence involves several aspects like innovation, the role of technology in business, and an entirely new concept called “design thinking.”

Pistrui explained that design thinking involves approaching business through multiple perspectives — such as sociology, anthropology, business administration, rapid prototyping, ethnographic research, and technology — and meshes them together to create a broad perspective.

“It’s a framework relevant to family businesses of two to 2,000, to assess problems and identify opportunities to create value around solving problems,” Pistrui said.

Pistrui, who has built an impressive repertoire over the past 25 years lecturing on issues related to family business across the Middle East, said design thinking “is a universal concept but culture plays into it regarding how you use cultural understanding to address opportunities to resolve conflict and innovate, both within terms of the business, and in terms of the family.”

The daylong public conference, which was held on March 17 to launch the two seminars, included a keynote address by Minister of Tourism Fadi Abboud who emphasized the importance of peaceful relations among family members in a country with a tradition of strong family kinship.

“Families are the cornerstone of society, and the well-being of families is a key element in moving toward a civilized society that can promote growth and development,” Abboud said.

The floor was shared throughout the rest of the day by about a dozen business leaders in Lebanon who shared their experiences and expertise on a variety of aspects in business ranging from the dilemma of quality versus productivity, establishing ground rules, and mother-daughter conflicts.


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