Trusted Advisor to People-of-Accomplishment and Family Enterprise


By Marta Vago on April 16, 2018

Win-win solutions are at the heart of resolving conflicts between people, including partners in business and family enterprise. Most people prefer win-win solutions to resolving disagreements, be they in personal or business relationships. When both personal and business relationships are at stake, the stakes are higher, as are the potential rewards.


Business partners, including members of family enterprise, turn to consultants to help them create win-win solutions when their own efforts have been unsuccessful. They expect that an impartial party will ensure a “level playing field” which, in turn, will result in a win-win solution. Such expectations could not be more ill founded.


Truths about win-win solutions:

  1. Most conflicts are between unequals; e.g. rich and poor, employer and employee, persons more and less experienced, unequal stakeholders, owner and successor generations, etc.
  2. People who have little or nothing to lose are not motivated by win-win solutions.
  3. A lose-lose position is necessary for a win-win solution.


It is well to remember that losses are not created equal any more than are conflicts and the people who are party to them. It is the significance of a potential or actual loss that determines what, if anything, a person will do to prevent it.


The role of significance:

  1. Only significant losses “count.”
  2. There are two measures of significance: meaning and magnitude.
  3. A small loss of great significance is greater than a big loss of little significance.
  4. Unless people have more to lose by not changing than by changing, they have no reason to change.
  5. To choose change, one must gain significantly more by changing than to lose by not changing.
  6. The possibility of gaining something significant by changing must be greater than the probability of losing something significant by not changing.


An appropriate sense of urgency is necessary to address both personal and business conflicts. Comfort does not motivate change. On the contrary. Example: The more successful a business is, the less likely that the principles will feel a sense of urgency to resolve festering relationship issues.


Potential sources of urgency:

  1. Escalating conflict between business partners or family members.
  2. Rapid changes in the marketplace.
  3. Decline in sales and profits.
  4. Loss of key employees and/or customers.
  5. Rupture in partner or family relationships.
  6. Life-threatening illness.
  7. Unexpected depletion of financial resources.


It is interesting and important to note that consultants are the least likely to stimulate a sense of urgency when it comes to resolving relationship issues. Why? Because people don’t solve problems they don’t have. In other words, if they don’t feel like there is a problem, there is no problem. Hence, no consultant can drag them kicking and screaming into their own future.