Many thanks to a tweet from @DALFamBus a few weeks ago about a book written by @FrancesStroh – family member of the famous Stroh Brewery company (here’s the NY Times story)! I immediately knew it was a book I wanted to read. Living through a very public family-business downfall and writing about it was surely going to be an interesting read!
And Frances didn’t let me down! “Brave” is probably the best way to explain how I feel about her after reading the book. She gets very honest and personal about something as intimate as life in a family business – especially with a family name that is pretty much a household name. While I imagined I’d read more about the business side of her story, I found myself glad that the focus of this book was truly a personal memoir that was focused on the family side.
The honest and open account is one that can most easily be shared after the fact – more of a recollection and a way to cope with the effects on one personally. Frances freely expresses that this book is her own view of the story, and it served as a way to help her work through the emotions of such a change in family wealth and privilege. I’ve found that – in a family business – one quickly learns to “hide” the troubles of business as a matter of family pride. Having been through my own family business changes (though much more recently and not to the same extent as her family’s business), I could relate to many of the feelings and experiences she had.
Frances shares many things that most family business members wouldn’t dare share:
- Her own admission and recounting of her free-wheeling drug and alcohol lifestyle as a teenager.
- The loss of a brother due to drugs.
- The alcohol and spending problems of her father – which led to his ostracization from much of the family business.
- Her father marrying a former classmate of hers.
- Business decisions being made for “family” reasons rather than “business” ones.
- Sexism in family leadership roles – even when nepotism was present
All of this (and much more) is packed into a quick read that is a must for any family business member – especially for any who think they have a dysfunctional family with whom they work.
QUESTION: What other family business books have you found to be “brave” that others should read?