Book Review – Beer Money: A Memoir of Privilege and Loss (Harper, 2016)

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?


10 Family Business Issues in Netflix’s “The Crown”

Even The Royal Family's Not Immune!

I’ve never been much of a “binge watcher” when it comes to television shows, but I have to say that I was intrigued by Netflix’s new series, “The Crown.”  Admittedly, I’m a bit of a history nerd, so that was my initial reason for deciding to watch.  It turns out, the show’s first season was fantastic – and – I ended up binge watching the entire season over the course of a few days!  The history, alone, was incredibly interesting (note to self:  pick up biography on Winston Churchill), but if you watch it with an eye on family business, you quickly see several issues emerge that all family business members can understand.

In fact, after a quick review of the season in my head, I can easily pinpoint 10 Family Business Issues (spoiler alert – if you haven’t yet watched, some of what I say below may give something away):