Hubler For Business Families

The Business of Gratitude - Part One

A family business advisor shares his personal story

Key Takeaways:
  • Achieving a sense of gratitude is not difficult but requires conscious attention.
  • Expressing gratitude strengthens esprit de corps in a business family and can be instrumental in overcoming intergenerational friction.
  • Lack of gratitude is the single biggest obstacle to succession planning.

'The hardest arithmetic to master is that which enables us to count our blessings." - Eric Hoffer (1903-1983)

"Gratitude," according to former Fortune 500 CEO turned author and poet James Autry, "doesn't come naturally. We have to learn it." We are not born grateful. Before it can grow beyond the polite expression "Thank you," I believe each of us must make our own journey to gratitude. That destination is the emotional result of a spiritual, not simply a social, process, according to Autry. Achieving a sense of gratitude is not difficult but requires conscious attention.

Why is it so important to learn gratitude, not just voice it? Because at that level it is a business asset. In my experience, the single most troubling obstacle in family-owned businesses is that appreciation, recognition and love are so rarely expressed. I consider it the No. 1 obstacle to succession planning (see my "Ten Obstacles to Succession Planning").

Don't take anyone for granted
All generations share in this lack of appreciation and recognition. Adult children in a business family love their parents but take them for granted. They fail to express thankfulness for what their parents have done to help them be successful. Parents also take their adult children for granted by failing to express any appreciation for their commitment to the business. They have not realized that living in gratitude is a choice and what Alexis de Tocqueville might call habits of the heart. Living in gratitude becomes a way of life, as it became for me.

Before I reached my 40s, I was far more absorbed by what I did not have than what I did have. I saw myself as average and seldom considered my blessings or personal gifts. I was fairly accomplished professionally. I was a successful family therapist, a founding director of the Gestalt Institute of the Twin Cities and a recognized Bush Leadership Fellow, and I was initiating my family business consultancy. Yet I was focused on the private losses in my life. My boyhood with two alcoholic parents. The loss of our two sons at birth. A fire that gutted our home in 1979. All this negative pressure led me to participate in the program Adult Children of Alcoholics, where I began to embrace and emotionally own the experiences of loss that made me who I am today.

I began to realize the blessings of those difficult experiences and could start focusing on their positive influences and appreciate the two lovely children my wife and I adopted. I attended seminars, wrote an autobiographical paper, shared the losses in my life, began meditating (difficult for the extrovert that I am), and decided to write a poem or two. All of this, over many years, helped me understand and be grateful for the blessings in my life.

This poem, "Coming to Life Through the Blessings of Loss" (1998), now represents to me that door opening when I "came to life" to celebrate, own my gifts and move on.
Oh, Loss, Loss, Loss.
Oh, how I lamented the loss those many years.
My childhood, my innocence, my children, my house, my voice.
The inner bitterness swept over my life, like a pall squelching the
spirit of my life.
It is the most unusual awakening the day that I accepted the
gifts of my life.
Let me give voice to my
Let me celebrate and take unto myself all the fruits of my life.

It expresses what is so well stated by Matthew Henry (1662-1714): "Thanksgiving is good, but thanks-living is better."

Benefits of gratitude
So you may be asking yourself, "Okay. I get it. Gratitude is important and I should be thankful and say so. Is that so hard?" In a word, I would say, "Yes."

The benefits of gratitude are obvious but unfortunately are seldom achieved because the benefits of gratitude are seldom achieved because gratitude is so infrequently expressed. "Please" and "Thank you" taught from childhood become expressions but not appreciation. They are given and taken to be polite. When was the last time you looked someone in the eye, grabbed their shoulder or hand, and took an extra second when you said, "Thank you"? Almost feels embarrassing, right? Too much? Awkward?

Why? Perhaps because we agree with the need to appreciate others, we have not learned how to express gratitude authentically. We assume it rather than state it. We diminish rather than acknowledge it. We shower it on a newborn and never mature it as a person grows up.

Yet timely expressions of gratitude, however brief, can do wonders for any family or family business relationship, or for any business, for that matter. Expressing gratitude strengthens esprit de corps in a business family. It draws generations together and builds devotion among siblings and their parents because they show respect and appreciation for each other's gifts. When consciously done, expressing gratitude is one of the easiest and simplest ways to build the equity of the company. And it also does wonders for building character. We will further explore these benefits in Part Two of this series.

If you enjoyed this article please consider leaving a comment below, sharing it and/or subscribing to have future articles delivered to your RSS feed reader.
blog comments powered by Disqus
click edit icon to configure CONTENT-SMICONS element

Management and LeadershipWhen Clients Step Down from the Business They Started - Part Two
As couples get older and start to consider retirement, many realize how little they understand about each other's dreams and values for the next stage in life. Read More
When Clients Step Down from the Business They Started - Part One
The decision to step down and retire is one of the hardest a family business entrepreneur ever makes. When that time comes, entrepreneurs don’t have to retire and leave their companies. Instead, they must change their job description. Read More
Formalize the Love in Successful Family Businesses - Part Two
It's not unusual for family businesses to put off dealing with issues as a way to maintain family unity. Unfortunately, that approach usually backfires, as we saw in this case study....
 Read More
Formalize the Love in Successful Family Businesses - Part One
How structure and shared vision can prevent family rifts from undermining a thriving enterprise Read More
The Power of Gratitude - Part Two
In Part 1 of this article series, we discussed how lack of gratitude is the single biggest obstacle to succession planning. Here, we'll explore how the philosophy of gratitude can help family businesses and the advisors who serve them. Read More
The Business of Gratitute - Part One
Why is it so important to learn gratitude, not just voice it? Because at that level it is a business asset. In my experience, the single most troubling obstacle in family-owned businesses is that appreciation, recognition and love are so rarely expressed.  Read More
The Last Challenge of Entrepreneurship - Part 2
Part 2 - Concluding a series focusing on succession planning Read More
The Last Challenge of Entrepreneurship
Part 1 of a two-part series focusing on succession planning Read More
Family Businesses - The Trust Paradox - Part 2
How families create formality and structure in their businesses as a way to promote trust in the family as well as in the business. Read More
Family Businesses - The Trust Paradox - Part 1
Trust is provocative, paradoxical and implies risk Read More
The Trust Paradox of Family Businesses
Trust is the central component to the development of a family firm's social capital according to Pearson and Carr's "The central role of trust in family firm social capital". Their work raises the questions of what trust is and how to sustain it as the family business evolves. Over the past 30 years I have worked with family businesses in the area of transitions, succession planning, and managing what I describe as emotional breakdowns of trust in either business or family relationships. As a result, I believe building trust in the family and in the structure of the business are mutually beneficial to family harmony and a successful family business. Read More
Family Business Consultants as Leaders
Working with family businesses as a consultant is one of the most awesome responsibilities I can imagine. It incorporates managing family issues and concerns as well as business issues and concerns and the interrelationship between the two. The impact of choices made by the consultant can have far-reaching effects for both family and business that can impact generations of family members. Read More
Do Family and Business Meet or Collide?
The way we see it, the overlap between family and business is an organizational problem, but people within the family business experience it as an interpersonal issue. That's why family members commonly blame each other for the situation. Read More
When the Business of Your Family is Business
The defining qualities of a business contrast starkly with those of the family. While a family is nurturing, a business must be productive. It values competency and candor in order to embrace change and create success. Of course, the skills and sensibilities of business can play a positive role in your family. Business discipline and financial savvy, for instance, positively influence families and their success.
 Read More
Is it a Family-Run Business or Vice-Versa?
The family-run business faces unique obstacles. Business differences can tear apart families because the family and business have different (even opposing) goals. While family is protective and loyal with strong emotional ties, these positive qualities can lead to resisting or minimizing change in a business setting. Read More
Understanding Both Sides of Family Business Management
To help you understand the issues of family business management, we've developed a working model of the family business. It consists of two intersecting circles. The first represents your family; the second, your business. Read More
Family Members Entering the Business Checklist
Family businesses are all about the family, yet major heartaches can occur when next generation adult children enter the business. Read More
Changing the Generations in a Family Owned Business
Here is my list of ten important things younger generation adult children can do to smooth their transition into leadership in the family-owned business so that everyone involved feels positive and vital. Read More
Learn More and Get FREE Resources

Now Available:

Cornerstone of Hubler for Business Families:

The Soul of Family Business


Take this risk-free first step in ensuring the continued success of your family business now. There is no charge for the orientation meeting other than out-of-pocket expenses for travel. 


Does your family business need help with succession planning, conflict resolution, management or other issues? If so, we'll arrange a one-on-one orientation meeting with you and Tom Hubler to help you explore the possibilities of working with us. If you choose, your family and business associates can also attend. Here, in a relaxed environment, you can talk about:

- Key family business issues
- Plans necessary for the success of your family-owned business
- Possibilities and expectations
- Terms of the relationship
©All Rights Reserved | Hubler for Business Families - America's preeminent family business consultants
Ownership Planning | Management and Leadership | Business Planning | Family Planning
Contact | Site Map