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Q & A Today: Continuing the Family Business

Updated: Jan 20, 2022

By Eileen S. Lenson, MSW, ACSW, BCC

Posted on July 5, 2020

Welcome to Q&A Today, a column designed to answer your questions regarding challenges and concerns in everyday life, from family to coping with current events. A popular topic today revolves around the coronavirus. All questions are fair game. Just send me an email with your questions or concerns, and watch for the answer in upcoming editions of the Tasmanian Times. Q&A Today is published on the first and third Sundays of the month. If your question is printed, only your first name will appear in this column.

Q: I’ve been struggling since March, when businesses were ordered closed due to the pandemic. As the pub I own is rather remote, mostly visited by people travelling to their shacks, I could not operate a take-away or delivery service.

The good news is that restrictions are easing and pubs are opening. The snag is my father, who used to own this pub for 30 years before I purchased it from him. He has continually cautioned me against being too hopeful and opening prematurely, so I am behind in reopening.

He thinks Tasmania hasn’t seen the last of COVID?-19. He believes tourists will bring back the virus, causing my pub to close again. This scares me, as my business can’t survive back-to-back financial hits on lost inventory, wages and rent.

My father even gave me a hug recently, adding with a laugh, “Now don’t go gorging on gudgeon!” How can I progress while he’s trying to hold me back, all but predicting my failure? I am hoping for the best, view myself as realistic, and am making calculated steps towards reopening the pub, but am I being naïve to be so positive? Am I letting my hopefulness obscure reality? – Jane

A: Hi Jane,

Operating a business in periods of uncertainty is always difficult. It must be even more arduous in light of your perception that you and your father are in opposition with one another.

Tensions originating from feeling that your father is trying to hold you back, coupled with self-doubt about your business judgement can be very detrimental. The risk is a fracture in the trust between you and your father and distraction from focusing on your business.

Perhaps a good place to start is to look at the relationship your father has with you and the pub. For many years this pub was your father’s baby. He envisioned, created and nurtured the pub to the point it was successful enough to be carried forward to a second generation.

He probably feels very proud of this process, and also carries a heavy emotional responsibility to keep the pub financially sound for you. Additionally, he’s likely weathered other unexpected business challenges in past years and believes his experience can be a resource to you.

Although a highly functioning businesswoman today, you remain first and foremost in your father’s eyes and heart, his baby girl. It may be difficult for him to relinquish decision-making when he instinctively wants to protect you by being strong and all-knowing.

On the other hand, you may feel frustrated to be on the receiving end of what feels like a lack of confidence from your father. Or to feel like he is relating to you like an employee or lesser partner lacking proper business sense.

Sorting through and understanding these issues can help greatly in reducing the tension between you and your father and clear the way for you to feel more confident in your decisions.

This confidence will enhance your hopefulness, which will help you professionally and personally. Pandemics are very frightening and hopefulness can help prevent you from becoming overwhelmed. After all, if you don’t have hope that you can get past COVID-19 related obstacles in your life, then you’re at risk of getting too stressed and giving up.

But being hopeful is no small thing, and is often misunderstood. Through his cynical humour, your father made a good point in clarifying that hope is much more than merely wishing or blind optimism. Hope is comprised of three elements: identifying something you desire to achieve, developing a plan to achieve a new goal, and being motivated to go after this goal despite the obstacles encountered along the way.

I suggest that you engage in mutually respectful conversations with your father and share the details in your plan for reopening the pub. Invest the time necessary to resolve any ‘baggage’ the two of you bring into this adult working relationship. Show vulnerability by sharpening your listening skills and demonstrating that you are determined to talk through a problem. Find the emotional security and maturity to not have to have all the answers. Recognise your father’s past success and competence, and how that can help you in making realistic plans to reach your goals.

Let your father know that if you encounter obstacles when opening your pub you plan to learn from your experience, make adjustments, and try again to reach your goals. In doing so, I think your father will begin to view you as a peer and develop a deeper appreciation for you as a businesswoman.

I believe that by encouraging open and trusting conversations with your father, your sense of hopefulness will rise. You’ll feel more motivated, optimistic and positive about resolving current as well as future challenges.

Wishing you well,


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If you have specific concerns or a situation in which you require professional, psychological or medical help, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified specialist. The opinions or views expressed in this column are not intended to treat or diagnose; nor are they meant to replace the treatment and care that you may be receiving from a licensed professional, physician or mental health professional.

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