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Comment résoudre les conflits potentiels dans les entreprises familiales ?

5 novembre 2012

Voici un article très intéressant publié par Barney Jordaan dans les publications de Corporate Governance Forum sur l’importance de bien comprendre les enjeux de gouvernance propres aux entreprises familiales.

L’article illustre particulièrement bien le contexte managérial dans lequel les entreprises familiales évoluent. Il y a de nombreux avantages pour une PME à ne pas se soucier de procédures, de règles, de structures, … au début ! Mais un jour ou l’autre, l’entreprise devra faire face à un plus grand besoin de structure et d’organisation et à l’utilisation de mécanismes de règlements de conflits. L’auteur explique quatre réponses susceptibles d’être envisagées lors de l’émergence de conflits; il propose un processus de médiation adapté aux entreprises familiales dans le règlement des différents.

Également, l’article présente plusieurs mesures préventives concrètes à mettre en place avant que les conflits se manifestent. Enfin, l’auteur présente un cadre conceptuel très utile pour mieux saisir les relations entre (1) la confiance et (2) la formalisation. Les personnes qui oeuvrent dans des entreprises familiales comprendront aisément l’analyse de M. Jordaan  !

Vous trouverez, ci-dessous, un extrait des grandes lignes de l’argumentation de l’auteur.

Resolving Differences in Family-Owned Businesses

« Some of the same aspects of family-owned businesses that can give them a competitive advantage are also the factors that contribute to the high levels of destructive conflict that often occur in them. For example, close family ties can contribute to strong bonds of trust and cooperation, but they also can add emotional fuel to the fire when conflicts arise. Barney Jordaan argues that the best cure for these conflicts is prevention—through establishing basic family governance structures and, failing that, dispute resolution processes that are sensitive to the distinctive dynamic and singular needs of a family-owned business.

Corporate governance is often, and wrongly, regarded as the exclusive domain of large corporations with shares that are traded in global stock exchanges. Perhaps this is because the data of those corporations are public and available for scrutiny by investors, journalists, and academics. However, the need for better governance is even more important for smaller, nonlisted family businesses. Listed companies are as visible as the tip of an iceberg, but below the waterline we find a much larger number of companies, mostly family-controlled. In Brazil, for example, about 400 companies are listed on BM&F Bovespa Stock Exchange, whereas 55,000 medium and large (more than 100 employees) companies are not listed. In the United States, unofficial statistics show that 5.6 million family businesses produce 57 percent of the gross domestic product and employ 63 percent of the workforce. Financially, they outperform listed companies and are a perpetual source of much-needed innovation and entrepreneurship. Listed companies must comply with an extensive set of laws and regulations and are under permanent supervision. Nonlisted family businesses, by contrast, are less subject to external controls and are notoriously light in their use of bureaucracy, as noted in Barney Jordaan’s paper. Yet they have the same governance needs of listed companies, and a few more needs of their own.

One of the biggest strategic advantages a family business can have is its bloodline. Family corporations, when run by a few tightly knit family members, can almost always move far faster than corporate bureaucracies can. In case of conflicts, relationships between family members must be preserved, and judicial solutions must be regarded as a last, not first alternative.

On the other hand, the nature of family relationships adds several degrees of complexity to such issues as related-party transactions, employment of family members, private use of company assets, and dividend decisions, just to mention a few. These problems are aggravated by ownership and managerial succession issues as well as by the participation of different generations.

Corporate governance conflicts in family businesses often involve corporate and family law. Corporate legal advice will often destroy family relationships, and it is practically impossible for judicial decisions to be constructive in both areas, all of which builds a positive case for nonjudicial approaches. Jordaan describes the financial and nonfinancial consequences of conflicts and typical responses. He makes a strong case for mediation as a cost-saving and relationships-repairing mechanism between family members, either by involving a trained professional mediator in the dispute or by having ongoing involvement of the mediator to facilitate family council meetings ».

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