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Changing the Fate of Family Business

Oct 12, 2018

As Seen In O, The Oprah Magazine, Entrepreneur & Forbes

Dealing with emotional issues, BEFORE emotions are the issue, is the key to success for serving family businesses.

Family businesses are unique, and they are facing a tremendous challenge right now. Within the next five years, a significant number of businesses in the United States will transition ownership, and this puts increased pressure on the family and the business. 

“The country has never experienced a change of this magnitude,” says Lisë Stewart, the Principal-in-Charge of EisnerAmper’s Center for Family Business Excellence in Iselin, New Jersey. “Business owners need help to make this transition in a way that meets the needs of the owner, the family and the business; otherwise, too many businesses will simply liquidate.”
One family-owned business at a time, Stewart and her team are working to change that. They’re sitting down with owners to develop plans for life after relinquishing control, working with families to resolve any related problems, and grooming the next generation of leaders to flourish.

The field for this expertise is small, but still Stewart and EisnerAmper are standouts with a team that is not only business savvy but has complementary backgrounds in psychology and human resources. They take a family-centric approach, working with clients to best understand the family dynamics, the family system, and what individual family members need from the business.

“Much of what we’re having to deal with is conflict and miscommunication; there are challenges within the family and they’ve brought them into the business,” Stewart says. “That’s common. That’s human nature.”

From there, it’s about “transition with dignity.”

“We have all of these baby boomers reaching the age where they’re trying to figure out what to do with their business,” says Stewart. “Do they sell? Do they close it down and walk away? What happens if they want to work until they die but don’t want to be a burden on the company or family? How do they navigate that? We help navigate some of the most difficult decisions of their lives.”

Stewart is a nationally recognized expert in doing just this and she’s done so countless times in the last 30 years. Her background is in organizational psychology and business. She was living in New Zealand when she started working with poorly organized volunteer groups. She developed a process to help volunteer-based agencies train people and function more efficiently. As the organizations’ processes improved, the local business communities took notice and asked for similar help.

When Stewart moved to the United States, she continued working with family-owned and closely held businesses, and started an organization that ultimately grew into a national consulting firm. She has since brought that expertise to EisnerAmper, joining the firm in the spring of 2017 and building upon her years of success to start the Center for Family Business Excellence.  “EisnerAmper is a really forward looking firm and I am delighted to be a part of a large team that really focusses on what is best for the client.”


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