Family Business

Sibling partnership: making it work


4 min




Strong family communication is the key to business success. Listen to Philippe de Gaspé Beaubien share his experiences and insights on how he and his siblings have maintained a strong relationship while thriving as a business family.




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I come from a family business and we have done a lot of learning. Everybody has their own strengths and weaknesses. For me, in my family, the focus is empathy, understanding the other person’s points of view, trying to work together. In operations, you need to have the same mentality and the same approximate parameters. I was on this side of the equation, my brother is in the middle, and my sister was more on the very conservative side. Now, the key thing that we did when we were operating together, is that we had an outside board, and so then we had advisors and board members that could also communicate because sometimes some family members have difficulty saying to other family members, “This is a lousy idea, I do not want to do this idea,” sort of thing. I fully understood that, you know, with siblings and with close ... View More confidants and all the rest, you have to communicate, communicate, communicate and that is one of the things that I think we do well in the family business. Now, could we do it better? Absolutely, but that was, I would say, our greatest strength. The weakness in that is that we are always trying for a win-win situation.

I was involved in the restructuring of our operating public company, the Telemedia group. Telemedia at that time had twenty-one radio stations and was one of the largest consumers magazine publishers in Canada. Huge success in radio, huge success in magazines, but the telecommunications industry was going though massive change. We were juggling about ten different companies, all doing very interesting things, so we sold some assets but we redeployed the capital to put it into other assets.

We agreed that on the personal investing side with money managers and stuff, we would pull together and do a fund that would be the three of us to do great things. We invested together, we are still investing together and so that is that has been great, but it is not in operations.

The family is in good shape, my relationship with my sister is great, fantastic, and with my brother is awesome. I mean, because we get it, we understand each other but we do not get in each other’s way. We do not second guess. I am on his board, I will give him some advice, I believe in what he is doing, but he is responsible for driving those operations. So, I am invested with him and he is invested with me, but we do not get on to the, you know, the ship and try and take the tiller.

At the end of the day, family still has to talk to you, you still have to be part of that, and that is one thing that you have to recognize is that your family is there for you, during good times and bad times, and so you have to keep that relationship up, and keep talking. Now they are in different businesses, operating different things, I think that is more the recipe. And as Dad has said, and I tend to agree with him, and BFF has sort of supported that, be the Chairman, do not be the CEO. Because I mean, the CEO might have to change, and trying to fire your brother or your sister is probably the worst thing in the world that you can do because it will damage, not only the business side, but it will damage the family side. So I would say stay at the board level, I mean, that sort of thing, find other things to do and get involved in the business in some form but do not be in operations together. It can be done but it is so much more difficult, it really is and it is a huge risk because at one point that CEO is going to have to change. That is what family business is all about, is to be able to transition from one generation, sometimes not well, sometimes with a lot of hiccups and stuff like that, but it is going to happen.