REVIEW: David C. Bentall — Younger Me: Wisdom for Family Enterprise Successors (BOOK)
Pick up a copy of David C. Bentall’s new book ear Younger Me: Wisdom for Family Enterprise Successors, and you might initially think to yourself Gee whiz, not another SOS for Emotions equivalent when it comes to leadership and business advice nonfiction subcategories. But the book actually is different from its literary peers, in some aspects in a really unique way.
RELATED URL: https://familyenterprisefoundation.org/about/foundation/your-learning-companions/david-c-bentall/
Bentall makes part of the narrative an actual memoirist piece, reflecting on his own choices, mistakes made, and hard lessons learned. “When my grandfather Charles Bentall left his home in England and moved to Canada in 1908, I am certain that he had no idea of the success he would one day enjoy. Fortunately, our country was undergoing an exciting building boom, and there was plenty of work available for someone who had a degree in structural engineering, was willing to work hard, and was determined to succeed.
Upon his arrival in Vancouver, he joined the engineering firm J. Coughlan and Sons, and he very quickly made a name for himself as one of the premier designers in British Columbia,” he writes. “…As long as Charles was at the helm, the business prospered. He knew that someday he would need to discuss leadership succession, but for almost 35 years, the topic was not addressed. That changed in rather dramatic fashion in June 1955, when a sudden heart attack put him in the intensive care unit at Vancouver General Hospital (VGH). Stunned by the experience, Charles was forced to face his own mortality, perhaps for the first time…In retrospect, it is evident that there were a host of unresolved issues that eventually led to significant family conflict and relational breakdown(s) (after being handed the business).
These challenges included growing tension between my dad and his brothers; differing opinions regarding the long-term vision for the company; Bob’s frustration after waiting 30 years to lead the company; and, perhaps the most vexing, the question of who would be appointed the future CEO.”
“Most of these issues had been brewing beneath the surface for several years, and had there been better communication, a resolution might have been available to us. But, as is often seen when a family enterprise approaches an intergenerational transition, the most intractable problems were rooted in events that occurred long before things finally unraveled,” Bentall continues. “In our circumstances, it seems that the final dissolution of our family enterprise may have been emotionally driven.
However, in the preceding years, the major challenges that contributed to the eventual fallout could be summarized as problems related to succession, governance, expectations, conflict, communication, and trust.” Paraphrasing a quote from our current president, such aforementioned statements only cement a belief I myself have long held to be true. All business is local, and all business is personal. In the case of Bentall, not remembering this almost cost him everything he had, and everything his family had worked for. The fact he’s not only willing to admit this, but explore why, is to be seriously commended.