By Maria Valdez Haubrich

Dr. Sharon Lewis-Bultsma

Family businesses face all the stress and worry of starting a business that we all do—plus more! I talked to Dr. Sharon Lewis-Bultsma, Psy.D. for some insight.

1.  What kind of issues do family businesses face when first starting out?

Well, there can be a variety of issues that family businesses have because of the family dynamics.  The trick is to be able to maintain relationships, because when business is done, they are still your family.  The problem I see most often is lack of communication.  People often anticipate how others will act/ react to situations, making assumptions that may or may not be true, and respond accordingly.  This happens frequently with family businesses because the individuals have previous relationships.

2. How do you recognize when some irreparable conflict is about to happen?

If you are communicating, it is easier to recognize, and even avoid an irreparable conflict.  Conflict doesn’t have to be irreparable. Sometimes conflict is the only thing that motivates some people to start talking.  When you can begin talking at the early stages of feeling angry, it is often a good way to avoid a build up and explosion of feelings, which is often when people say things that they end up regretting.

Irreparable breaks in relationships are more likely to happen when one or both parties has held their feelings in for a long time and then resentment sets in.  When this happens it can be harder to repair the relationship.

3. How can you thwart the conflict and fix the problem?

Again, communication is key in any relationship.  Conflict isn’t such a bad thing—it is inevitable and natural to have conflict in relationships.  It is how the conflict is handled that makes all the difference.  When someone feels heard by the other person, and feels like the other person really cares about what they are saying, it can go a long way in preventing a break in the relationship.

Sometimes a problem feels unsolvable.  When this happens it may be time to seek some outside help.  Many therapists work with couples of all sorts; married couples, friends and even business partners.

Dr. Lewis-Bultsma is based in Fullerton, CA. Contact her at