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Book reviews: Care to Dare, Trapped in the Family Business and The Family Office Book

New book Care to Dare says good leaders are like good parents – they give tough feedback and are there for the long term.

Care to Dare
By George Kohlrieser, Susan Goldsworthy and Duncan Coombe
Jossey-Bass books; 336 pages

The lead author of this book, George Kohlrieser, is a former hostage negotiator – he was in fact taken hostage himself four times – and his catchphrase is “put the fish on the table”. If that’s not reason enough to read on, then nothing is. Kohlrieser no longer deals with knife-toting desperados, but with business people and has advised companies in over 100 countries. He’s also a professor at the Swiss business school IMD.

The idea behind this book, in a nutshell, is that leaders do better when they are people-oriented, and specifically when they are a “secure base” for others. A secure base is a “person, place, goal or object that provides a sense of protection, safety and caring, and offers a source of inspiration and energy for daring, exploration, risk taking and seeking challenge”. People with a secure base tend to be more productive and innovative than others.

This theory should interest those in family businesses firstly because it’s derived from “attachment theory”, a psychological theory that happy people tend to have just such a base, usually loving and supportive parents. Good leaders are like good parents – they stay calm, give tough feedback when it’s needed and make sure the other person knows they are there for the long term. So in that sense, family businesses are potentially a hotbed of secure bases and good management.

However, they could well exemplify one of the most damaging business situations – where a leader or employee is “taken hostage” by a situation, goal, person or institution. Sound familiar? Then this book will interest you. Oh, and that fish? It means, if you leave a problem under the table it’ll fester.

Trapped in the Family Business: A Practical Guide to Uncovering and Managing this Hidden Dilemma
By Michael Klein
MK Insights; 119 pages

Using his background in clinical psychology, Michael Klein takes a practical look at the emotions that surround family businesses in this book. The focus is on those “trapped” by the “golden” and “emotional” handcuffs of family companies. As well as providing some interesting insights into why some individuals feel obligated to work and stay in unsatisfying family business situations, it also attempts to offer some advice on how people can manage family obligations and their own wants. Its best feature is that after 15 years working with different businesses, Klein has plenty of case studies to draw on.

The Family Office Book: Investing Capital for the Ultra-Affluent
By Richard Wilson
Wiley Finance; 320 pages

If you are thinking of setting up a family office, wondering how to improve yours, want to get into the industry or just need to know more about them, then this detailed primer by the head of The Family Offices Group is as good a place to start as any.
This book talks about understanding the needs of ultra-affluent clients, how to structure family offices, how a family should go about selecting a multi family office and so on. The best bit, though, are the interviews with family office bigwigs, where they talk about their modus operandi in detail. An interview with one of the Madoff whistleblowers is particularly entertaining.

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