A family owned business may be defined as any business in which members of one family across generations are involved in the business operations and where the majority of ownership or control lies within the family. It is an interaction between two separate but connected systems – the business and the family – with uncertain boundaries and different rules. It is upto the karta (family head) to seamlessly weave the family and business together so that they leverage on one another's strengths. Family businesses have been one of the most prevalent and resilient business forms over centuries and across continents.
Business, karta and the family are the pivotal entities in a family-owned business, and their being aligned with each other is the key to harmony and success. Alignment must be across multi-dimensional planes involving synchrony at four levels – materialistic (physical), emotional, intellectual and spiritual – which define and characterise the entity’s current stage of consciousness. We focus upon the stage of consciousness of the karta, business and family, the key characteristics that define each stage and how the three entities can achieve alignment.
Consciousness stage defines the design of the environment, especially in a family business, where there exists a combination of several interlinked energy sources. These stages are traversed by all things that have a cosmic existence, be it an individual, a project or a business. The contributors to this environment could include all the employees, the industry, outsiders who are related to the business, family members, and a number of other obvious and less obvious inputs.
Karta, business and family: Which is the driving force?
It is quite rare to find perfect alignment between karta, business (karma) and family, but one can work towards bringing about this alignment. When the karta is in a higher stage of consciousness and drives both business and family, it is relatively uncomplicated. However, the progression is more like a freeway where the karta steers both business and family in a chosen direction, thus bringing about alignment. When the business or karma drives the other two entities (karta and family) it is more likely an act of destiny. The karta is a relatively less powerful person in this case, and in order to strengthen their position it would be advisable to bring in some sub-kartas, which could help achieve synchrony between the three entities in family business.
When the family enjoys a stronger position, the situation is highly family-centric with energies focused predominantly towards family development, family wealth, and sustainability and family members’ interests. This would probably encourage harmony in the family, but the karta might find it difficult to divert these energies to business and also bring about alignment and balance between the two. In such scenarios, appointing an external professional as CEO – someone culturally aligned to the family (assuming there is no suitable candidate from within the family) – would bring in renewed energies and fresh synergy.
The concept of “consciousness stage”, referred to as “chakras in business”, helps identify where a business, karta and family are positioned and how to optimise that stage. It therefore highlights the importance of wholesome growth, not just from the financial perspective. So the concept of chakras in business acts as a barometer with calibrations that help to identify the stage of the business, karta and family on the basis of some typical characteristics. Further, this phenomenon is dynamic and an entity can move from one stage of consciousness to another, thus enabling alignment.
The Chakras: A Vedic concept
Chakra is a concept relating to wheel-like vortices, which according to the Vedas, are believed to be power centres or whorls of energy. The chakras control the physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual aspects of the system as a whole. These vortices of subtle matter are considered the focal points for the reception and transmission of energies. Seven major chakras or energy centres exist within any system, and the position and functionality of each chakra has been defined in ancient texts, including Jabala Darshana Upanishad, Yoga-Shikha Upanishad, and Shandilya Upanishad.
The seven principal chakras reflect how the unified consciousness of humanity is divided in order to manage different aspects of earthly life. The chakras are placed at differing levels of spiritual subtlety, with Sahasrara at the top being concerned with pure consciousness, and Mooladhara at the bottom being concerned with matter, which is seen simply as crude consciousness. The journey from Mooladhara to Sahasrara is the journey of one’s consciousness from gross to sublime.
Understanding each Chakra – its position in the cosmic body of an entity, its role and associated emotions – helps us to appreciate the relevance of chakras to each stage of the business life cycle and the tremendous influence that they have on every entity.
Chakra sandhi, or cusps, arises at the transition from one stage to the next. These “dwaar”, or doorways, are invariably unsettling zones which an entity must negotiate and navigate across with caution. Although they are transient, such cusps are marked by high levels of chaos and volatility. It is important to be aware of them and to pass through them both cautiously and quickly. Spotting the signs of approaching cusps allows time for preparation, which will help to ward off the danger and ensure an easier transition.
While family systems, values, culture and inner potential influence the karta, and the key drivers are to an extent controllable, the business (karma) is far more vulnerable under the influence of the marketplace. Business is environment-based and the exposure and risks are far higher, making it more complex to plan and intervene in the face of approaching danger zones. External experts can help provide an accurate diagnosis of problem situations, and also the skill sets and expertise required to guide the business through transitions.
Chakras and business life cycle
All cosmic bodies pass through a life cycle, and their needs and demands change as they move from one stage to another. Each stage brings with it unique issues and challenges that need to be addressed and managed.
In the case of family businesses, the entire span of the life cycle is difficult to predict and the business may see transitions over a period of decades. In such cases, the life cycle can open up a Pandora ’s Box, as it entails succession from a karta to their children and/or siblings, and sometimes even to cousins. Naturally, there will be a need for a rearrangement of the ownership structure and for different kinds of leadership styles depending on the stage of the karta and karma (business), and these issues assume greater significance when the next generation enters the business. These stages could be reached within the span of one generation, or it may be a transition over a few generations, or at times this trend may deviate, following a parabolic curve. The initial stages of the life cycle may occur in later stages of the company’s growth – sometimes even during the tenure of the next generation.
In summary therefore, chakras lie at the essence of all living things, including family businesses. Every business must pass along an evolutionary pathway, and each stage of consciousness brings with it its own set of opportunities and challenges that need to be appropriately managed. Leadership styles need to be flexible and to adapt to the circumstances. Chakra sandhi, or cusps, are the transition zones between any two stages and need to be navigated with caution. These are high-energy phases, and if not managed effectively they can throw the business off course.
The crux lies in identifying the stage of the karta, business and family, and, once this is known, the entity forming the driving force can be determined. Then, with the help of characteristics defined and suggestions the karta, business and family can be aligned, setting the stage for holistic success and harmony.