The Curious Leader
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The Curious Leader

Keeping Secrets? Revamp Your Business Strategy

Keeping secrets puts a cap on the level of success we can experience. If you’re part of a multi-generational family business and you like keeping secrets, this article is not for you. However, if secrets have hurt your bottom line, keep on reading. I’ve got a solution for you.

“Share something good”

Let’s talk about McCain Foods. They’re home of the Superfries with the slogan, “Share something good.”

McCain’s was founded by two brothers, Harrison and Wallace McCain. After Wallace secretly appointed his son, Michael, as the head of McCain U.S.A., he was forced out. As a result, the family’s loyalties divided into mini-power clans.

When family loyalties become a quest for power, the heirs can suffer social ostracism, financial bullying, even voice silencing. What’s good about that?

“Travel Brilliantly”

The Marriott is an international hotel chain with the slogan, “It’s not only about where you’re staying. It’s about where you’re going. Marriott, Travel Brilliantly.”

John Marriott III sued his father, Bill, because his father was against him seeking a divorce. Bill wanted John to keep his marital problems a secret. The lawsuit was settled with John being given roughly 2% of the company shares to silence him.

When family members use money to silence one another, what’s brilliant about that?

Who’s playing?

Many multi-generational businesses establish “family councils” whose purpose is to represent the interests of specific family members. In Economics, it’s called an oligarchy.

Oligarchies aim to preserve the group’s assets at all costs. As a result, they seldom closely examine (an emotionally intelligent trait) how their actions might impact future generations. Consider the McCains and the Mariotts, for example.

Like misguided children, oligarchies try grabbing as many toys on the playground as possible while keeping the playground closed off to anyone they view as an outsider. That’s probably why many family councils tend to keep secrets at the dinner table and in the boardroom. What do you think?

Elon Musk

Elon Musk is the founder of Tesla. He did not go behind people’s backs, and he did not sue his competitors over his patents.

Instead, he patiently waited until all his patents were up for renewal and shared them openly with every automobile maker in the world.

He openly shares his electric car patents because he wants automakers (and their customers) to benefit. Elon Musk’s no secret philosophy has made him the richest man in the world with a fortune estimated at $286 billion.

The first electric car was slow and did not go very far. Sharing his patents allowed Elon to fix those bugs with the help of other giant automakers. Now, an electric car can outrun a Porsche!

Letting go of secrecy is what allowed Elon to make a fortune, which he is now using to fund his next venture: space travel.

The Bigger Picture

  • Keeping secrets may create short-term gains but always causes long-term pain.
  • Long-term pain implodes the legacy.
  • The solution to resolving an imploding legacy is to embrace the bigger picture.
  • Embracing the bigger picture is about discovering the emotional undercurrent that propels your multi-generational business.
  • What’s the emotional undercurrent driving your decisions?

As I said at the beginning of this article, if you like keeping secrets, this article is not for you. Grabbing all the toys on the playground was never what living an outstanding life was about.

If secrets have hurt your bottom line, here’s my solution for you: implement an emotionally intelligent strategic plan.

An emotionally intelligent strategic plan propels you to your outcomes in a way that no logical, rational strategic plan can.

The emotionally intelligent strategic plan has all the logic and rationale of a traditional strategic plan. It’s just turbocharged by tapping into the emotional undercurrent.

Elon Musk’s emotional undercurrent is innovation. He is emotionally driven to innovate and make our lives better.

As a result, Elon Musk lets go of secrets, so he can quickly expand into his next avenue of business and life.

Are You Ready to Revamp Your Business Strategy?

As a multi-generational business owner, Is your strategic plan tangled in webs of secrecy? Or are you tapping into your emotional undercurrent to propel you forward in business and in life?

Feel free to share your insights here, or email me at



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