Dear Jeanne & Leonard:
I grew up working in my father’s market and took it over when he retired three years ago. Then, six months ago, Mom died, and Dad decided to come back to work. It hasn’t worked out. While Dad assures me (and himself) that I’m in charge, he can’t stop behaving like the boss. Without consulting or even notifying me, he changes orders, raises and lowers prices, and allows employees to change their work schedules. The result has been chaos: Our employees don’t know whom to listen to, and our suppliers don’t know whom to talk to. I tried speaking to Dad about this, but his response was that he’s “just trying to help.” What can I do?
— Junior, Buffalo, New York
Buy him out.
OK, we’re kidding, but to a point — namely: Unless you paid your father for the store — and we assume you’d have told us if you did — it’s his store as much as it’s yours, and he’s entitled to be there if that’s what he wants.
Not that we aren’t sympathetic to your problems. We are. But if your father won’t listen when you explain them, you need to find a consultant who can help the two of you establish a mutually agreeable division of responsibility and authority. Folks who do this exist, and some of them specialize in helping small family businesses that are experiencing exactly the types of problems you’ve described.
Families have been struggling with succession since “King Lear.” It’s time for you to consult with a professional who knows how to guide your family to a happier ending.
Dear Jeanne & Leonard:
We share a driveway with our next-door neighbor, a portion of which sits on each property. The titles to our homes include an easement that gives both families use of the driveway. Without this arrangement, neither family would be able to drive to their garage, because the space between the two homes is too narrow. Now, though, the driveway needs repaving, and the easement says nothing about maintenance. So how should we split the cost of the work? About two-thirds of the driveway is on our property, and one-third is on our neighbor’s. But they go in and out on it as least as frequently as we do.
— L.L., Sacramento, California
Since your neighbors are responsible for half of the wear and tear on the driveway, they ought to offer to pay for half of the maintenance. But, bottom line: They are not obligated to pay for repaving the portion that’s on your property. So if they’re willing to pay only a third of the bill, they’re not being unreasonable.
That said, if your neighbors expect and allow you to pay two-thirds of the bill, they also should expect and allow you to decide whom to hire and how much to spend on the project. They can’t choose to pay for less than half of the work, then expect to be deferred to on cost.
P.S. Be sure to also ask your question at city hall. They may have rules that trump ours.
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