Controlling shareholders and managers of family firms are steeped in relationship management, especially in industries such as hospitality, distribution and retail. Executives who are adept at leveraging their relationship skills are at a competitive advantage when commencing initial discussions with an acquisition target, since they can usually intuit ways to accelerate the creation of trust and new relationships with managers of target companies better than other executives.

The concomitant risk here for leaders of family-controlled buyers is conflating high levels of relationship skills with the hard negotiating skills and experience required to close an acquisition. The challenge for the family-controlled buyer is to integrate the relationally skilled leadership of the deal team with technical experts who respect the relationship skills role in this setting.