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The Ghost in the Family Business


For teaching purposes, this is the commentary-only version of the HBR case study. The case-only version is reprint R00314. The complete case study and commentary is reprint R00308. Mac Monroe had grand plans for Georgia Building Supplies, the company he had started with a friend almost 50 years ago, selling construction materials wholesale to contractors. In the mid-1980s, Mac bought out his disgruntled partner's share of the company and put his oldest son, Mac Monroe IV, at the helm. It was all falling into place. But Mac Four, as his parents called him, died tragically in a car accident. The family and the company never recovered. Mac sold GBS two years later. Now Mac is trying it again, bankrolling Carolina Construction Supply with his youngest boy, John "Little Bit" Monroe, at the helm. The tech-savvy Little Bit would like Mac and CCS to embrace the Internet for on-line transactions and service. But Mac keeps emphasizing sales, and he's lured two heavy-hitter salesmen from the competition--including his middle son, Mike Monroe. In its first two years, CCS has lost $1 million, and the ghost of Mac Four lingers at the company--Mac is constantly invoking his name, alluding to what Mac Four would have done if he were still alive. Complicating matters is the Monroe family's overprotective matriarch, Bea, who doesn't want to hear anything bad about her boys, and who'd like more time to spend with her 70-something husband. Mac's got plenty of doubts about CCS's future--that's why he's called on P. Dee Chambers, a consultant to small businesses, for advice. What should she tell him? Can Carolina Construction Supply be saved? In R00308 and R00315, five commentators, Gerry Boschwitz, Rudy Boschwitz, Mary F. Whiteside, Joe Mattos, and John L. Ward, review this fictional account and offer their advice.




Warren D. Miller, Gerry Boschowitz, Rudy Boschowitz, Joe Mattos, Mary Whiteside, John L. Ward

Date Published



Miller, Warren D., Gerry Boschowitz, Rudy Boschowitz, Joe Mattos, Mary Whiteside, and John L. Ward. 2000. The Ghost in the Family Business.


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