Family Inheritance

What Are You Leaving Them?

1yWhat are you leaving your Family - Curling Game

Just about every parent gets to a point in their life where they cannot help but think about just what they will be leaving their children when they die.

Among the things that they think about are both the tangible, like money, property and other valuables, and the intangible, like life lessons, values, unforgettable life experiences and a true sense of their family legacy.

“What” is not the only question that comes up of course, there is also “why” and “how”. And let’s not forget the sub-parts of “what”, like “when”, “where”, and “who”, but they’re well beyond the scope of one blog post.

The “why” and the “how” are pretty important to work out, because they are so often the root cause of family conflict afterwards, when children are unclear as to why their parents arranged things as they did.

When I ask these questions of parents, the “what” is the easiest place to start, and I always begin with the tangible stuff. We are not ignoring the important intangible things, just delaying them until we get a better handle on stuff that everyone can see and agree on.

I’ve always been a sports fan, and maybe even a bigger fan of analogies, and plenty of sports analogies come to mind on the topic of “what you are leaving”.

In rugby, when a team scores a “try” (similar to a touchdown in football), they get to kick a convert for more points, but unlike in football, the spot of the kick depends on where the player downed the ball in the end zone.

So if a player scores a try near the sideline, he (or his teammate) needs to attempt a much more difficult convert than if he scored in the middle of the end zone.

Moral: The details of what you leave definitely affect others and their likelihood of success.

In hockey, the difference between a good goaltender and a great one is often their ability to control rebounds. A good goalie stops the puck, a great goalie will not only stop the puck, but also make sure that it ends up in a location that makes it more difficult for the opposition to score on the rebound.

Moral: It is important to think not only about what you leave your loved ones, but also what you do NOT leave to others.

In billiards, a good player will sink the ball in the pocket, and then see what the next shot will be. A great player will plan her shot so that she leaves the cue ball in a good spot for her next shot, or at least not in a great spot for her opponent should she miss.

Moral: Sometimes you need to decide what to leave, without knowing what comes next.

In curling, you always know that your opponent will be throwing the next stone, and once again there is a huge difference between good players and great ones. Also, curling is the ultimate team sport.

A good team will make their shots and hope for the best with what happens next. A great team will always consider a number of things before even choosing which shot to attempt:

  • What is the score?
  • What are we trying to do with this rock?
  • What will the other team likely try with their next shot?
  • Where do we ideally want all of the rocks to be when they all come to a rest?
  • What happens if we miss, and how can we miss in a way that still gives us an OK result?
  • What are we planning to try on our next shot?

Moral: Complex decisions always entail a number of questions, and the best decisions come when the members of the team know each others’ abilities, trust each other, and have a clear idea of what they are trying to do together.

The curling analogy fits best for me, as each player contributes to each shot, and a great team needs to have great players and be well coached.

Your kids are part of your team, aren’t they?

Who is coaching your family?


The language of family business

The Languages of Family Legacy

Foreign language study concept background - stack of dictionaries isolated on white background

Having grown up in Montreal, a bilingual city, has been a wonderful boon to me. But the daily exposure I have had to both French and English has some benefits that many local friends take for granted.

Starting first grade, my Dad had decided to send me to French school, for my own good, but mostly because he wanted me to be well prepared to take the reins of the business that he was building.

In my 20’s, I took a vacation to Mexico and felt really ignorant because I did not understand the language, so when I got back, I headed to the YMCA for Spanish courses.

Facility with language learning is not something everyone has to the same degree, but having exposure early in life certainly helps one have the confidence needed to learn a new language when needed.

So what does this have to do with family legacy, you ask? Let the analogies begin.

Dealing with your family legacy requires getting used to some new language, or at least some new vocabulary and new ways of expressing yourself, to develop common understanding.

Just like learning a new language, you don’t just decide to learn Spanish one day and become fluent the next.

These days there are new methods like Rosetta Stone that take advantage of technology and a better understanding of how people learn languages best, but let’s just break it down into some simple levels.

For many, reading a new language is the easiest way to begin to understand, because you can take your time and look at each word. Hearing people speak the words and understanding them in real time is more difficult.

To speak and be understood is again another level, and writing something coherent in an unfamiliar language is not advisable until you are much further along.

My point is that there is a progression through different levels, a need to move up gradually to develop a vocabulary, a comfort level, and the confidence to speak and use the new language.

In a family trying to preserve its legacy, to transition from one generation to the next, many important questions arise, like:

  • Who does the work
  • Who undertakes the leadership
  • Who keeps things on track

When families fall apart, it is almost always because somehow things fell through the cracks or people did not get along and agree. Often, nobody really ever understood and bought into the plans in the first place.

For the members of the rising generation to buy in, there are some things that are almost indispensable to have in place, to one degree or another.

The siblings (or cousins) need to share at least some level of financial fluency. Like a language, nobody just decides to learn it and gets there really quickly. But if a group of people is expected to work together on a big project, it helps if they all have a basic level of understanding of the subject being discussed.

But if basic financial fluency was all that was required, that could be remedied easily enough, assuming a willingness to learn.

The harder part is learning how to work together. The family interaction part is where so many plans go off track. Once again, a phased leaning process can help.

Let’s look at what makes people progress faster when learning a new language:

  • A teacher who knows the language AND how to teach it
  • Lots of opportunities to practice
  • The ability to give and accept feedback
  • A helpful, “can do” attitude of those learning together
  • A safe environment so nobody is afraid to make a mistake

Preserving a family legacy for future generations is no easy task, but if the people you are counting on to make sure it happens all speak the same language, it sure helps. If they helped each other learn it together, even better.

People can learn to work together, but first they must all be aware of just why it is so important for them to do so. Some basic family harmony is required, and unfortunately, it doesn’t usually happen all by itself.




Simplifying Complexity and Ethical Wills | Blog on Ethics in Family Business

Simplifying Complexity and Ethical Wills

Writing Last Will and Testament. Closeup shot

A few weeks ago I came across a blog post by the Blunt Bean Counter on Ethical Wills that I liked, and I encourage anyone interested in this subject to check it out. Perhaps I can whet your appetite with my take on the subject here.

The man behind the blog and the website is Mark Goodfield, who is an accountant from Toronto. I would not necessarily call him an old friend of mine, but we did meet professionally last summer at a BDO SuccessCare course, “The Role of the Most Trusted Advisor”.

We spoke about blogging one day at lunch, and it was thanks to some of his comments that I undertook a rebranding and reworking of my online presence, for which the feedback I have been receiving from some of you has been gratifying.

An ethical will is essentially a letter that you write to your loved ones, outlining your wishes, which they can refer to and reread after you have passed away.

As Mark so nicely states, some examples of what people convey in an ethical will include:

  1. Your values
  1. Your hopes for your family
  1. An explanation of decisions made in your will
  1. Providing or asking for forgiveness

This is one of those ideas that seems to make so much sense to me, but that for many reasons is not as easy a sell as it appears on the surface.

It reminds me of Tom Deans’ great book, Willing Wisdom, in which he implores people to share the contents of their will with their beneficiaries. I get it, I love the idea, I encourage people to do so as well, but at the same time, I also know that he gets a whole heck of a lot of pushback whenever he gives a speech about the subject.

Now the title of this post mentions simplifying complexity, and that is where I want to go now, so please join me. This was its own separate blog post idea, but I often need to combine ideas because I seem to get way more than 52 ideas a year, and I vowed to keep these to once a week.

Whenever someone dies, the remaining family members are left to sort things out and move on. We have all heard stories about people who died without a will, or before ever having taken the time to put their proverbial affairs in order.

Let’s call that one “Simple Life, Complex Death”.

There is an alternative, but it takes some work, some foresight, and some courage. It’s all about doing the complex work up front, while you are still alive and of sound mind.

If you are willing to share the information about your decisions with your loved ones, you can make things as complex as you like. You do the hard work yourself, and then when you are gone, everything will be so much simpler for your family.

My father liked complexity more than most. He bought a farm as a retirement project, then bought more land from neighbours over time. When he was diagnosed with cancer, I feared that I would be stuck with the task of disposing of all these different acreages.

One of the greatest gifts he ever gave me was the fact that he sold the farm, in no less than four separate transactions to four different buyers before he died. All I had to do was go to the notary’s office four times to sign the papers and pick up the cheques.

But of course before doing any of that, we had a family meeting, during which we discussed whether or not we wanted to keep the farm in the family.

We knew what he wanted us to do after he died, because the day of his diagnosis, he went home and hand wrote a multipage letter to us, which I later dubbed his “manifesto”.

Little did I know it at the time, it was his Ethical Will.

During subsequent family meetings, we have referred to it often, mostly early on, less so now.

With Father’s Day around the corner, I wanted to say, “Thanks again Dad”.


Growing and sustainable family business

When your Greatest Desire is also your Greatest Fear

This week I was privileged to be invited to a lunchtime speech by David Lansky of the Family Business Consulting Group. Lansky is based in Chicago, but being a Montreal native, the good folks at Pembroke Private Wealth Management invited him to speak to their clients in Montreal and Toronto.

His presentation was entitled “Family Wealth Continuity”, and I went into it fully expecting to nod my head up and down throughout, and he did not disappoint. I am not a big “note taker” when I attend presentations, preferring to be fully attentive lest I miss something while I am jotting stuff down.

Occasionally though, someone will say something that I just have to write down, and then it almost always gets turned into a blog post.

So here is, from page 10 of his Powerpoint deck:

“What benefactors most want…they also most fear.”

Wow. I had never heard anyone put it that way. Let’s walk our way through this a bit.

People work hard to create wealth for their family. We all know many families who have done an extraordinary job of doing just that. We don’t often ask them why, because the answer seems so obvious.

They work for their wealth so that their family can be happy, have nice things, live in a safe place, go to nice places, have access to great healthcare, and lots of smiliar reasons.

They want their children to have a great life, and very often they don’t want their kids to have to work as hard as they did.

So far, so good. Somewhere along the way, though, especially in families who have done a really good job of creating more wealth than they could ever use in several lifetimes, some doubts creep in, and these parents start too worry about leaving their kids too much money

This brings back a memory of a great quote I recall from a CAFÉ Symposium a couple of years ago. Mike “Pinball” Clemons, a CFL Hall of Famer and winner of Grey Cups as both a player and head coach said, “Make sure that your family members are the beneficiaries of your family business, NOT its victims”.

Sometimes there is “too much wealth”, sometimes there are disputes between family members, sometimes both of these things are present, along with a host of other complicating factors.

Unfortunately, the fact that wealth can be a blessing or a curse will always be with us.

I have been running several questions through a model that I am working on to help explain and simplify things, and its basic elements are What, Why and How.

Allow me to try to demonstrate not only my thoughts on this important topic, but also use the three-stage model.

We start by looking at the What, i.e. what we are trying to do, in simple terms. We are trying to pass our wealth down to our children.

Now, we need to step back and ask ourselves Why we want to do this. So we talk about the things I mentioned off the top, having nice things, living in a nice place, making sure our kids don’t have to worry about money, etc.

Now comes the hard part, the How. At this point we have to look into the future and step forward and figure out all of the details around How we can do What we want to do, and have these details be aligned with the Why we want to do them.

My main point is that families can and do pass wealth down to their children without the fear that other families experience.

The major difference with the families who do that well and many others is that they are very careful with the How, and they take the time to talk with the entire family about the What, and the Why, and the How.

It is not always easy to have these critical conversations, but having them is what separates the successful families from the ones where the fear is justified.

It can be done, but it doesn’t just happen by itself. But then again, nothing important ever does.


Family Business Flashback

Last week I was called upon to do the “good son” thing, and I obliged and brought my mother 6 hours down highway 401 for the funeral of her eldest brother. Meeting up with many cousins that I have lost touch with stirred up long forgotten memories.

The reflections that events bring about are only useful if we take the time to process them, and so thank you for accompanying me on this journey. I will try my best to make this entertaining and educational for you as well, as usual.

The flashback begins in the late 1970’s, when, as a teenager, I began my first summer job, working in the plant of the steel fabrication business that my father founded before I was born. The funeral that I attended last week was for the plant manager, uncle Stu.

My immdediate supervisor that summer was my cousin Mark, from my Dad’s side, and his boss, the plant manager, was my mother’s brother Uncle Stu.

Uncle Stu had initially been a partner with my Dad in the business, but somewhere along the way, during the early days and the struggle to attain profitability, Dad ended up buying out both of his partners.

I was still a kid while this was unfolding, so the details of how things went down are not clear to me, but I can tell you that, decades later, the relationship between these brothers-in-law was never the same.

My mother is a saint to me, and to learn that she was not 100% sold on making the trip to her brother’s funeral says a lot about how their relationship was strained. Going into business with family members can have its drawbacks, especially in the family harmony department.

So during this first week as a teenager in the plant, I soon realized that everyone knew who I was, because my Dad was the big boss. Uncle Stu would walk through the shop at least twice each day, and clearly everyone knew who he was too. His slow, determined gait, coupled with his menacing gaze, were hard to ignore.

Not that Dad’s trips through the plant were easy to miss, but the contrast, in retrospect, was huge. Dad’s pace and style was more “bull in a China shop”, but he was also more likely to stop and talk to someone after catching them doing something right. Of course you never knew if you were getting a compliment or catching hell until he was done.

So here I am, 15 years old, running this huge drill machine, with a whole 5 minutes of training. Everyone knows who I am, I know my cousin Mark and nobody else, except everyone’s bosses, my Uncle Stu and my Dad, who come through every once in a while.

Some seemingly random guy with a beard, a few years older than me (I had just started shaving) stops by to chat with me. I realize a few days later that the guy was my cousin, Uncle Stu’s son, Fred, who I had never seen with a beard until then.

So all these thoughts are going through my head during the funeral, while Fred is eulogizing his Dad, and I am sitting next to Uncle Stu’s youngest sister, my Mom, who is surely reflecting on their shared and complex past.

But the biggest flashback was still to come, after the ceremony, when guests were invited to share a bite to eat and continue sharing memories. Mom had another brother and a sister, both of whom have passed on, who owned neighbouring cottages on a lake, where we often visited them during the summers of my childhood.

Jim, a decade or so older than me, who had married one of my cousins, reminded me that as a youngster, I had confided in him at the cottage by the lake, that “I don’t wanna do what my Dad does”.

I do not remember sharing that thought with him, or anyone else for that matter. But I do remember thinking it, many, many times.

Family business. Plenty of drama for the whole family.

Rest in peace Uncle Stu.

 Does Father REALLY Know Best?

The expression “Father knows best” probably came before the TV show of the same name. But I could be wrong. I always thought that Yogi Berra was a nickname based on the cartoon character, but now I am pretty sure it was the other way around.

The subject of fatherly advice came to me this week as I listened to a presentation by Norman Hardie, a well-known wine maker, at a Toronto client dinner hosted by JC Clark Investments.

I was invited to the dinner by the good folks at JC Clark as their guest despite not yet being a client of theirs. Not only that, I was lucky enough to be seated next to the speaker during dinner, and learned a good deal about the art and science of vinification.

Hardie talked at length about the way he got where he is today, which was by no means a straight line, and how many times he relied on the same pieces of advice that he had received from his father.

His Dad had counseled him to always learn from the best, and to never be afraid to ask for help. Norm related a handful of occasions when these principles helped him make key advances in his career.

This also had me flash back to a time about a decade ago, when I was watching the stock market on a daily basis, and therefore also reading publications directed at investors like myself.

My favourite read was Richard Russell’s Dow Theory Letters. He was already well into his 80’s when I discovered him, and I can’t tell you how often he related the story about how he got started in finance.

His father, he repeated often, told him to go work for the banks. When he asked “why?” his Dad replied, “Because that’s where the money is”. This man then spent over 6 decades of his career based on some early key fatherly advice.

These days I have been putting some of my father’s advice into practice, and interestingly enough, there are some similarities with his words of wisdom and those of Norman Hardie’s dad.

I recall when we went from being a steel fabricator that sent almost all of its finished products out to others to be hot-dip glavanized, to Dad’s ambitious move to design and build our own in-house galvanizing facility.

Steel fabrication is something he knew well, having apprenticed in that in Austria as a teenager. But setting up a plant around a huge tank to melt zinc (to over 800 degrees) to then dip the finished pieces of steel into a bath of liquid zinc was quite another endeavour.

One of his first moves was to join the American Hot Dip Galvanizers Association, an organization that connected him to many experts who knew the field much better than him, and he in turn learned from some of the best.

This idea of collaborating, getting help from others and in turn sharing knowledge with a larger group was something that came naturally to him.

I have followed that path myself over recent years. Just because I had worked in my own family’s business, did that automatically make me qualified to consult to other families in business? Some people do just that, but for me it was not nearly enough.

I have joined the Family Firm Institute, the Purposeful Planning Institute, the Canadian Association of Family Enterprise, and of course the Institute of Family Enterprise Advisors. In addition, I have taken courses in conflict resolution, coaching, and Bowen family systems theory.

Dad’s advice has been serving me well recently.

You may not have noticed that the men in the stories above were all following their fathers’ advice in situations where Dad had nothing personal to gain from their sons’ actions.

Unfortunately, in business families, there are still too many occasions where Dads (and Moms) give their children advice, but in many ways that advice is self-serving.

“Go find something you love to do” and “come and work for me, you will love it” may sound similar to the person speaking, but to the listener there is a huge difference.

Yes, huge.



Tell it to the Judge (Part 2 of 2)

Last week my intention was to write a single blog about this subject, but then things didn’t go as planned, because there was just too much “stuff” I needed to cover to do the topic justice.

So I cut things off at a point where I was hitting my self-imposed word limit (around 700) and figured that sleeping on the subject for another 6 days would truly inspire me to wrap things up in a fantastic crescendo finish. We shall see.

At the end of part 1, Tell it to the Judge (Part 1 of 2) we had begun to look at how parents are judged.

My argument was that the only people who are truly in a position to judge the parenting abilities of anyone, are their “subjects”, i.e. the children that they raised.

In the same way that my sisters and I are the best possible judges of the parenting abilities of our mother and father, my parenting abilities can only really be properly judge by my children

Assuming you buy into my argument (thanks!), let’s look at some of the issues this also brings up. The first one is the timing. When are they actually in a position to judge?

An infant will judge Mommy and Daddy by how quickly they change a soiled diaper or give them a bottle when they are hungry. Many years later in life, they may judge their parents by what has been left to them in the parents’ last will and testament.

That potentially leaves a LOT of time in between, and there are many points where their opinions of their parents can and will change.

Many people agree that the teenage years are the most challenging for parents, and so asking teens to judge and evaluate their parents could lead to some interesting responses.

A lot of adults will look back at the time when they were teens as a period when they did not appreciate their parents enough. It takes a certain amount of maturity to fully get the fact that discipline imposed by parents pays off in the long run.

By the time you hit the point where you realize that you need to worry more about your parents than they do about you, you are certainly mature enough to judge the job that they did raising you.

So what is this fascination that I have with judgement of parents all about? Allow me to try to sum it up. I believe that the “job” of parents is to take parenting seriously, and to make rasing their children a top priority in their lives.

As an advisor to business families, I get to meet with many people who have made running and growing their business a higher priority than parenting. I also believe that many of the people who have put business above family will eventually regret it.

The book I wrote in 2014, SHIFT your Family Business, had this as its secondary title: “Stop working IN your family business, Start working ON your business family. It is kind of my “go to” message.

The good news is that it is never too late to make that shift. But it does require courage. Running a business also takes courage, but sometimes it is easier to be courageous in the cutthroat world of business than amongst your family.

I don’t know why that is, but I just feel like I see it too often for it not to be true.

It also takes courage to ask your children to give you feedback on your parenting. I know that most parents will never ask their kids this type of question, and I suppose some people would call me crazy for even suggesting it.

I like to think that I am doing a good job as a parent, but if I never ask my kids what they think, how will I know?

Why should I care? Because I take my job as a parent seriously. And their feedback can help me do it better. But do I have the courage to ask them? Stay tuned to this space for the answer.


Tell it to the Judge (Part 1 of 2)

Lately the subject of “judging” has been recurring in my life and thoughts, and therefore also in my blogs. Since there are so many ways to look at judges and judgement, my view is that discussion of this subject will always be worthwhile.

Three weeks ago, we looked at being “judicious” versus being “judgemental” in the blog Judgement, Not Judgement. A couple of weeks prior, I related the wonderful experience of serving as a judge in the Family Enterprise Case Competition, in Vermont, a Global Hub? What the FECC?

There will also be an upcoming blog about a court case, featuring a real judge. I actually went and sat in the courtroom at a murder trial for a day, a few months ago. It was a case of patricide that made national headlines, and I am looking forward to sharing that experience with readers.

This week’s post is about who gets to judge, and in what context. Pope Francis, before getting involved in the US Presidential campaign, was becoming known for saying the phrase “Who am I to judge?” when asked about various people in various circumstances.

Some people were not happy with this seeming abdication of the “responsibility” to pass judgement on what is right and what is wrong, but I think that he may be on to something.

So if even someone as high up the totem pole as the Pope is able to withhold judgement, who does get to judge?

As is so often the case, it is all about the context. One of my favourite mantras is “Give me context”. This is where our friends the economists would substitute, “It depends”.

So let’s leave behind the warm and fuzzy “listen without judgement”, “who am I to judge”, and “stop being so judgemental” and move to what is ultimately THE context that I take closest to heart, that of a business family.

In Parenting and Family Business Leadership, we looked at how people play the dual roles of business leader and parent. Today I want to extend that concept to how these separate roles are judged as being fulfilled successfully or not.

The easier place to begin is with the business. It seems pretty simple to judge the performance of a business, because there are a multitude of quantitative factors that everyone and anyone can easily see.

Is the business profitable, is it growing, are its customers satisfied? How many people does it employ, how many locations does it have, how many countries do they do business in. The list is literally endless.

So it is relatively easy to judge a business, but does that mean it is just as easy to judge the business leader? I think not. Now it can get trickier, because when you want to look at the personal leadership qualities of the person leading the business, the things that people consider become much more qualitative in nature.

Let’s jump over to the family side before we run out of racetrack. The dual roles of business leader and parent are difficult to balance, most people will agree with that.

But how do we judge the role of the parent? As a parent, when I observe other parents dealing with their children, it is sometimes hard NOT to judge them, at least internally, and compare how they handle a situation with how we would have done so.

Ultimately, the best judges of anyone’s parenting abilities are their children.

That is the biggest, deepest thought that has struck me recently, and I haven’t seen it, read it, or heard it anywhere.

If, and it is a big “if”, parenting is something that you wish to do well, the only true judges that matter in your evaluation are your own children. Their judgement is the only one that can ever matter.

Of course this now gets us into so many other questions, especially around the timing and methods of getting their evaluation and judgement of us, their parents.

We will pick this up again next week. Meanwhile, hug your kids and try to stay on their good side.


Brainstorming your Family Legacy

The word “legacy” can conjure up a variety of thoughts and opinions, because everyone has their own take on what it is, as well as what it should be.  When you add “family” to it, and raise the subject of “family legacy”, there is even more disparity in the responses evoked.

I recently took part in a training program at the Canadian Institute for Conflict Resolution, during which we took turns leading a group brainstorming exercise. Given free reign to use the subject of our choice, I decided to pose the question “what is family legacy?” to see what I might learn from my small group.

As someone who thinks about (and talks about) this subject on a regular basis, I thought it would be interesting to hear what a group of strangers, most of whom did not come from a business family, might have to offer on the topic.

They were all between 25 and 55, most worked for the government (this was in Ottawa), and I am reasonably certain that none of them came from what one might term a “legacy family”.

The exercise was a success, insofar as I filled up five sheets of flipcharts and stuck them to the wall, with around 40 different words that came up from the group.

When brainstorming, one of the main rules is that there is no debating what is a good or bad suggestion, it’s just an open “brain dump” where what one person blurts out will hopefully tweak something in the brain of another, and spur even more ideas.

Some of the expected and positive words that came out were:

–         Traditions; Reputation; Loyalty

–         Money; Memories; Trust

–         Supportive; Caring; Community

Of course there were also some negative ideas that surfaced, such as:

–         Dysfunction; Limiting; Stressful

–         Gossip; Meddling; Conflicts

–         Secrets; Façades; Bullshit

A brainstorming exercise is normally just the first step in a longer facilitated process, designed to get people working together, overcome inertia, and put a bunch of the pieces of the puzzle on the table to get going.

The real work comes next, when you take the ideas gathered and start organizing them, debating their merits, and figuring out what you are going to do with that information.

Working with a real family, the follow up question, “what is OUR family legacy?” would have been an obvious next step.

There is a big difference between personal legacy and family legacy, but when the founder of a business family is still around, a large portion of the family legacy naturally comes directly from that person.

In order to create a true family legacy, the key is to start when the founder can still contribute, and in fact OWN the process.

The family needs to capture the major values, traits, and principles of that person and then figure out how to make sure that they are preserved and transferred down to the following generations. If this is done correctly at this point, the succeeding generations will then have the task of maintaining the legacy that has been established.

Of course none of this just happens all by itself.  Someone needs to care enough to first stop and think about it, talk about it, figure out what needs to be done, decide who needs to be involved, and get things moving forward.

In the long run, the family must also figure out how they are going to make decisions together, how they are going to communicate, and how they are going to solve problems together. All of this generally falls under the heading of “family governance”.

If you are the founder, what you do before you go is really all you can do. Once you are gone, it will all be in the hands of others. If you want to leave a family legacy, building the financial assets is just the first part, and some say the easier part.

Keeping the family together after you are gone, wow, that’s the tough part.  It can be done, but like I said above, it won’t happen all by itself.

Essentially, you need to stop working in your family business, and start working on your business family.  Intrigued?  Check out: It is my #1 book recommendation.  I also like the website.

Need help getting started?

Né pour un moyen pain?

Il existe une expression québécoise, “né pour un petit pain”, qui est assez bien connue, je crois. Mais peut-être que je me trompe.

C’est peut-être tout simplement parce que je me retrouve souvent dans des discussions entourant l’argent et les façons dont les familles le traitent, que je l’entends plus souvent que d’autres.

Ce que je peux vous dire c’est que l’attitude québécoise envers l’argent est effectivement distincte de celle qu’on voit ailleurs au Canada et aux États-Unis.

Venir d’une famille anglophone (mais quand même assez à l’aise en français) me donne une perspective différente que je remarque assez souvent, et que j’aime partager de temps en temps.

J’écris une grande majorité de mes blogues en anglais, puisque je considère que mon marché est “nord-américain”, et parce que je m’exprime beaucoup plus facilement en anglais.

Je suis un gars du West Island, marié à une femme de l’Abitibi, donc nos deux ados sont assez biculturels, en plus d’être bilingues.

Quand je décide d’écrire un blogue en français, c’est souvent quand je veux traiter un sujet entourant notre réalité québécoise, et qui intéressera moins mes lecteurs anglophones.

Cette semaine, j’ai lu un article dans l’Actualité sur Mitch Garber (Mitch Garber: le «dragon» mordu de Montréal) que j’ai trouvé assez intéressant.

Il mentionne que les québécois n’aiment pas parler d’argent, mais que lui, il aime en parler. Il disait aussi qu’il voyait cela un peu comme son devoir, d’habituer le monde d’en parler, puisqu’on en parle ailleurs.

Je suis d’accord avec lui, et je trouve son attitude rafraichissante. Cet automne, il co-présidera la campagne annuelle de Centraide, et son but est de motiver les plus fortunés à augmenter leurs dons et de promouvoir la philanthropie, en général, au Québec.

Voilà une autre partie de notre société distincte en ce qui concerne l’argent.

Les familles fortunées se lancent de plus en plus dans des activités philanthropiques depuis un certain temps, surtout aux États-Unis. Au Canada, ça commence aussi à se développer. Au Québec, il semble qu’on tire encore de l’arrière.

Les entrepreneurs québécois sont souvent moins intéressés par l’idée de transmettre leur entreprise à leurs enfants, et ceux qui vendent leur compagnie, ne sont pas aussi aptes à créer un bureau de patrimoine familial (family office) pour assurer la continuité de leur richesse.

Je ne suis pas en train de dire que ce qui se fait chez nous est inférieur à ce qu’on voit ailleurs, mais en parlant avec des familles d’ici et d’ailleurs, il y a beaucoup de différences, et ce n’est pas seulement la langue qui change.

Nous pouvons apprendre beaucoup en regardant ce qui se fait dans les autres régions et pays. Au bout de la ligne, chaque famille prendra les décisions que ses membres jugent appropriées.

Éventuellement, avec la mondialisation, les réseaux sociaux, l’immigration, les familles biculturelles, ainsi de suite, des changements viendront, et les différences entre ce qui se fait ici et ailleurs devraient diminuer.

En terminant, j’aimerais clarifier le titre de ce blogue. J’ai choisi “Né pour un moyen pain?” parce que les changements qui viendront ne se feront assurément pas très vite, et nous n’irons pas d’un “petit pain” à un “gros pain” si vite que ça.

Ça pourrait même s’échelonner sur plusieurs générations. Mais pourquoi ne pas commencer avec la vôtre?