Families have been around seemingly forever, and some family businesses go back centuries, but the words we use to describe and discuss matters in the field continue to evolve.
Family business as a field of study is still in its first handful of decades, and interest in it continues to grow.
Today I want to add my personal take on a few of the more important concepts, while hopefully updating some definitions for 21st century realities.
After each, there is a link to a previous post in which the subject was also discussed in this space.
Families typically hate discussing “succession planning”. Well, nobody wanted to buy “death insurance” either, so, “Life Insurance” was born, and has become an undeniable success.
So it shall hopefully be for “Continuity Planning” too. It is far more pleasant to think about, talk about, and plan what is going to “continue” (i.e. stay the same) than it is to plan for things “after I die”.
I use “Family Continuity” rather than “Business Continuity” because while the famiy and the business are intertwined, my preferred focus is on the family. I will leave the business continuity matters to other professionals, who are in abundant supply.
Most family businesses start small, and as the business grows, more family members can become involved. Other lines of business may follow, as well as more of a focus on the family than on any one business. The family business morphs into a “Business Family”
As this Business Family attitude and behaviour takes hold, in another generation or so, if all goes well, there is a critical mass of assets and people to become what many aspire to be, a multi-generation Enterprising Family.
Many families dream of this, few will achieve it. But you can’t get there if you don’t understand this first.
There are many definitions of legacy. I like to think about it as “what will we be known for and remembered for”. I say “we” because I strongly feel that it takes a family, through multiple generations, to truly carry out a legacy.
If you want the family legacy, getting the family aligned is a key. Getting them all aligned requires dialogue. Notice I did not say “monologue”?
Two-way conversations, over an extended period of time (months and years) to get everyone on the “same page”, are a must.
There are roles and responsibilities for everyone in an enterprising family, and the clearer these are, the better. But they cannot be dictated from above.
Family alignment must be developed from within.
“Family Continuity Blueprint”
One of the best ways to get everyone on the same page, is to literally get everything on one page.
I have developed a “Family Continuity BluePrint” to do just that. I have shared it on a limited basis with others working in this space, and the feedback is overwhelmingly positive.
It is my own derivation of the “Business Model Canvas”, designed just for enterprising families, who are concerned with building lasting continuity, to ensure their legacy.
Of course any good plan will need qualified advisors to help set it up and to execute it. Combining family, business, and ownership means that it is unlikely that a one-size-fits-all advisor will be found.
Your best bet may be to find one person with the “multi-disciplinary fluency” to hold it all together (thanks to Dean Fowler for coining the term, and John A. Warnick for helping propogate it)
This overused term has almost become meaningless. If you don’t trust them, they should not be your advisor. If you are ever concerned that the advice they are giving you serves them more than you, that’s a huge red flag.
Once you have made the decision that you are an enterprising family, and you want to work on family continuity, to ensure your legacy, that’s a big step.
Then it’s time to work on family alignment, using a BluePrint, to get everyone on the same page, literally. Getting help from advisors with multi-disciplinary fluency is key, and so is making sure that their first concern is your family, NOT selling you a product or pleasing their boss.
Ready to start?