Caring, Mattering and Meaning in Family Business
This week I’m going to stay with my recent philosophical slant and write about three related subjects I’ve come across, that all deal with the human aspect of business families.
I Don’t Care How Much You Know
I have some “go to” expressions that I’ve picked up over the years and I sometimes have a tendency to think that they’re universally known.
Then when I pull one out in conversation, I get a reaction that makes me realize how useful it really is.
I used one recently regarding the way experts are sometimes dismissed by their target clients as being too much of a “know-it-all”.
The expression I love for that is:
“They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”
Stakeholder Lives Matter
A few weeks later, I was reading the weekly newsletter of the Family Firm Institute, The Practitioner, which featured a piece aimed at trustees who serve on boards of directors, by Patricia Annino.
The following quote jumped out at me:
“Human nature tells us that if you can’t matter in a positive way, you will matter in a negative way because what is most important is to matter”.
I’m not sure that I ever heard it put that way before, but it really struck me.
The next sentence is also worth quoting, because I don’t think I could paraphrase it any better:
“Human nature also tells us that most people strive for recognition. Having voices heard and questions answered are critical to the ongoing dynamic.”
Part of the “One Big Happy Family”
Being part of a business family can be tricky at times.
There’s a group of people, with a common family bond, each with different interests, talents and abilities.
There are also lots of roles to play, in the business, in the family, and for some people, in both.
And at the end of the day, every single one of them
wants to, and even needs to, matter, in some way.
Purpose and Meaning
A few weeks ago I heard Kevin McCarthy, author of a number of books about “Purpose”, speak at a conference about family wealth.
He had a great quote right off the top of his presentation that struck me too. Here it is:
“The Enemy of Wealth is Meaninglessness”
For some reason another expression that came to mind immediately was this one:
“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s apathy”
I don’t know that I fully agree with the word “enemy” in McCarthy’s quote, but I know what he was getting at.
And that’s the fact that people without meaning will quickly destroy wealth, if they have access to it. So in that sense I guess “enemy” works.
But if we look at some opposites, would that make “meaningfulness” the “friend of wealth”?
I’m not sure I’d want to have to make the case for the correlation between meaning and wealth.
Wealth OR Meaning?
What happens if we look at the question of which one people would choose, if offered a meaningful life without wealth or a life of wealth without meaning.
I’m tempted to guess that many would quickly opt for the wealth without giving the question much thought.
I’m also inclined to think that many people who made that choice would soon regret it.
And For Your Offspring?
Sometimes things can be clearer to us if we remove ourselves from the equation, and instead ask what we would choose for our children instead.
So if you could offer your children a life with lots of meaning, or one with lots of financial wealth, which would you choose for them?
Of course, most people would hope that their kids would end up with both, but I think that too many people likely believe that if you have the financial wealth, the rest will take care of itself.
Not So Fast
I know for a fact that there are many members of families that are very comfortable financially who do not feel like they have a lot of meaning in their lives.
Those same people likely also don’t feel like they matter that much to their family.
And if that family has advisers who are great at their specialty, those family members likely don’t care how much they know.
Financial capital is always the biggest focus, but families should worry much more about their human capital.