Each week in this space I write about business families and families of wealth, and I usually prefer to emphasize the family and its members, over the business and its assets.
This is in sharp contrast to much of the focus, not only by the professional advisors to such families, but often too many of the family members themselves.
Today I’m going back to a format used pretty frequently in the past, the old “Five things you should know…”, by looking at 5 Ways to Invest in your Enterprising Family.
Post-secondary education is certainly one simple way for families to invest in their rising generation members. As my grandfather liked to say, anything that you can put between your two ears, nobody can ever take away from you.
Some families have an urge to get their kids into key roles in the business ASAP, with the attitude that they don’t “need” to go to school any longer, because they’ll learn everything they need to know at work.
My bias is to look at everything with the longest time lens possible, so while encouraging young family members to go to college may delay their entry into the business, they will bring much more to the table, including more self-confidence, with a university degree a few years later.
When looking for ways to invest in the family as a whole, organizing a family retreat can be an interesting option. Getting the whole family together at a different location (not at the office, and not at home or the cottage) can be done in many ways.
The important things to remember are to make sure that the activities and subjects covered will vary, and will certainly not be “all business”, and to make sure that many voices will be heard over the course of the retreat.
If the plan is just to have the parents download information and their wishes onto the next generation, you may as well not do it.
Please see Geography 101: “Where” Matters for more on this.
A Series of Family Meetings
Even better than a single retreat would be to begin to hold family meetings on a regular basis. This could be done annually, more frequently or even less often, depending on the size of the family and other matters around complexity.
These meetings can take place at a home or office, but ideally would be done in “neutral” locations most of the time.
The central reason for holding these meetings is to “force” the family to come together to talk about important matters that would otherwise not get discussed.
Presumably not everyone works in the family’s operations and these meetings are a great opportunity to share what’s going on, even with those who you may not think really care. (Hint: they actually DO).
Family Business Conference
Families ready to take the “next step” can look for family business conferences where they can learn from other families facing similar circumstances.
I can almost guarantee that many family members who attend one of these types of conferences for the first time will have the following reaction: “Wow, I never realized that so many other people are experiencing the same issues as we are. It’s nice to know we aren’t alone”.
Hire a Family Facilitator
Now you may see me coming when I suggest that a family may want to hire an outsider to guide them down the road to figuring out all the issues relating to their alignment and governance development, but I already know that very few families will ever go this far.
As mentioned in My Notes from a Great Keynote a small percentage of business families do actually hire an outside consultant, and it is analogous to hiring someone to give you private lessons.
This blog is about investing in your family, and hiring this person will cost you some money of course, but the real investment will need to be each family member’s time in the meetings and other activities that you all undertake together.
The facilitator you hire can become the architect or project manager of the family’s journey to creating and implementing their family governance plans.
As it turns out, the five ways I’ve outlined above actually flow in a more or less logical progression. You don’t need to follow them in order though, just get started anywhere!