family sitting on a living room table

Instituting Family Governance, Incrementally

I just attended the 4th Annual Conference of the Institute for Family Governance (IFG) in NYC, and once again, it was a great experience worth sharing here.

Having attended the previous three as well, I noted to the organizers that I thought this was the best one yet, because it featured the most real live examples of families who have instituted governance in their families.

As I reflected on the stories we heard from and about these families, it also struck me that they all got where they are now by taking it one step at a time, i.e., incrementally.

 

Welcome to this “Whole New World”

The IFG annual conference has been a great place for people to be introduced to what for many is a “whole new world”, one where multigenerational families have made the significant efforts necessary to create systems, methods, structures and procedures to make sure that the wealth that they’ve created will continue to serve their families for generations.

Over the years, I’ve met many people who advise such families, but who often only get to see one aspect of how this all works for their clients, i.e. the part affected by their professional specialty (eg. law, tax, trusts, etc.)

This year I shared information about the conference with a colleague I had recently met at a coaching training workshop, who, after learning of my family business focus, had mentioned to me that she was working on her family’s first attempt at a family charter.

I’m so glad that she attended, because she got to see this “whole new world” that she was now entering with her family, but did so surrounded by a whole bunch of people who are already so comfortable in this world.

 

Each Family Is Unique, So Is Their Governance

Every story we heard about a family was different from every other one, because each family has their own history, composition, priorities, and desires.

The beauty of such a conference is that we got to see glimpses of different aspects of what some families have done, and we can learn so much from others, even when circumstances are very different from ones that we are faced with.

Even though each family is unique, there were some things that they all had in common.

 

Intentionality, Commitment, and Outside Help

We heard from a number of professionals who work with families on governance matters, who related stories about the process and all of the hard work that families need to put in to make governance work.

We also heard from a number of family members from such families, and it became clear that this work requires a lot of commitment from a large number of people in order to function.

And when we heard from family members themselves, they typically had high praise for the professionals that they worked with from outside the family, without whom they would not have come so far.

 

A Resilient Rising Generation

During the lunch break, attendees had a choice of roundtable discussions that they could attend, each lead by one or two facilitators selected by the organisers.

I co-lead the table about “Communication and Resilient Beneficiaries” with colleague Rebecca Meyer of Relative Solutions.  Some of the discussions we had are worth sharing, as we had some great input form advisors and family members alike.

Allowing your offspring to make their own mistakes, and resisting the urge to go and fix things for them was a common theme.

There was also lots of talk about normalizing failure, by having the leading generation share stories about their own mistakes and challenges that they faced, with which their children are not always familiar.

 

Lots of Effort, But Well Worth It

In the end, governance is mostly about communication, and families should be looking for more opportunities to talk and share experiences.

As a family’s wealth moves from the control of one generation to the next, they’ll all need to learn how to work together for the greater good of the whole family.

This doesn’t necessarily come naturally to all families, so starting small and learning together is usually a good idea.

All the families mentioned at the conference have been at it for at least a few years and they’re all continuing to improve and refine what they’re doing together, incrementally, but surely.

Is it time for your family to get started?