Since 2014, one of the highlights of my year has been a trip to the annual conference of the Family Firm Institute each October.
It recently wound down for this year, and for a change I didn’t have to fly anywhere or check into a hotel. Alas, it was held virtually for the first time, and I’d be lying if I said it was virtually the same.
Oh well, all we can do is do our best, and I was still able to consume a huge amount of content relevant to those who inhabit the family enterprise space like me.
Worldwide Leaders Coming to Share
This space can often feel like a real niche, and so in order to find a critical mass of others who do similar work, a global network is actually almost a requirement.
While family businesses dominate the economy of almost every country on the planet, the vast majority remain typically small enterprises, who don’t necessarily require much special attention.
At the larger end of the spectrum, however, where we look at multi-generational family dynasties, spanning several countries, held up by complex family groups, the needs of families do warrant special attention and specialized professionals.
The Rising Generation as a Focus
There were a couple dozen presentations over two days, and often two sessions running concurrently, so there was literally something for everyone present.
There were over 300 people registered, from dozens of countries and six continents, and while cultural variations in the family enterprise world exist, there are more common elements present, making global sharing worthwhile.
One theme I noted was a focus on the rising generation in families. There were sessions on family culture, family engagement and family learning, that all spoke to the importance of getting the younger family members interested and involved.
There was talk of “values based investing” that brought all generations to the table, and a focus on having younger family members get their “Operator’s Licence” to begin running things in the family business too.
Complex Family Dynamics Always at Play
Aside from the focus on a particular generation, there was also a good deal of discussion around complex family dynamics that never seem to be far away when talking about family owned and operated enterprises.
There were sessions on family meetings, ethical dilemmas in families, and mediation for families who have conflicts that are difficult to resolve.
There was even some reflection for advisors to consider how comfortable we are with conflict, so we can assess whether or not we are the best person to serve our clients in such cases.
There was a great session on mental incapacity that left me with some great take-aways.
Repeated Messaging for my Own Good
As part of a number of different organisations that serve parts of this field, I’m privileged to cross paths with a number of great leaders who tirelessly share their thoughts in various forums every year.
The messages can feel a bit repetitive at times, but I’ve learned that even though I’ve heard someone on a subject before, I still learn something by attending again, because surely I didn’t catch everything the first time through.
The first example was Jim Grubman on mental incapacity. I’ve heard Jim discuss it before, but this time something really stuck with me.
We’ve all known people who’ve begun to lose their ability due to age-related mental decline, and it can cause enormous complexity for a family to deal with.
Grubman highlighted part of the reason for this, and it hit home for me.
Legal, Medical, Business, Emotional, and Ethical Views
The reason they are so complex is that they are viewed differently through a variety of different lenses.
A person whose mental decline has begun raises issues in law, medicine, business, family emotions and ethics.
No wonder these things are so hard to deal with!
Dennis Jaffe Delivers Again
A few weeks ago I wrote about Dennis Jaffe in Legacy Families Rely on a Generative Alliance. He was the closing speaker at FFI, and even though I’ve seen him present many times, I still got something new out of it.
I was also pleased to have been featured myself, as Dr. Mariana Martinez and I kicked things off during the first day’s early morning session with Bowen: From Theory to Practice. Thanks to all those who gave me great feedback!
Looking forward to FFI 2021 in London next year; fingers crossed that it will be in person!