The Real Secret to Success for Families
As a child growing up in Montreal, home of the famous Montreal Canadiens hockey team, I heard the word “forum” hundreds of times before I had any idea what that word really meant.
You see, the arena where the Canadiens played their home games for the first 3 decades of my life was called the Montreal Forum.
As a child, when my Dad managed to get tickets to a game, it was always a treat to go there, because the team was always very good and the games were always sold out, so tickets were tough to come by.
What Other Forums Are There?
It was a bit of an eye-opener when I later learned that there was also a Forum in Los Angeles. I recall thinking that they had “stolen” our name.
Of course this blog isn’t about arenas, it’s about families and the challenges they face in trying to transition their business or their wealth to the next generation.
And so you might be wondering what a forum has to do with that.
I hope that you’re intrigued and that you’ll always remember this idea, in part because of the way I’ve presented it here.
More Than Just a Meeting
Before we go much farther, let’s look at a definition that came up when I Googled “forum definition”.
“a place, meeting, or medium where ideas and views on a particular issue can be exchanged”
Many people who work with business families profess that the single most important thing such families should do is to make sure that they have family meetings.
I agree that having family meetings is very important, and I want to go a step or two further.
What I’m suggesting is that more than just having meetings with family members, you should strive to have family forums.
The Importance of Open Discussion
Looking at other definitions of “forum”, I came upon one that included the following:
a public meeting place for open discussion and a medium of open discussion or expression of ideas
When I talk to clients or potential clients about these meetings, or forums (fora?) I always stress the importance of making sure that all voices are heard.
The absolute worst way to have a family meeting is to have one person, typically a guy named Dad, telling the family what he expects.
Monologues of any kind are the best way to kill any family meeting.
Striving to be a Family of Affinity
The bottom line is that you want to make sure that any family meeting is something that all family members will look forward to attending.
The kinds of families who are successful at transitioning their wealth to the next generation are ones who enjoy being together. Some refer to them as “tribal families”.
Jay Hughes sometimes uses the term Family of Affinity. Just for fun I Googled that term and found this:
People with or without blood ties or legal ties, feel they belong together and want to self define themselves as a family.
There’s a lot there and for many families this is a pretty high hurdle
Discussing Things That Matter
I want to share one other tidbit I found while looking at definitions, before closing with what may be the most important item.
Forum: a meeting in which people can talk about a problem or matter
There aren’t a lot of words there, but they say a lot.
“Can talk about” makes me think about how important it is that everyone feel safe sharing their viewpoints, and things that matter means we need to discuss more than just the weather or last night’s game.
When Is the Next Forum?
Having teased something very important above and quickly running out of race track, here we go.
A Family Forum is NOT a “one and done” deal.
You need to continue to have them, over and over again. Maybe you do it once a year, maybe more often
But you need to make this a regular thing; it needs to become a habit.
Family members need to learn what kinds of things they can bring up at these meetings, and then as they learn about each other, they will need to revisit subjects again.
Always schedule the next forum before everyone leaves. And if you can get a few of them involved in planning the next one, that’s even better.