Bulb light

Family Governance: From Filaments to LED’s

Family Governance: From Filaments to LED’s

When it comes to “Family Governance”, there aren’t many bigger fans than me.

I’ve written several blog posts specifically on the subject on this site, and there’s even a chapter in my book, Shift your Family Business, titled “Governance, Ugh!”

That exclamation –ugh- makes it seem like I don’t like governance, but in the book’s context, it’s clear that I do.

For any family to have a realistic chance of their wealth surviving over generations, they’ll absolutely require some form of governance.

 

Family Constitution? Yes, but…

The form and structure of that governance, as well as how it evolves over time, is where all the many important questions and decisions come into play, of course.

My advice is to always start small and take it slowly.

You’re looking for a durable “solution” to last generations, so there should be no reason to rush something through in weeks or even months.

One place that I would almost never choose to

begin is with the writing of a family constitution.

And that’s especially true if it’s one dictated by the wealth creator and patriarch, by himself, without consulting any other family members.

 

Misguided Ideas

One of the peer groups in which I participate with other family business and wealth advisors recently tackled such a case.

Here’s a bit of the background provided by a colleague I’ll call Nelly.

A family patriarch, “Jack”, who was also the wealth creator, was approaching his 80th birthday, and one of his financial advisors had spoken to him about succession and transition planning.

Somehow the idea of a “family constitution” came up and Jack loved it. He then sat down and began to draft it by himself.

 

How’s That Working Out For You?

As Jack shared his progress with family members, he began to become concerned with their lack of enthusiasm.

The financial advisor who initially mentioned the idea of the constitution was way out of his league to be of use to Jack now, but thankfully, he called in Nelly’s firm for help.

As Nelly shared with our peer group, she was slowly encouraging him to involve other family members in the creation of their constitution.

After several repeated suggestions, he actually started to warm up to the idea.

As Nelly shared with us, there was a light bulb going off from time to time, maybe with only “one or two filaments flashing”, but she was starting to get through to him.

 

Input from the Rising Generations

Of course, a couple of filaments do provide some light, which is better than complete darkness.

But it’s 2018, and those bulbs harken back to Thomas Edison and aren’t exactly “current” anymore.

I pointed out that perhaps what they needed here was some LED lighting, not more filaments.

Jack was preparing to leave his wealth to his children and grandchildren, but he was missing out on the opportunity to have them involved at this key stage of planning.

 

For the Family, By the Family

I’m not sure what became of Nelly’s work with Jack and his family, although I suspect it’s ongoing.

I’m not saying that involving the family is simple or easy, because it’s not.

But I am saying that it’s more than

worth the effort when done right.

Jack created the wealth, so he can technically do what he wants with it, and even give it all away to charity.

But he has expressed a desire to pass it on to his family. So what he’s actually trying to do is transform his personal wealth into family wealth.

The best way to do that, is to create some form of governance, for the family, by the family.

 

And What IF He Does It “His” Way?

If Jack rejects Nelly’s ideas and simply ploughs ahead with authoring the constitution himself, I predict one of two results will occur after Jack dies.

If the family gets along and the wealth is structured rather flexibly, the family will make whatever changes they see fit, using his constitution as a mere guideline, which will fade away over time.

Or, more likely, if the family does not get along well, or if the structures are very rigid, the family squabbles will begin right after Jack’s funeral.

Jack has a choice, but I sure hope he listens to Nelly.

Grandpa’s filaments won’t be quite as useful in his grandkids’ world of LED’s.

 

Name tag with prepared written on it

5 Ways FamBiz Rising Gens Can Prepare

5 Ways FamBiz Rising Gens Can Prepare

People in and around family businesses everywhere spend lots of time worrying about the rising generation of the family, wondering if and when they’ll ever be “ready” to take over from their parents.

There are as many variations of the situation as there are families and businesses, but there are some things that many have in common.

Those who are not content to just “wait their turn” can do a lot more than simply “be patient”.

With that in mind, here are…

 

“5 Ways FamBiz Rising Gens Can Prepare”

 

  1. Get Mentored

A mentor is usually someone older than the mentee, typically by more than a decade (and often two or three decades older).

The most important detail for a rising generation family business mentor is that they NOT be the parent, or any family member who is ultimately their boss.

A mentor can be from within the company, or from an outside organization, and will have some life and career experience that can be shared, on an occasional basis, over lunch, coffee or by phone or Skype.

 

  1. Create and Lead a Project

Up-and-coming family members in a business often have difficulty carving out their own leadership abilities, separate from those of their parents.

Creating their own project, either within their department, or as something new and intrapreneurial, is a way for them to show that they are able to make something happen on their own.

Of course they need to do more than just conceive an idea, and actually lead the necessary steps to do the work and bring it to a stage where the project can be deemed an accomplishment.

 

  1. Work on Sibling Unity

Unless the person is an only child, they will need to continue to deal with their sibling relationships for many decades to come.

Whether their siblings are working in the business or not, and even if they seem to display no interest in the business, those relationships should not ever be taken for granted.

Especially when there are siblings who never work for the family company, it behooves the ones who do to continually over-communicate what’s going on.

This should be done as “matter-of-factly” as possible, and never as bragging about one’s accomplishments or complaining about how tough it is to work for the parents.

Siblings may not be part of the business circle, but they are always part of the family circle, and don’t forget that they’re likely long-term ownership circle partners too.

 

  1. Build Your Network

While it is very important to get to know the people from outside the company who currently deal with the leading generation, from bankers, to customers and suppliers, having their own network is also beneficial.

Joining peer groups and making sure that they develop connections in their own age group will pay dividends down the road.

When their turn comes to take the lead on things, they’ll want to be able to call on their own contacts and people that they trust, and these relationships take time to develop.

It’s never too early to begin to cultivate a network of people you know and can trust.

 

  1. Round Yourself Out

Most people come into the family business from a certain specialty like finance, accounting, or marketing.

It is great to have a big strength on which to build your career, but the higher up the organisational ladder you go, the more that you can be a “generalist”, the better.

So if they’re known for their skills in one particular area, it may be a good time to work on building some skills and getting experience in another area where they’re currently less strong.

Once they get to the top, they’ll need to be able to properly relate to everyone, from a position of strength.

 

And Don’t Do This

The five ideas above are some ways that they can begin to take important and useful steps to ensure an eventual smooth transition.

Here is what they probably want to avoid.

  • Complaining to anyone who’ll listen that the current leaders are hanging around too long.
  • Whining that nobody takes them seriously
  • Bad-mouthing key employees
  • Being a part of “the problem” rather than bringing solutions
  • Displaying work habits that make them appear entitled

There are plenty of positive things they can do while they wait, and that includes some of the ideas outlined above.

Good luck!

Nuggets of Gold

Great Nuggets from Denver

Great Nuggets from Denver

Regular readers of this blog know that there’s one annual event on my calendar that I look forward to more that most.

I just got back from Denver, where I spent most of the week trying to milk as much as possible out of the conferences put on by the Purposeful Planning Institute (PPI).

Rendez Vous is the one time each year that I “fill up” with great ideas and input from other members of my “tribe”.

Working with families on the difficult tasks of transitioning their wealth from one generation to the next can be lonely work for some, so getting together with others who do similar work is energizing.

 

One Nugget at a Time

This was my fifth time at Rendez Vous, and after each one in the past I’ve used this blog space to capture and share some of my thoughts and take-aways.

(There are links at the end to those posts if you’re interested.)

For 2018 I’m taking a “random” approach, sharing some nuggets from my notes from at least a dozen of the thought leader speakers and breakout session leaders.

Here goes…

 

– Difficult Subjects: 

From Emily Bouchard, two of the biggest subjects in everyone’s lives are also two of the most difficult to discuss: Money and Death.

This work involves both of them, so it’s no wonder that bridging those subjects with clients is difficult.

But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take up the challenge.

 

– Business Exits:

From John Brown, transitions usually involve owners exiting their business. But the owners want and need to exit on “their own terms”.

If we want to be useful to them, we need to recognize this, and focus clearly on “owner-centric” exit plans.

 

– Financial Transitions

From Susan Bradley, wealth transitions usually present a lot of confusion to those affected. Within that confusion also lies an opportunity.

Each person needs to “figure it out”, and that often necessitates time and help. If we want to help, we need to recognize that everyone figures it out at their own pace.

 

– New Vocabulary

As usual, John A. Warnick, the founder of PPI, had plenty to share with his tribe, including an update on the new vocabulary required to advance how we work with “Legacy Families and Families in Business”.

He’s working to compile, clarify and disseminate a primer on the words we use in this space, to improve our ability to work with such families more consistently.

 

– Five Voices

From Mark Hartnett, I now know about Giant Worldwide’s Five Voices tool, and that based on it, I’m a Connector, as well as a Nurturer.

And my nemesis is the Pioneer, perhaps because that was my Dad’s main voice.

 

– Don’t Try to “Change” Families

From Matt Wesley, I better understand the folly in trying to “change” any family.

Any attempts to “violently homogenize” a family to fit into a particular way of being is bound to fail.

 

– Book Club Benefits and Bird Language

 From Amanda Weitman, I learned that creating a simple “Book Club” within an organization can have benefits far beyond what anyone could ever had predicted in advance.

From Jon Young, I learned that those who master an understanding of bird language also discover the secrets to sensory integration.

 

– Appreciative Inquiry and the Importance of Voting

From Courtney Pullen, I learned how quickly one can go from “I have a problem” to “I AM the problem”, and how appreciative inquiry can help resolve that uncomfortable situation.

From Ian McDermott, I better understand the importance of how I “vote” with my Time, Money and Energy, and that “Trusted Advisors” become so when they “trust themselves”, making them “congruent”.

 

– Adult Development Levels

From Cathy Carroll, following up on Christine Wahl, I now realize that one can only properly advise others up to our own level of adult development.

 

– Purposeful Planning as a Career

From Michael Palumbos’ panel of industry veterans (Bradley and Pullen, plus Bruce DeBoskey and Kristin Keffeler) I know that we need to keep showing up “dynamically”, should avoid billing for our work by the hour, and not expect many referrals from lawyers or CPA’s.

 

– Last But Not Least, Jesus  

From David York, a perennial favourite PPI speaker, I know that Jesus is considered one of the greatest teachers of all time, yet, according to the bible, he asked many more questions than he answered.

And his most frequent question was “What are you looking for?”

If you’re looking for a tribe to support you in this kind of work, come join us in Denver next July.

 

 

My blog posts from previous Rendez Vous:

2017    Sharing Some Rocky Mountain Kool Aid

2016    Sweet Secluded Rendez-Vous 

2015    Rendez-Vous with a Purpose

2014    The Rising Generation in Family Business

2 adults sitting on a couch

Rest in Peace, While You’re Still Alive!

Rest in Peace, While You’re Still Alive!

Every so often I have an “A-Ha” moment as a result of seemingly random discussions that occurred weeks apart.

Writing this blog allows me to process these in some sort of useful way.

Today’s subject is “Peace”, which came up in conversations with my coach, Melissa, even though we typically don’t spend much time on that subject.

 

Inner Peace Through Meditation

After months of hearing good things about meditation, I brought up the topic during one of our weekly coaching sessions.

Melissa mentioned an App called Insight Timer that she’d been using for a while, and suggested I try it out.

A good coach will mention plenty of ideas that a client might want to look into, and then it’s up to the client to act on them, or not.

I did act on this one, downloaded the App into my phone, and tried it out.

Long story short, I’m a big fan, and maybe even an addict.

 

What Was I Looking For?                                  

A few weeks later, I mentioned that I was using Insight Timer a couple of times a day, and I was enjoying the ways it was making me feel.

Melissa noted that she thought it was pretty cool that I was working on finding “inner peace”.

“Wait, what?”

I never said that I was looking for inner peace (did I?).

The truth is, I didn’t know what I was looking for when I decided to try it, and I’m not sure that I know what I found either.

 

Mr. Legler Is Resting in Peace

Weeks later, as we were starting our weekly call, she asked me something along the lines of “So, how is Mister Legler doing this morning?”

I pulled out the old “Mr.Legler? That was my father!” line that I often use when I feel like someone is being more formal than necessary.

“And, he died in 2008, so I guess he’s resting in peace”.

There it was again. Peace. “A-Ha”.

 

Seek and You Shall Find

So many questions were now bouncing around my brain, and, as usual, that meant that I’d eventually blog about this.

Did Mr. Legler need to die to find peace?

Did he find it there? Or did he find it before?

What about me, am I finding it?

Was it even what I was looking for, don’t I already have it?

Do you need to seek peace in order to find it?

Do some people search for it and never find it, while others just sort of have it without much searching?

 

Multi-Generational Peace Process

As usual, I’ll now attempt to take the subject of this post and introduce the family business angle, because that’s the area in which I claim to have some subject matter expertise.

Business families, almost by definition, involve people from different generations.

One of their goals is typically to find ways for the family business and/or wealth to move smoothly from the senior generation to the rising generation.

Okay, so what does “peace” have to do with all this?

 

Everything and Nothing

The quick answer is that peace has nothing to do with this at all. It’s the easy answer, and the one that many people would prefer.

Of course, that means that I’m interested in the other side, the one that says peace has everything to do with it.

Many families struggle with the important discussions and planning that are necessary to effectuate successful inter-generational wealth transitions.

 

Peace, Love, and Harmony

Families too often delay talking about how they will handle all the details around who will get what, and who will do what, precisely because they are worried about upsetting the peace and harmony that exists in the family.

In fact, they’ll do anything to avoid upsetting the peace.

In many cases, however, the harmony that seems to be there is actually rather fragile, precisely because of the uncertainty around what’s going to happen after the senior generation has passed.

 

Settle it Now, Reap the Peace Dividend

The lack of discussion leads to lack of clarity and adds uncertainty to both generations.

Those who take care of these things in advance reap what I’ll call the “peace dividend”

I like to think that Mr. Legler found peace while he was still alive because he had put his affairs in order and communicated everything to his family well in advance.

Don’t forget that peace dividend is shared by both generations.

You Matter

Caring, Mattering and Meaning in Family Business

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”

Wow.

For some reason another expression that came to mind immediately was this one:

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s apathy”

 

“Frenemies”?

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.

discernment street signal

Questions of Discernment in Family Business

Questions of Discernment in Family Business

 

Discernment: Noun

  1. The ability to judge well
  2. Perception in the absence of judgement with a view to obtaining spiritual direction and understanding (in Christian contexts)

This week’s blog is sponsored by the word “Discernment”.

Okay, so that’s not literally true, as there are no sponsors of this blog. Maybe I just had a little Sesame Street flashback, and should have said that it’s “Brought to you by the letter D”.

I keep a file of blog ideas and every couple of months I put together a calendar of topics. This is the first time that I’ve noted my subject idea with a single word, i.e. discernment.

 

Bowen Family Systems, Spring Conference 2017 

Discernment first popped onto my radar screen over a year ago, in Washington DC at the Spring Conference of the Bowen Center.

Murray Bowen’s theory has eight concepts, but the one he called “Differentiation of Self” is both the “biggest” one, and one that people have the most trouble truly understanding.

Some Bowen fans, myself included, tend to explain it to newcomers as “emotional maturity”.

At this conference though, some speakers proffered the word “discernment” instead.

Hmmmm, maybe they were on to something. But I also wonder if most people “get” discernment right off the bat.

(See: A Systematic Business Family? for my blog on that event.)

 

Definitions

I began this post with the definition that I got when I Googled “discernment” and found it both sufficient and interesting.

“The ability to judge well” is a great start to understanding what I’m getting at, and I feel like it fits with the “emotional maturity” part too.

Number 2, “Perception in the absence of judgement” almost threw me off at first, but then it made me flash back to my post “Judgement, Not Judgement” from back in 2016.

The take-home message there was that having good judgement is laudable, but being “judgemental” is not.

The spiritual and Christian angles also intrigued me.

 

Questions to Help Understand Discernment

In order to get a handle on discernment and how it applies to business families, let’s look at some basic questions and examine them from a discernment angle.

I’ll start with questions requiring low levels of discernment, and then move along to those that call for higher and higher levels.

 

– “WHAT” Questions

Asking about “What business are we in?” or “What markets should we look to enter?” are simple and relatively straightforward for any business.

They are also necessary to consider from time to time.

They require good business sense, but don’t necessarily require much in the way of discernment.

 

– “WHO” Questions

Then there are questions about people, like “Who should we hire?” and eventually “Who should take over when Dad retires?”

Now the need for discernment gets ratcheted up a bit.

And in some sort of “meta” way, we are looking at judging people about their judgement!

Once you get into questions about people, things usually get a bit trickier, and emotional maturity is often called for to make the right choices.

 

– “WHEN” Questions

Those “Who” questions can be tough, but so can those around timing, like “When should we start working on succession?” and “When should we start having family meetings?”

Regular readers will quickly recognize my bias around these topics, and that’s okay too.

As long as we’re on the topic of my biases, let me be clear that my preferred answers to those questions is always sooner rather than later.

There’s a certain maturity required to start tasks that have been kicked down the road long enough.

Combining “Who” and “When” questions, well, now we are getting into the area of “How”.

 

– “HOW” Questions

To me the types of questions that require the most discernment are about “How”, like “How do we make sure we include everyone?” and “How de we make sure we follow through on all our plans?”

I’m reminded of the expression “Ideas are a dime a dozen”, which is all about simple “What” questions.

Execution and implementation are the key to making any idea work, and that’s where you need people with discernment.

A “good sense of judgement” requires plenty of maturity and wisdom around the all of the “Who”, “When” and “How” questions that are part of getting things done.

 

Whose Discernment Are You Counting On?

If you’re a family business leader, and you’re hoping for your family and business to be successful in the long run, finding people high on the discernment scale should be a priority.

Kid working outdoors with wood

Forced Into the Family Business

Forced Into the Family Business

I don’t have many “rules” I share with family business people I work with, mostly because every family is unique.

I also think that every family can and should come up with its own rules, “BY the family, FOR the family”.

But if you twisted my arm and insisted that I give you one rule that I think most families should follow, it’s this one:

 

Before working in the family business, rising generation family members

should first get a job working somewhere else for a few years.

 

Exceptions to Every Rule

There are exceptions to every rule, but I think this one will stand every family in good stead.

My Dad had heard this suggestion when I was younger, but he believed that our family was the exception, so I went straight into the company out of school.

The fact that I believe in this rule, despite having been an exception myself, should tell you a lot.

(Hint: I have long wished we HAD followed that rule).

 

Forcing Kids Into the Business

Many people who work in their family’s business are there because, to one degree or another, they were “forced” into it.

Sure, they don’t want to miss out, it’s their “duty”, and often the path of least resistance.

But deep down inside, if they had their druthers, there are other jobs or careers that would have suited these people much better.

Also, I really don’t think that forcing people to do anything is a very good idea for long-term success.

 

Can Forcing Them Be a Good Idea?

So I guess that it may come as a surprise to you that I actually support forcing your kids to work for the family business.

There, I said it. Yes, it’s true.

If you have a family business and you have kids, I think that it is a good idea to force your kids to work for the business.

 

Important Clarification

Now, there is a very important part of the statement that I want to make sure that everyone also understands.

You may have noted it already, thanks to my word choice, which I repeated, twice.

The important word here is “kids”, that is, minors, specifically teenagers.

And, notably, I’m also talking only about part-time or summer jobs.

 

My A-Ha Moment

The idea for this post came a couple of months ago during the #FamilyBizChat that happens about once a month on Twitter.

The topic was family employment policies.

All of a sudden I noticed a Tweet from someone who mentioned that he thought that making the kids work for the family business was a great idea!

Wait, WHAT???

 

A Voice of Experience

When I looked at the Twitter handle of the person who posted it, I didn’t recognize it at first. Upon further inspection, I realized that what the man posted made perfect sense.

Looking at his bio and last name, I quickly realized that he was the son of a colleague I know through FFI (Family Firm Institute).

That colleague is one of the few FFI members I know who’s a family business founder.

(Most FFI members are people who work with family businesses, many of whom also have a family business background as well).

Very few run large family enterprises.

 

Personal Flashback

The poster noted that he believed forcing kids to work for the business teaches them responsibility and work ethic.

Who am I to argue?

I started working for my Dad’s company when I was 15, and before that, I was “forced” (strongly encouraged?) to have a paper route for 3 years.

Responsibility? Check. Work ethic? Check.

I think I turned out OK.

 

Devil in the Details

So let’s do a quick recap.

Part-time jobs on weekends or after school, yes, having the kids work for the family business is usually great.

This assumes that both sides are getting what they need out of it.

The same goes for summer jobs or internships, they’re a great way to learn and experience what a full time job is like.

BUT, once they’re no longer teenagers, and they’re beginning their career, that’s a new phase.

This is when my only real “rule” comes into play.

Please insist that they go and find a job elsewhere, for at least a couple of years, and then, and only then, invite them to join the family business.

You’ll all be glad you did.

 

See Also:  From my Quick Start Guide Series:

My Kids in My Business? [Yes/No, When, How, Why]

Family Business Perspective

When Family Business Leaders Die

When Family Business Leaders Die

Fact: Every person who ever founded or led a family business has either already died, or will die someday.

There’s a certain segment of the population who believe that they’ll be the first exception to this rule.

Successful entrepreneurs seem to make up a disproportionate percentage of this segment.

 

No Two Are Alike

Of course, every family is different, every business is different, every founder is different and every leader is different.

But I try to make this blog relevant to every family, every business, every founder, and every leader.

This isn’t necessarily an easy task, but let’s give it a shot.

Let’s start by looking at a couple of types of family business leader deaths.

 

Early Surprise Deaths

Every now and then, due to an accident or illness, the leader of a business will die at a relatively early age.

These cases are tragic, and everyone can understand that the family and the business will face some tough sledding in the weeks, months, and years ahead.

The story of Karl-Erivan Haub of Germany is a recent case in point.

See: SUDDEN DEATH SUCCESSION PLANNING URGED IN WAKE OF HAUB LOSS.

That story from CampdenFB features some interesting takes from various family business experts, including yours truly. 

 

“Long Life, Well-Lived” Deaths

At the other end of the spectrum are cases where a family business founder passes away after a long and satisfying life.

The business has by then been left in great hands, either within the family or not.

The family is in good shape as well, thanks to some great parenting, thoughtful transition and legacy planning, and a little bit of luck (or maybe a LOT of luck) along the way.

After the death, life goes on for the family, as well as for the business. But the family can grieve the person without worrying about the fate of the business.

 

Most Are In Between 

In reality, most situations fall somewhere in between these extremes.

Besides the luck, what can you do to move along the spectrum towards the “life well-lived” end?

First off, I think that we need to acknowledge how much of a role luck actually plays in everything.

Too many people spend too much time and effort trying to control too many things that are actually way beyond their control.

Alas, that’s likely another subject for another blog. Or maybe I just hit the nail on the head.

 

Is It All About Control?

I mentioned that people often “try to control” things that are “beyond our control”.

I accidentally repeated the word “control” within the same sentence, which a good editor surely would’ve changed.

But this isn’t a book, it’s just my blog, where I act as my own lowly editor, so I’ll just use this as a sign that it’s important.

 

So, What CAN You Really Control?

Since few of us can really control when we are ultimately going to die, we should probably focus on the things over which we actually exercise some true influence.

Like what?

Well, like preparing for the fact that someday, sooner, or, hopefully, much later, we’ll no longer be around.

Our luck, so to speak, will run out.

We will all eventually become nothing more than fertilizer for the flowers that someone has (hopefully) planted above our grave.

 

The Three Key Transitions

Let’s go back to the trusted Three Circle Model.

See: Three Circles + Seven Sectors = One A-Ha Moment

Every family business leader should focus on the three main areas where they play or played a role: the Family, the Business, and the Ownership.

They do overlap, but are each very different.

– What areas of your family leadership will someone else need to assume after you are gone?

– What areas of your business leadership will need to be assumed by others?

– And let’s not forget the ownership.

This can be the stickiest area, and should probably be worked on much earlier than most people think.

Unresolved ownership issues cause the biggest problems after a death.

 

The Ideal Scenario

A leader who can exit their business and ownership roles long before they die will have achieved the ultimate triumph.

Your death should mark your exit from the family only.

You should have exited the business and ownership in advance, otherwise the family’s grief will be more complex than it needs to be.

See also: Striving for a Succession Non-Event

Five Things FamBiz Can Learn from Fortune 500’s

Five Things FamBiz Can Learn from Fortune 500’s

Five Things FamBiz Can Learn from Fortune 500’s

People who work in family businesses often relate interesting stories about how things are done in their companies.

These tales can be difficult for some outsiders to understand and believe sometimes.

The most intriguing part is usually the fact that so many of these family companies are very successful, despite some of the non-traditional ways they operate.

Today I want to outline five ways that family businesses can improve the way they do things, by learning from bigger companies, like those found in the Fortune 500.

 

  1. Succession At ALL Levels

Large corporations usually put a priority on having a great bench of people in every department. They also typically have regular movement via promotions to keep everyone and the company advancing.

Most family businesses don’t put much priority on this, and loyalty and stability are often the focus for employees.

Owners of family businesses could make this more of a priority by starting at the top and insisting that other departments below them follow suit.

“Human resources” is actually a great term that tends to get lost. Seeing “humans” as a “resource” is key.

 

  1. Formality Is Your Friend

Many family businesses operate very informally, with few “procedures”, and many tasks that remain centralized in the heads of one or two key people.

Family businesses are often limited by how well the leaders can delegate and teach others to do many tasks.

Delegating would enable them to work ON their business, instead of working IN their business.

There are plenty of books on empowering employees, time management, and learning to delegate.

It behooves family business leaders to learn to formalize things so the business can grow beyond their own personal abilities.

 

  1. Distributed Leadership

Large corporations typically have many leaders, whose operations are guided by leadership groups and teams.

Many family businesses are led by one person, or a very small group of people who call all of the shots.

Understanding that the growth of any company will be limited to its leadership abilities is the first step.

Then they need to learn that growing their leadership team takes lots of time and needs to become a priority.

If you are starting to see a theme in these five things, good for you, it’s not an accident.

 

  1. Executing On Strategy

Every Fortune 500 company has a corporate strategy, and their focus is to then execute on that strategy.

Many family businesses do not take the time to make and formalize the long-term plans that go into a true company strategy.

When family businesses begin to do the things noted above, the result is the ability to have strategic planning meetings, with strong leaders from every department, who can then work together to outline the best strategy for the company to follow.

Once they have a strategy, they can then focus on executing it. If they haven’t made the effort to come up with and agree on a strategy, their chances of success will be limited.

Even if most of the employees are good at executing their jobs, if those tasks are not part of a coherent strategy, many opportunities will be lost.

 

  1. Best Person for Each Key Position

Family businesses often have people in positions for which they are really not well suited. These are often family members who are there because they have the right last name.

This is so much easier said than done, but qualified people are necessary for any business to function well.

There are of course several issues at play in these cases. One of them is the salary that the person is being paid for sub-optimal performance.

But the bigger problem is the performance itself if there could be a better, more qualified person in the role.

Sometimes a lateral move is the answer, so the family member can still be paid, but the key role is actually filled by a qualified person.

 

Take It Or Leave I

I’m sure that some people in family businesses will read this and think that my ideas are not worth the effort to pursue.

I am NOT saying that every family business MUST do these things to be successful. That is certainly NOT my feeling.

For those trying to create a long lasting business that they can pass on to future generations of their family, well, these ideas are merely the first few logical steps.

Kids making a mess

Who Messes Up What, Or What Ruins Whom?

Who Messes Up What, Or What Ruins Whom?

This week’s post is one that I’ve been looking forward to writing for a few weeks now, ever since I had lunch with a colleague and relayed this story to her.

It was her reaction that made me realize how simple and yet how powerful it really is.

Considering that I’ve been writing this weekly blog for over five years now, I can’t believe that I haven’t written about this yet.

 

Credit Where It’s Due 

Before telling the story, I should note that I would love to give credit to the person who told the story when I first heard it, but I really have no clue who it was.

It would not surprise me to learn that it was during one of the weekly teleconferences of the Purposeful Planning Institute, because those calls have inspired many of these blogs.

In any event, it’s one of those stories that has probably been played out in various versions hundreds of times, all over the world.

So my version isn’t a true, “verbatim” recounting, but more like a parable.

 

I Worked Hard for All of This

A successful businessman is meeting with one of his trusted advisors, as he begins to think about how he’s going to deal with the considerable wealth he has built up.

He mentions how hard he’s had to work for what he now has, and then adds,

“And I don’t want my kids to screw it all up”.

This part of the story likely sounds pretty familiar to many professionals who work with clients who’ve built up large amounts of wealth.

It’s not unnatural for anyone to be concerned that the fruits of their labour might be squandered.

 

The Other Side of the Coin

Later in the discussion, likely in response to a question posed by the wise advisor, the man has a bit of an awakening, and says,

“But I don’t want all my wealth to screw up my kids, either”.

If you’ve read even a few of my blogs, you already know that this was the true “A-Ha” moment of the story for me.

 

The Bad News First

The bad news is that so many professionals who work for such wealthy clients are really only specialists in solving the first part of the problem.

Finding ways to create bulletproof structures to preserve wealth is nothing new for many specialists who pride themselves on how they can minimize taxes, and restrict how the wealth will be used by its intended beneficiaries.

Unfortunately, too many clients are too short-sighted to see that this will also produce many unwanted side effects for their family down the road.

 

Now the Good News  

The good news is that there are now more and more people who understand that only worrying about preparing the assets for the heirs leads to sub-optimal results.

And not only that but people are now also realizing that this is not a question of either worrying about preserving the wealth OR preserving the family and their relationships, it’s actually possible to do both.

 

It’s Not Either/Or, It’s Both/And

In fact, by concentrating on the second part, and making sure that the offspring will be prepared to receive the wealth, you will increase the chances that the family will be able to maintain and even grow the wealth in future generations.

I’m reminded of a blog I wrote a few years ago, Successful Planning: Who Should Be Involved?

It contains the profound quote,

“Plans that are about us, but don’t include us, are not for us”.

That is a verbatim quote, from a different context, but it fits perfectly here too.

 

FOR the Family, BY the Family

It starts with someone recognizing the importance of this. That could be a member of the family, or it could be a wise advisor.

Long-term planning at it’s best is truly long-term, i.e. inter-generational.

If that wealth is to serve multiple generations of a family, the sooner the members of the following generations get involved, the more likely they will be successful.

 

Efficient or Effective?

You could simply worry about the preservation of the wealth, and create rigid structures that are tax efficient and ensure that some wealth will be available for future generations.

That would certainly be more efficient.

But if you want your plan to be effective, get the

younger generation involved as early as you can.

You won’t regret it, and neither will they.