The Father-Daughter Ikea Assembly

Last week I came across a Tweet about how sitting can kill you, complete with all sorts of stats that made me think about my own habits and how sedentary they are.

A news report then followed, touting the benefits of treadmill desks that some companies have installed for workers, that has them walk slowly but for long periods of time, with great results.

In an effort to see if something like this was actually doable for me, I looked for a way to try this out with the treadmill that I already have at my office. So it was off to IKEA.

I purchased a small table that attaches to a wall, and brought it to my office. My 13-year-old daughter has assembled lots of her own IKEA stuff, and she offered to come to my office and do most of the work. What follows is our separate accounts of the experience.

His version:

What can you expect from an eighth-grader? Well, when she is MY daughter, I expect quite a bit. And she rarely disappoints, and she did not disappoint this time either.

She assembled the pieces perfectly with no instructions or supervision from me. So now it was time for me to get involved because it was time to attach it to the wall. It was also time for things to begin to go downhill.

“Oh, so those screws don’t come with it?” I asked. “No, I guess we need to go to the hardware store”. Off we went. But first I checked to see that I did have the plastic shields to put into the gyproc to make sure the screws would hold well. Check.

So we get there and I locate some good strong screws, ignoring the packs of screws that come with shields, since I already had those. Let’s go put in these 6 screws and our work will be done.

Except that the big screws did not fit with the shields I had installed, so we had to start over, with four big holes in the wall. We hit another patch of frustration due to one of my screw-ups, the details of which I no longer recall, resulting in more holes.

Long story short, we finally got the wall-mounted table attached, after more sweat (no tears or blood!) and a few muffled bad words.

She gets a 9/10, I don’t know if I deserve a 5/10.

Her version:

My father bought an IKEA desk, and seeing as I’m the IKEA expert of the family, I offered to go to his office and help him build it and hang it up.

When we got to his office, I decided to start off the building of the desk. I’d dealt with IKEA furniture before, so I completed it with ease, but it still needed to be mounted. The treadmill then needed to be turned 90° so that the desk could over-hang properly.

We realized that the screws required to hang the desk were not included in the box, so we were off to the hardware store!

We got big sturdy ones that could support the weight of the fixture. We came back and put in shields, but they didn’t go in properly, but we still tried to hang the desk and failed miserably. So we took them out, and moved it an inch to the right, and tried again. One of the shields broke, another one went straight through the wall.

At this point, I thought we were pretty much screwed. But then, we tried one last time, and we went a bit upward and took our time. It worked!

The desk is now hanging more or less properly over the treadmill (I’d give us an 8/10). I had an over-all great day with my dad, and I’m looking forward to having some feedback from my father about his brand-new treadmill desk.

Doing the Dishes: A Family Affair

This past week our family was at the cottage, where we do not have all the comforts of home (although we are far from roughing it!)

I was washing the dishes after supper one night, and I had a flashback to my childhood, making me realize how much things had changed in just one generation. I started out thinking about doing dishes, but then thought about all kinds of other family issues too.

When I was a kid, we were the last family on our street to get a colour TV. I remember that we were lobbying our parents for that colour TV, but my mother wanted a dishwasher.

I don’t actually remember if we ended up getting the TV or the dishwasher first, but I do clearly remember the fights I had with my sisters over whose turn it was to dry the dishes each night.

All sorts of memories came back, about my Dad forcing us to create a calendar to keep track of whose turn it was; complaining that there were more dishes on the nights when it was my turn; thinking that maybe if I “accidentally” broke some plates, I might “get fired”.

So here I am at the cottage, washing the dishes by myself, and I never even asked my able-bodied teenagers to join me. Was I just sacrificing myself , so they could enjoy the last few days of their summer vacation, or was I trying to avoid the whining that would surely result in my asking for help?

After I had washed them all, they were drying in the rack, so I just left them there overnight, and put them away the next morning. This made me wonder why I was forced to dry dishes 40 years ago in the first place; did we not have the patience to let nature take its course and let them dry themselves? In retrospect, it seems like there was a lot of fussing over nothing.

But of course the real question that arises is whether we are we spoiling our kids by not making them help out more, or is this just the way people raise their kids these days, or both?

And what about that “colour TV” we wanted, not many families are having that discusssion nowadays, as TVs are becoming passé, with such a variety of screens all over the house.

I remember watching the old Spiderman cartoons with my young son a decade ago, where episodes featured the words “In Colour!” and I had to explain to him that back then, everything used to be in black and white.

We have come a long way with technology, and few would argue that so many of the changes have been positive.

What about the family, and not raising the kids to help out? I am not sure if that is such a good thing. We want our kids to become independent, but we don’t always help them by doing so much for them.

In wealthier families, this can be even more of an issue, as the kids can begin to think that household tasks like mowing the lawn, shoveling the snow, and keeping the house clean are somehow beneath them, as they are all things we pay “others” to do.

Back to me doing the dishes that night, at least my kids were not thinking, “Wow, Dad is doing the dishes!” as if it was something that should automatically be Mom’s job. That is one thing that has definitely changed since my father’s generation.

Somehow, though, I am pretty sure my son is hoping he will end up finding someone like his grandmother, who did view that as part of the woman’s role. But they don’t make them like her anymore, do they?

Geography 101: “Where” Matters

We all get stuck sometimes. We can be in a groove one day, and then suddenly find ourselves in a rut the next. It isn’t necessarily important to figure out what happened, but it is important to figure out what to do next. It isn’t what happens to us that matters, it’s what we do about it.

I am currently in the middle of nowhere, at our family cottage in New Brunswick. We got here a week ago, and we will be here for another week, and then we head back home and the kids start school, and everything returns to “normal”.

I don’t know what it is about this place, but everything just seems more calm and peaceful here. I came here by myself in January to get my book started, and I think that that was when I noticed how different everything feels here.

When I was doing the CTI Coaches training, I remember being sceptical when I first heard the term “geography”, and the concept that where you are, and even what position your body is in, can make such a big difference. But I can now say that I am a firm believer.

The best thing is that you do not have to drive 9 hours to my cottage to enjoy the benefits that Geography can give you. You could simply walk out the door and walk to the nearest park bench, or the local Starbucks. Or head to the airport and fly down south to sit on a beach, if you like.

The point is, where you are matters. It changes how you see things, how you think about things, how you feel, how you relate to others, and how you think about the future. When you bring along others you will learn things about them, and when you go alone, you will learn about yourself.

If your family is important to you, it makes sense to carefully consider where you get together. If you work in a family business, you probably have already experienced the fact that some people are better at separating “home” and “work” than others. When I started working fulltime for my Dad, I was still living at home, but within less than a year I couldn’t take it anymore and had to move out.

A family retreat is something that some business families try to incorporate into their schedules, as an opportunity to get everyone together, but in a different place, because they realize that “where” matters. The parents’ home is their place and their turf, even if you grew up there. The office is a place of work, and some of the stuff that needs to be discussed is not work related (even if it is some of the hardest work!).

Most families try to choose a resort location, and they try to make sure they have a variety of activities on the schedule, as well as lots of free unscheduled time, to allow people and smaller groups to interact as they please.

Whether your family is ready for this type of bonding activity or not is another question of course, but it will only happen when somebody decides that it is something worthwhile. And then it has to be followed up and repeated in the future in order to get some momentum.

Regardless of whether there are any family retreats in your future, I hope you will try out the geography theory that I am talking about. Notice how things look and feel different depending on where you are. And then when you get stuck, you will be able to try moving to a different space to change your perspective and get back on track.

Patience: Important, mais le travail avant tout!

Plus tôt cette semaine, nous avons fait faire des travaux dans notre cour arrière par un paysagiste, avec qui nous faisons affaire depuis plus d’une dizaine d’années.

Après le départ des ouvriers, j’ai regardé les arbustes qu’ils venaient de planter, et pour un instant ou deux, j’étais un peu déçu par la petite taille de celles-ci.

Mais avec un peu de réflection, je me suis mis à sourire, en pensant que l’important soit fait: leur plantation. Pour le reste, il ne fallait que de la patience.

C’est important de faire preuve de patience dans plusieurs domaines, et aussi d’adopter une attitude positive, tout en développant notre capacité pour la gratification différée.

Mais la patience, l’attitude, et nos capacités d’attendre des récompenses ne sont pas suffisantes dans la plupart des cas.

Tout comme le paysagiste, qui avait fait le travail (et qui j’ai payé pour le faire), de planter ces nouvelles plantes, il est important de ne pas négliger qu’un certain effort est souvent nécessaire avant de pouvoir attendre patiemment.

Dans une famille en affaires, les parents qui font simplement attendre que leur enfant soit assez vieux pour venir travailler dans la compagnie, sans avoir pris le temps de l’éduquer et de lui préparer, seront sans doute déçus.

De l’autre côté de cette même médaille, le jeune qui s’attend à avoir un emploi, simplement parce qu’il fait partie de la famille, sans faire l’effort pour se faire éduquer et de se préparer pour ses fonctions, risque aussi la déception.

Quand viendra le temps de penser aux questions de succession de la compagnie, et/ou au transfert de l’entreprise à la futur génération, le travail de préparation devient encore plus important que la simple patience.

Si nous voulons une belle haie mature dans cinq ans, c’est aujourd’hui qu’il faut y penser. Ce n’est pas simplement en continuant dans les mêmes fonctions que nous allons éventuellement avoir développé les capacités de leadership et les structures de communications qu’il faudra.

Trop souvent la famille concentre ses efforts sur le côté de la “business” en croyant que toutes les questions du côté “famille” se règleront toutes seules. Ou, ils se disent qu’ils auront le temps d’y penser “plus tard”.

Si vous lisez ces lignes et vous reconnaissez des membres de votre famille, dites-vous que vous êtes loin d’être tout seul.

Mais dites-vous aussi que la patience ne règlera probablement pas la situation toute seule. Vous ne voyez peut-être pas les efforts que vous pouvez mettre immédiatement, mais laissez-moi vous donner quelques indices.

Pour moi le mot le plus important dans l’expression “entreprise familiale”, ce n’est pas “entreprise”, mais plutôt “familiale”. Quand on parle de famille, c’est parce que ce n’est pas simplement une personne, mais plusieurs.

“Ah oui,” je vous entend déjà, “mais chez nous, il y a vraiment seulement une personne qui prend toutes les décisions”.

Mais cette personne, (plus souvent qu’autrement c’est Papa), ne sera pas toujours là, et la famille a l’obligation de se préparer pour l’avenir. Oui, ça prend un effort, mais sans effort, la patience ne suffira pas.

Plusieurs personnes ça veut aussi dire plusieurs liens, et les liens peuvent devenir plus forts et plus serrés avec plus de communication. Parlez-vous des défis de la famille dans 5 ou 10 ans, dans divers scénarios.

Commencez à penser comment vous aller travailler ensemble quand Papa ne sera plus là. N’oubliez pas de parler avec Papa aussi! Il risque de ne pas vouloir en parler avec vous au début, mais s’il devient au courant de vos discussions entre vous, éventuellement il pourrait s’intéresser à vos pensées!

Attendre avec patience, même avec ses doigts croisés, ne donne pas souvent les résultats voulus. Mais avec un peu de travail, d’effort, de communication, de partage d’idées et de pensées, les chances que la patience soit récompensée sont beaucoup plus élevées.

Family Business Ownership Model

Three Circles + Seven Sectors = One A-Ha Moment

Over the past 8 months or so, I have taken on a renewed interest in family businesses and what makes them different and what makes them tick. I have enrolled in courses that do a great job of teaching what family business is all about and how and why they are special.

The courses have covered some in-depth ideas like having a family mission statement, holding regular family meetings, setting up a board of directors with non-family members, getting advisors from different fields to work together harmoniously, facilitating meetings and helping with conflict resolution.

But the single most important thing that I learned was right at the beginning of each course. And it is still the most powerful place to begin any discussion with a family businessperson. It is called the Three-Circle Model. It is SO simple, yet we kept coming back to it during the courses.

The Three-Circle Model (TCM) has only been around for twenty to twenty-five years or so. I am not sure who gets the credit for it, and I would not be surprised to learn that its exact origin is disputed. I recently read an artice from the 1980s that was still talking about family business from a “Two Systems” point of view, which leads me to believe that the TCM evolved afterwards.

(Note from 2016: Please see for more on the origin of the model)

Without further ado, the 3 circles are, “Family”, “Business”, and “Ownership”. F-B-O, a simple Venn diagram of three overlapping circles.

The premise is this: Most people look at a family business as one thing, one entity, one system. But upon closer inspection, there is a LOT more going on there. So in the 80s they started to look at how the Family and the Business were different, and needed to be looked at separately. Later, it was determined that Ownership was also worth spinning out as its own circle.

So part 1 of my equation above in the title of this post is the TCM. What about the seven sectors? Glad you asked. When you draw the TCM as a Venn diagram, you get seven different sectors. Picture yourself asking a three-year-old with a box of Crayolas to colour each portion with a different crayon; they would need seven of them.

So why is this important to Family Businesses? Well mostly because the people who inhabit some of those sectors aren’t even part of the family business. Some of them are part of the Business Family!

People who are only in one circle (the 3 sectors without any overlap) will look at the family business much differently than those who are in one of the three sectors within a two-cirlce overlap.

And then there are those in the middle sector, who are part of the Family, who work in the Business, AND who are also part of Ownership. They often lament the fact that everyone else doesn’t see things the same way as they do!

People who inhabit different sectors will view things in different ways. It is only natural.

Once you learn to view any family business through the TCM, it is like turning on a floodlight. All of a sudden some things that were difficult to comprehend become more easily understood.

And then when you realize that the four sectors where there are overlaps are the ones you need to really concentrate on, you can start to make a lot of progress. I like to think of this as the “flashlight” stage.

The TCM was the floodlight that allowed us to see many things in a new way. Shining the flashlight into the nooks and crannies of the overlapping sectors will help uncover the key areas that will need to be monitored and worked on going forward.

For a visual perspective on all this, please visit my website: click here

Steve Legler “gets” business families.
He understands the issues that families face, as well as how each family member sees things from their own viewpoint.
He specializes in helping business families navigate the difficult areas where the family and the business overlap, by listening to each person’s concerns and ideas.  He then helps the family work together to bridge gaps by building common goals, based on their shared values and vision.
His background in family business, his experience running his own family office, along with his education and training in coaching, facilitation, and mediation, make him uniquely suited to the role of advising business families and families of wealth.
He is the author of Shift your Family Business (2014), he received his MBA from the Richard  Ivey School of Business (UWO, 1991), is a CFA Charterholder (CFA Institute, 2002), a Family Enterprise Advisor (IFEA 2014), and has received the ACFBA and CFWA accreditations (Family Firm Institute 2014-2015).
He prides himself on his ability to help families create the harmony they need to support the legacy they want. To learn how, start by signing up for his monthly newsletter and weekly blogs here.