Adding Objectivity to a Father-Son Relationship

Adding Objectivity to a Father-Son Relationship

Every week in this blog I choose an idea to explore with readers, and hopefully inform as well as entertain.

Sometimes I write about a subject that jumped out at me during the course of the week, and other times I dig into a folder where I keep ideas germinating until their time is deemed right.

That “right time” usually comes when the subject comes up again and triggers a bit of an “Ah-Ha” moment in my head, making me believe that the germination phase must be complete.

This week’s subject sort of fits into a few categories, including the one where I think I have the ideal angle to approach the idea early in the week, and then by the weekend when it comes time to write about it, I really can’t figure out where to start.

So, let’s start at the beginning, when the idea of looking at a relationship with someone “subjectively” versus looking at it “objectively” first crossed my radar screen.

It was last winter, during a training program on Bowen Family Systems Theory, when one of the instructors, Erik Thompson, who also served as my coach, suggested to me that I might benefit from trying to look at my relationship with my father “more objectively”.

That sounded like it made a lot of sense on the surface; how could being “more objective” be seen as bad?

Actually, I am no longer 100% sure whether he suggested being “more objective” or “less subjective” towards my father, since they are simply two ends of the same continuum.

For now, please just play along with me and join me in the quest for “More Objectivity”, and “Less Subjectivity”, as being something to strive for in a relationship.

Now it gets a bit tricky for me, and for those of you who know that my Dad passed away in 2008, you may have already figured out why.

What was being suggested to me as a worthwhile endeavour, namely looking at one of the most important realtionships of my lifetime in a new way, was surely going to be complicated by the fact that there could really only be one protagonist in this play, the other key player already having already exited the stage, permanently.

Luckily for me, those who have studied Bowen Theory for the past few decades have discovered that great progress can still be made, given sufficient willingness and effort, if one takes the time to seek out the oldest surviving relatives of those who are no longer around, as a proxy for seeing someone in a new light.

After sufficient prodding from my coach, I visited my Aunt, my father’s older sister, and I asked a lot of questions. The ones about their childhood, dealing with their “family of origin” as Bowen called it, were the most eye opening. Stories that I vaguely recalled from Dad now took on a new meaning, helping provide context, which allowed me to see him more “objectively”.

The fact that the viewpoint came from a third party also helped, of course, to add objectivity.

I have since been able to “let go” a good number of the “hard feelings” that I may have been allowing to “taint” the memory of a man who was so central to my life and upbringing.

Most people truly do try to do their best for their children, and much of what they think is best comes from their own experiences growing up in their own family.

If you take the time to understand people and where they truly came from in their own families, growing up, this new point of view will help you see them less subjectively, and more objectively, which can be quite helpful in leading one to be less judgmental towards them.

And if you can start making these types of inquiries about someone’s childhood while they are still around, that would be even better. I wish I had.


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.


The Preferred Embodiment of Family Business Success

London FBThe Preferred Embodiment of Family Business Success

The title of this post was designed to elicit a raised eyebrow, and kind of a “hunh?” or “WTF” response from readers. If you recognize the term “preferred embodiment” you are very likely part of a small minority of readers. Allow me to explain what I am attempting to do with this week’s blog.

We have all arrived where we are today via a unique journey, during which we have played a variety of roles at various stages of our lives. Occasionally, I like to revisit previous stages of my life, and see what I can learn from trying to tie certain aspects of things I was working on back then with things I am working on now.

“Preferred Embodiment” is a term that is very familiar to anyone working in the sometimes obscure world of intellectual property (IP), namely the patent area. IP comprises Trade Marks, Copyrights, and Patents, along with some other related subjects including trade secrets, software patents, service marks, etc., along with the licensing of the rights associated therewith.

Sorry for sounding a bit too much like a lawyer there, but this is part of my past. I actually did attend law school, but only for one year, as part of the journey I referred to above.   It was exactly twenty years ago, as I enrolled in the MIP (Master of Intellectual Property) program at Franklin Pierce Law, which has since been absorbed into the University of New Hampshire.

This was during a time in my life when I was trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up, despite the fact that I was in my thirties. Our company held a handful of patents on some innovations that my father had come up with and developed, and after selling our operating business, in addition to the real estate and investment accounts we owned, this small IP portfolio was our most significant asset.

I had discovered the MIP program and decided to enroll, after securing the go ahead from my Dad, as well as permission from my wife (she said “OK, but do it now, before we have kids”).

So what about the “preferred embodiment”? Well, if you have ever read a patent, you know that the preferred embodiment is the best part. There is a lot of stuff that is usually a pretty dense read in the first part of the description, which is almost always purposefully difficult to understand, even by people familiar with the particular technology.

After getting through all that mumbo jumbo, you get to the good stuff, where the applicant must tell you what their invention really is, in its “preferred embodiment”, i.e. the best way to use it. For example, you could take all the parts of your lawn mower and turn them into an avant-garde sculpture, or, you could assemble them into a machine that cuts the grass, that is, its “prefered embodiment”.

Turning to the subject of family business, as I almost always do, how does the term “preferred embodiment” apply? I’m glad you asked.

One week ago today, I was in London, attending the Family Firm Institute’s annual conference, enjoying the educational component, taking a course called The Professional’s Toolbox. The instructors used a series of PowerPoint slides over the course of the day, and one of these slides just happens to summarize my view of the “Preferred Embodiment” of family business.  I wanted to insert the image in the text here, but somehow I could only put it at the top of this post. I bit anti-climactic, but I think the point is very clear.

It is so darned simple, it is almost embarassing to share it as something useful, but at the same time, I know that it is forgotten or overlooked by many people, who should know better, far too often.

It is not always easy to achieve, but it is always worth striving for. And it is OK to ask for help when you need it.

(Thanks to Pramodita Sharma and Andrew Hier who taught the course, and one of whom I presume put that slide together)


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.


Understanding AND Agreement

Understanding AND Agreement

One of my guilty pleasures is to look at different words, whose meanings are often confused, and to take the time to analyze the subtleties in their differences. Sometimes the consequences of this confusion are humorous, and other times they can be more dramatic.

As you can guess from the title of this post, today’s words are understanding, (the noun, i.e. “an understanding”) and agreement. The two words jumped of the screen at me yesterday during a PowerPoint presentation, so I quickly took a picture of the slide with my phone, and I knew that I had my weekly blog topic.

The context within which this subject came up was a course I was attending in London, as part of the annual FFI (Family Firm Institute) conference. FFI offers a great education program, and this class was part of the final course in the ACFBA vertification. (Advanced Certificate in Family Business Advising).

One of the first slides used outlined the “Core Issues underlying Problems in the Family Enterprise System”. The line below this title stated, “Lack of Understanding / Agreement on:…” , following a list of subjects, including “where are we going”, “what is important to us”, “who does what”, “who is the boss”, etc.

The class was only 6 hours long, and there were plenty of important things to cover in our group of about 20 students from at least 10 different countries, so I did not even feel we had time to address my penchant for parsing the differing meanings of “understanding” versus “agreement” with the group.

But I have this blog as an outlet, where I can do this at my own pace, so I was alright.

We can take a few examples right from the slide. In a family business, some family members may not have an understanding of where they are going, and that is an issue worth addressing. Other families may understand perfectly well where they are going, but that doesn’t mean that they agree with the direction!

Along the same lines, a family may “understand” full well “who is the boss”, while completely disagreeing on the choice of that person. I hate to think of how often this is true in real life.

The two examples so far may lead one to believe that understanding must always precede agreement. After all, how can you agree on something without first understanding it? In a logical world, this thinking makes perfect sense.

But we are looking at the world of family business, where logic is often absent. The people who inhabit this world are usually so immersed within it, that they do not even realize how illogical it can be, and they operate on a day-to-day basis not even seeing how some things that others take for granted are completely missing.

My point here is that many family businesses will operate for years (or even decades) based upon full agreement on questions about “who is the boss” and “where are we going”, without having even a basic “understanding” about the underlying questions like “why”.

They will agree to go along, without the foggiest notion of where they are going. They may not care, they may not think they will be told the truth, they may not think that their questions will be deemed worthy of a response, or someone may be deliberately misleading them about these answers. (Or they may ALL be clueless).

Yesterday’s course was called “The Professional’s Toolbox”, and was designed to equip us with tools that we can use with enterprising families. We looked at ways to help them figure out “where they are going” and “how they planned to get there”.

And I also wanted to add my observations about the importance of having everyone agree on the answers, but also to understand the answers.

Or was it that it is important to understand the answers, and then agree on them?

In a perfect world, they all understand AND agree. That should be the goal. We want to have both the chicken AND the egg.



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.


Harnessing the Next Generation in the Family Businesss

Que faire avec les jeunes?

En juillet, j’avais écrit un blogue qui répondait à une question posée par une participante lors d’une session du cours Triomphe, de l’École d’Entrepreneurship de Beauce, à laquelle j’ai eu le plaisir de participer comme invité.

Cette semaine, en emménageant mon nouveau bureau, j’ai tombé sur le dossier dans lequel j’avais gardé les autres questions auxquelles je n’avais pas eu le temps de répondre, et le “timing” était parfait, puisque j’avais déjà décidé que j’étais dû pour écrire un blogue en français, et je n’avais pas encore trouvé un sujet à mon goût.

J’ai choisi une question venant d’un homme qui approachait la soixantaine, et qui avait des enfants adolescents.

Voici la question: “J’ai deux enfants qui sont trop jeunes pour la relève, mais qui sont intéressés aux affaires, et à être dans l’entreprise dans le futur. Que faire?”

J’aime beaucoup cette question, surtout parce que le questionneur l’a déjà séparée en deux pour moi, ce qui la rend plus facile à répondre. Je m’explique.

Les jeunes sont “intéressés aux affaires”, et ils ont un désir à “être dans l’entreprise” un jour. Remarquons les différences.

Aider nos enfants à développer leurs intérêts, que ce soit aux affaires, aux sports, à la musique, etc., est un des plus gros plaisirs qu’un parent puisse avoir, surtout si le sujet en est un dans lequel le parent a aussi un fort intérêt.

Mais soyons clairs ici; un intérêt “aux affaires”, c’est-à-dire le commerce, les finances, l’achat et la vente de produits et de services (en général), ne doit pas être confondu avec MA compagnie, qui produit et vend quelque chose dans un marché (en particulier).

Je vous suggère fortement d’aider vos enfants à developper et explorer leurs intérêts et leur compréhension de tout ce qui est connecté avec les affaires, l’argent, leurs finances personnelles, le marketing, l’immobilier et les hypothèques, etcetera, sans les limiter aux activités de votre entreprise.

Les opportunités pour ce genre de discussion se produisent litéralement à chaque jour, et dans une variété de circonstances. À la maison, écoutez la télé ensemble, prenez le temps d’enregistrer les épisodes de “Dans l’oeil du dragon” ou Dragon’s Den ou Shark Tank.

Il existe également des émissions axées sur la restauration, l’immobilier, et toutes sortes d’activités commerciales. Il y en a peut-être moins de ces programmes à la télé francophone, mais c’est une autre bonne raison et occasion de faire un peu d’immersion anglophone, ce qui les fera aussi du bien à long terme.

Quand vous vous promenez en ville, en auto ou à pied, remarquez les annonces et les commerces, et parlez ensemble des enjeux, des stratégies, des prix, de tout ce que vous voyez.

Les occasions de découvrir et de développer les forces et les intérêts particuliers de chaque enfant ne cessent de se produire. Il s’agit simplement de les reconnaître et d’entamer une discussion.

“Pourquoi McDo met l’emphase sur ses trios? Est-ce qu’on sauve vraiment de l’argent en choisissant le trio versus l’achat des trois items séparément?” Et, “mais pourquoi ils veulent me faire ‘sauver’ de l’argent quand ils essayent de ‘faire’ de l’argent sur la vente?”

Avec ces discussions, vous apprendrez beaucoup sur vos enfants, et aussi à vos enfants. Et en même temps, ils deviendront, malgré eux, ce qu’on appelle en anglais “financially literate”, c’est-à-dire, ils seront plus à l’aise avec tous les sujets entourant l’argent et les affaires.

Selon moi, c’est un des plus beaux cadeaux qu’on peut offrir à nos enfants, même s’ils décident un jour de poursuivre leur carrière dans un autre domaine.

Si les enfants démontrent un jour un désir de devenir entrepreneur et de se lancer en affaires, vous pourrez certainement regarder la possibilité de les engager dans votre entreprise. Mais ne soyez pas surpris ou déçu s’ils décident plutôt un autre marché ou opportunité, qui s’enligne plus avec leurs intérêts et forces.

Votre entreprise est un actif que vous pouvez vendre à quelqu’un qui ne fait pas partie de votre famille. Après, si vous voulez aider vos enfants à se lancer en affaires dans une business qui les motive vraiment, allez-y. Et ça sera leur entreprise! 

There Is No “Rewind” Button

Those Hollywood movies that involve the ability to go back or forward in time rarely catch my interest, to the point where I would be hard pressed to name one and say anything good about it. Whether it be a romantic comedy or a sci-fi thriller, I just cannot suspend my disbelief long enough to make it work in my head.

In the same way, if you ask me the proverbial “if you could do it all over again” question, you would probably have to push me pretty hard to get me to say anything besides “I wouldn’t change anything”.

When it comes to looking to the future, I must admit that I have a tendency to start to plan a few steps ahead of everyone else, and it drives my wife crazy. It isn’t always easy to “stay present”, but when you think about, that’s where everything happens.

The title of this post refers to an expression that I often use when talking to families about where they are, and how they got there. Some members have difficulty letting go of their feelings about past events, when someone else “wronged” them.

If we did have that Hollywood “Rewind” button, things would be so much simpler, right? You could just press the button and that stupid thing you said, that accident that you had, that decision that you made a bit too quickly, could all be erased, and you could go back and make things better.

I have not found that button anywhere, and I don’t think anyone outside of Hollywood has either.

One of the problems with dwelling on the past is that it often allows old feelings to stay with you well beyond the point where they are useful or helpful to you. This happens way too frequently with people in a family business, whether it is between siblings, or among members of different generations.

Let me address this issue of “useful” and “helpful” a bit more. If someone says something or does something that you don’t like, it is can be very helpful to remember it in the short term, because your immediate response and reaction should keep these recent events in mind, for your own good.

But twenty years after your sister said something off the cuff that was meant as a joke, you may want to cut her a bit of slack if she has otherwise not been mean to you. (If she could hit “rewind”, knowing how much it hurt you, she just might.)

Many years ago, Dad may have told someone that he did not think you had what it takes to follow in his footsteps, and maybe you weren’t even supposed to hear it. Letting that affect you and hold you back ten years later is not very helpful. If you have been making great progress, and even if he never complimented you on it, well, that just might be his style and his way of keeping you hungry.

Too many business families get “stuck” and have trouble moving forward because some family members are still dwelling on things that happened many years in the past. These people often tend to blame others for their misfortunes, and think about how “if only” something else had taken place, they would be much happier today.

There is no Rewind button. You can’t go back and change the past. Sorry, this ain’t Hollywood.

So what can you do? Today really is the first day of the rest of your life, and only you can make the rest of it better. If you can start to change your attitude, and focus on how you can help yourself TODAY, you can start to move in the right direction, day by day.

And please don’t start looking for the Fast-Forward button, because that doesn’t exist either.

(I will tackle the Fast Forward button in next week’s blog.)

Lessons from Estée Lauder

I recently read a very brief piece on Estee Lauder, who was described as a “family business icon” by the Family Firm Institute (FFI). They also stated that her motto was “I have never worked a day in my life without selling. If I believe in something, I sell it, and I sell it hard.”

I found her motto very interesting, especially the second sentence, where she mentions selling something in which she truly believes. Obviously if you do not believe in what you are selling, it is very difficult to do a good job of selling it.

It also struck me because the word “sell” has a variety of meanings and connotations, which have also evolved over the decades since she likely came up with her motto. And as someone who despises coming across as a “salesman”, it forced me to think through her motto to try to find a way to make it work for me.

There is also the part about the difference between selling a product like cosmetics versus selling a professional service, like family business advising. The sales and marketing contexts and processes are very different. But I was determined to find the “gold” in her motto in a way that could be useful to me.

As a solo practitioner, what I am selling is myself, in many ways, and some people are over-the-top when they talk about themselves, while others are “under-the-bottom”, if you will allow me to invent such an awkward antonym.

Since I am someone who lives at the lower end of this scale, it is always a stretch for me to “sell myself”. When someone seems to be trying to hard to “sell me”, it is a huge turn-off, so I naturally assume that others also hate this tactic, and I try to avoid it, and sometimes I try too hard, to my detriment.

Back to Lauder’s motto, though, she states “if I believe in something, I sell it”. She did not say somebody, so for me, the take-home message is to focus less on the “who” and more on the “what”.

For those of you who are regular readers (thanks!) you may recall that a few weeks ago I wrote about “who I am” being more relevant and important than “what I do”, so the trick is to try to find the right balance, and to come up with the proper messaging of what I can to do help business families, along with the personal branding of the guy who delivers those services.

I am so much more comfortable selling an IDEA, as opposed to myself, but I also understand quite clearly that nobody would buy the stuff that I am selling if they were not convinced that I am someone that they can trust to work with some of their most precious valuables, the members of their family.

When speaking with others who do this work, I often bring up the phrase “spreading the gospel”, so allow me to attempt to lay out what this gospel is, because that is what needs to be sold.

Let’s start with a tag line that I recently came up with, which is still a work-in-progress:   “I help business families turn their transition dreams into a workable plan”.

For a family, this is hard work, and if they don’t start early, learn to work together, and have the crucial conversations that they need to have to do the work well, there are lots of negative consequences that will likely arise, not just for the business, but also for the family.

Very few if any families will undertake this work on their own, without professional external advisors. We do exist, but the families are not always “ready” for the hard work to begin, often until it is nearly too late.

If you are such a family, or if you currently advise such a family in another professional capacity, please reach out to start a no obligation conversation.







OSFM: One Size Fits Most

During one of my too-frequent hotel stays this summer, I noticed a bathrobe hanging in the closet of my room, and there was something about it that struck me. There was a tag sewn into it, with the letters “OSFM”.

This set my “blog antenna” into action, as usual, as I wondered at first what those letters stood for, and then after my “A-Ha” moment when it dawned on me, the antenna kept vibrating until I had come up with a way to tie this into my work with business families.

As the title of this post has already given away, OSFM stands for One Size Fits Most. True enough, for most people, the robe in the closet would fit. For those who know me, you have already figured out that I am one of the exceptions. So be it.

There was probably a time in decades past when the more all-encompassing term “One-Size-Fits-All” would have been used, but either through a realisation or some sort of legal threats, the robe makers re-stated the case to “most”, which is surely more accurate.

So what does this have to do with family business?

All business families rely on outside advice from professionals of one kind or another, even though most really do not enjoy the process. They will usually try to limit these occasions as much as possible, wanting to minimize costs and what they often perceive as non-family people trying to influence things that are too close to home, and none of their business.

But here is where the downside of this comes in. Because of this reluctance to allow outsiders to truly get to know and really help their family, what ends up happening far too frequently, is that these advisors will “recycle” solutions that they have used for other families.

The family ends up with a solution that probably does fit MOST families. But it will not always fit THEIR family.

The advisors themselves can be part of the problem as well, if they do not know how to ask the right questions of the family leaders, or if their accounting or legal practice is set up in a way where cranking through a file as quickly possible so you can get to the next one and send out another invoice is part of the culture.

Inter-generational transitions are complex, and few professionals understand all the pieces of the puzzle and how they fit together.

When the lawyer works on his part, the accountant on hers, the wealth managers on theirs, and the tax specialist on hers, the client will often end up with what they believe to be a great plan.

The problem is that they can live with that feeling for many years before anyone learns the truth and that the pieces did not fit together very well at all. Not only will the one size not fit the family, it would not fit ANY family. Unless that family wanted a robe with different sleeve lengths, a non-matching belt, and polka dot elbow patches.

The complex planning that goes into the business or wealth transition from one generation of a family to the next MUST be a coordinated activity.

There is more and more recognition of the need for one of the advisors to have the “inter-disciplinary fluency” (term coined by Dean Fowler, I believe) to coordinate the process among the professionals.

“One size fits most” might be good enough for a lot of families, but I don’t think you truly believe that it is the best that you can do for YOUR family.

No professional will be able to truly be of service if you don’t both take the time required to work through a proper plan from A to Z.

And if you end up hiring someone who doesn’t fit into the hotel’s bathrobe, that’s OK too.


Understanding your Misunderstandings

The two key words in this blog, “understanding” and “misunderstanding” are rather long in and of themselves, and while they might appear to simply represent opposites, it is actually a lot more complex than that.

The topic is a very important one, in my eyes at least, which is why I have had it on my blog subject list for weeks now, before finally getting up the nerve to make an attempt at adding some valuable insight to this tricky issue.

I don’t remember what book I was reading when the idea of “understanding the misunderstanding” came into my mind, but I do remember that I was struck by the phrase enough to grab a pen and make a note, even though I was walking on a treadmill at the time.

So here goes.

We all go through life looking at things from our own point of view, which we see as the “real world”. And every other person also goes through life seeing things from THEIR point of view, which they in turn see as their “real world”. It is very rare for any two points of view to be 100% the same.

The differences in these points of view are quite often the root causes of differences of opinion, which in turn are the causes of misundertandings.

If and when you actually take the time to try to understand the causes of misunderstandings, you will likely learn a great deal about the differences in how you see the world versus the way the other person sees the world.

Too often, we do not take the time to even notice or acknowledge these different points of view, let alone investigate what lies behind them and have a meaningful conversation about them. But these are the most useful and meaningful discussions we will ever have, especially among family members.

In the context of family members working together in a business, it is very easy to just keep your head down and move through your day without stopping to think or talk about these kinds of things.

But every once in a while, maybe once a week, it is good to set some time aside to make sure that everyone is on the proverbial “same page”, that everyone has a common view of what is on that page, and that everyone has a clear understanding of the roles they are supposed to play.

There really is no good excuse for situations where someone, after weeks or months of working on something, says something like “Oh, I thought you were supposed to take care of that”, or “What? Nobody ever told me that I was supposed to take care of this”.

These examples are clearly the result of at least one misunderstanding, but nobody took the time to even notice them until it was too late.

When you take the time to understand the misunderstandings, you will usually be able to see some patterns in them, and when you come up with a way to address the common misunderstandings, you will go a long way to clarifying everyone’s roles.

Unfortunatley, these things rarely happen by themselves.

What works well is having a regular forum in which one person actually goes out of their way to make sure that the entire group has a common understanding of what their goals are, AND that each person understands what their role is supposed to be. Some people call this “leadership”.

Call it your weekly “Goals and Roles” meeting if that helps you focus, but make sure that you try to understand your misunderstandings to get back on track.


La magie exponentielle de la collaboration familiale

J’ai eu la chance dernièrement de dîner avec un homme qui fait partie de la deuxième génération (G2) de sa famille entrepreneuriale, et comme d’habitude, j’ai appris beaucoup de nouveau sur sa famille, mais j’ai aussi entendu de vielles histoires communes.

Quand je mentionne que les histoires étaient communes, je veux dire que tandis que chaque famille se croit unique, (ce qui est VRAI), ceci ne veut pas dire que cette famille ne pourra pas bénéficier des idées et de solutions que d’autres familles ont déjà utilisées.

Et, comme c’est si souvent le cas, les situations qui préoccupaient ce monsieur n’étaient pas nécéssairement des questions concernant les entreprises que possèdent la famille, mais plutôt sur les relations entre les membres de sa famille.

Le temps que nous avons passé ensemble était très valorisant pour moi, puisque l’homme venait de lire mon livre, Changez votre vison de l’entreprise familiale, et le fait qu’il me citait des passages que j’avais écrits était un peu nouveau pour moi.

Il avait apprécié mes idées sur l’importance de penser à un avenir où la génération qui contrôle pour l’instant ne sera plus en charge, et de prendre de l’avant en s’organisant, comme famille, pour prendre la relève.

Mais même si les transitions du côté “business” sont en partie déjà entamées, c’est surtout du côté “famille” que les futurs problèmes auront encore plus de conséquences, et ils doivent s’en méfier encore plus de ceux-ci.

La bonne nouvelle pour lui, c’est qu’il a une soeur qui semble aussi concernée que lui du fait que le temps est arrivé pour agir. De plus, il y a, dans cette famille, aussi au moins un membre de la troisième génération (G3) qui est d’avis que ce serait important d’agir maintenant, pendant que le leader du G1 est toujours présent.

Et de là le titre de ce blogue. En réfléchissant sur leur situation, j’essayais de trouver une façon d’expliquer à cette famille comment l’intérêt des différents membres de la famille pourrait s’avérer très pertinent pour eux.

Cette belle situation pourra même presque garantir que leur famille puisse vraiment faire des progrès intéressants, comparée aux familles où chaque membre se croit seul et impuissant de faire bouger des choses à lui-même.

J’ai finalement décidé d’aller avec une analogie mathématique, et je veux la partager avec vous ici.

Si une personne agissant seule peut avoir un effet sur une situation qui se mesure par un facteur de 1, je soumets qu’en travaillant ensemble, deux personnes pourraient avoir un effet exponentiel, c’est-à-dire 2 au 2ième pouvoir, pour un résultat de 4.

Évidemment je n’ai pas de preuve scientifique pour la théorie que j’avance, mais pensez-y un moment.

Dans une famille avec une quinzaine ou une vingtaine de membres dans les trois générations, la force que deux membres agissant ensemble peuvent avoir, pour faire des suggestions, des démarches, ou des changements, se doit être beaucoup supérieur aux résultats qu’une personne toute seule pourrait espérer.

Allons un peu plus loin, maintenant. Si les deux premiers réussissaient à convaincre un autre membre de la famille d’embarquer dans leur cause, imaginons comment leurs chances s’amélioreraient à trois!

Je prétends qu’on pourrait appliquer exactement la même formule que tantôt, c’est-à-dire qu’avec 3 personnes, nous serons rendu à un facteur de 9, ou 3 fois 3.

L’idée de s’organiser en famille suscite souvent de l’hésitation parmi ceux qui voient les obstacles plus clairement que les bénéfices. En se mettant ensemble, petit à petit, les membres intéressés par ces démarches se donnent la chance de surmonter les premiers obstacles, et de créer du momentum.

Voici les conseils les plus importants que je peux vous donner au sujet de la participation (ou non) des membres de la famille qui vous inviterez à vous joindre:

  • Vous pouvez définir le groupe que vous visez de n’importe quelle façon logique que vous voulez. (ex., G2 seulement; G2 et conjoints; G1 et G2 famille seulement; G3 seulement; etc.);
  • C’est plus facile de commencer avec un petit groupe;
  • Aussitôt défini, pour n’importe quelle réunion, vous devez inviter tous les membre de ce groupe;
  • Vous ne pouvez pas forcer quiconque à participer.

Avec ceci, je vous lance le défi. Avez-vous le courage qu’il vous faut?

Understanding your family business goals

“Who You Are” versus “What You Do”

A few weeks ago I came across one of those “motivational quotes” that various people like to post on social media, and for some reason, this one resonated with me. It was on my Twitter timeline, from Dan Rockwell, whose Twitter handle is “Leadership Freak”.

Here is the quote:

“Who You Are Is More Important Than What You Do”

At the time I was in the process of finishing of my latest “white paper”, Sticky Baton Syndrome, ask Prince Charles, in which one of the issues I dealt with was the way a business founder will often have difficulty letting go, precisely because so much of their identity is tied up in “what they do”.

How can you transfer your business to your offspring and then “retire”, if you think of it as the equivalent of dying? If they stop “doing”, they believe that they also stop “being”. But is “what you do” really that important?

The concept of contrasting “doing”, versus “being”, is in no way novel, in fact the coolest twists I have seen on this come when you add in a third element, such as “fitting in” or even what a person “will do”.

But how is it that some people are more concerned with how they are seen by others for their “role” compared to their true “self”?

The owner of a family business will often be somewhat of a “public figure”, depending on the size of both the business and the community in which they live, so often “everyone” knows what you do.

But of all the people who know what you do, only a much smaller number, those with whom you have the closest relationships, will really know “who you are”.

So which is more important?

Think about the last time that you actually met someone famous. When that person’s name comes up in a conversation, you will likely say something like, “Oh, I met him. He seemed like a really nice guy”.

You actually feel like you have some special viewpoint on the person’s character, even if it is only based on a brief exchange.  But that is exactly my point. It is feeling like you know “who they are” that is special, even if everyone knows what they do.

When it comes to the rising generation in a family business, it is also a very important thing to keep in mind. Are you raising Junior to be the next President of the company, or to be the best person they can be?

Are you parenting your children to play key roles in your family business, because that would suit you, or are you trying to raise future responsible adults who will find something that they would like to do, based upon who they are?

Some people expend a great deal of effort clarifying what they “do”, because it is important for people to understand your abilities, especially if you are hoping for them to pay you to do those things.

In many ways, I envy those who have careers that are simple to describe. A guy shows up at your door dressed in white clothes with paint splattered on them, a roller in one hand and a can of paint in the other, it is not hard to guess what he “does”.

But if you are part of a business family, and you need to bring in someone to help prepare a generational transition, or you have communication problems, or you have a situation that needs an outside mediator, I suggest that you spend some time figuring out who that person “is”, before allowing them to “do what they do”.

A major reason why I write these posts every week is to help people figure out who I am, even if they can’t always put their finger on what I do.