Family Business: Re-Calibrating (with) your Business Family
This week I’ve got lots of ground to cover, so I’ll just jump right in. I typically talk about my inspiration for each post, but I’m not sure I recall what prompted me to put this one on the calendar.
What I do know is that it’s important for families who are managing things together.
Such families would do well to implement some sort of family governance, i.e. structures and procedures to make sure they stay on track with all of their decision making.
When families institute governance, there are a number of “speedbumps” that typically and predictably come up, as the family tries to find ways to “get on”, and “stay on”, the same page together.
We’re All Good, For Now
Progress can come in fits and starts when creating family governance, and regular readers know that my favourite way to describe the process is with the word “evolution”.
It starts somewhere, and then slowly but surely grows and morphs with the family, as they get used to things. (See The Evolution of Family Governance)
But of course while the “family” is evolving, the various members of the family will also each be evolving at their own pace.
The title of this post noted “re-calibrating”, which of course pre-supposes that things were ever initially “calibrated” in the first place.
So one of the potential problem areas in the evolution of family governance is timing and pace.
A family can come to agreement on processes, and be “all good”, but that won’t last forever.
Questions that Start with “Why, What, and Who”
So we know that timing, or “When” questions, can be a huge factor with families, but there are obviously many others, including questions that start with “Why”, “What”, and “Who”.
Hey, nobody ever said this family governance thing was going to be easy, just that it’s really important. (Okay, not many people say that either, but I know I do!)
The “Why” questions typically need to be answered pretty early on, in order to get the family on the path to actually creating some governance to start with, so let’s assume that’s been done.
The “What” and “Who” questions might have answers like “let’s have quarterly family meetings, with these people in attendance, to talk about how the business affects the family, and vice versa”.
That would be a pretty good starting point, and could constitute the original “calibration” for the family.
Revisiting the Why, Re-Calibrating the When
After a few such meetings, some family members may be gung-ho and ready to move into fifth gear, while others may still be questioning why they’re having these meetings.
This uncertainty should be considered normal early on.
Even a few years in, things may be getting murky, and the family may begin to suffer from “governance fatigue”. Yes, it happens, probably to every family that travels this road, at one time or another.
That’s usually a good place to think about re-calibrating. Getting family members to re-engage could mean either slowing down or speeding up, always with the goal of working at the same pace again.
What About the “With” Part?
This brings me to another key point, one that I’ve made before and will surely make again.
I don’t often have a word in parentheses in the middle of a blog title, but this week I do. It is not an accident.
Here is how I am using my “editorial licence”: you should be able to read the phrase with or without that word in brackets.
That is, you can re-calibrate your family, or you can re-calibrate with your family.
I think you can guess which version I advocate most families choose.
FOR the Family, BY the Family
One of my “go to” expressions is that family governance should always be “FOR the family, BY the family”.
That means that whatever the family decides, they are better off deciding together, as a group.
The family is on a long journey together, and their fates rest in their collective hands. That being the case, they had better take the time and make the effort to slow down and take stock every once in a while.
The family system is constantly affected by changes in the lives of all of its members, so periodically taking the time to re-calibrate together is always worth it.
Same map? Same destination? Same schedule? YES?
Okay, let’s keep going!