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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!

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.

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

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.

Fireworks in a blue night sky

Limits to your Sphere of Influence

Limits to your Sphere of Influence

Most strong leaders exhibit a great ability to influence others. This is true in many areas of life, and it certainly is often found in family businesses.

As society has evolved these past few decades (I’ve been around since the 60’s) the ways that this influence manifests itself has changed quite a bit.

I grew up in a family business and most of the first five decades of my life were very strongly influenced by my father, who was one of those strong leaders.

 

Times Change

As we approach the 10th anniversary of my Dad’s death, because of my work with business families, I’ve been reflecting on the influence that my father had on me over much of my life.

As I wrote a couple of weeks ago in Five FamBiz Strengths to Capitalize On, there is something “magic” about family businesses.

There, I mentioned,

It may just be one of those things that you have

to experience to understand in depth. 

There are aspects to these intangibles that

manifest themselves in good times and in bad.”

The Good Side, and the Bad Side

What I didn’t note there was the fact that there are also positive and negative variations of this. 

And that brings us back to the question of the influence that we have over others.

Some people benefit greatly from positive role models in different aspects of their lives. 

Having a great parent is wonderful, and

so is having a great boss.

When that boss is also the parent,

things can sometimes get tricky.

 

He Wanted a Successor 

I’ve related this story verbally but haven’t written about it until now.  It dates back to my childhood, but only decades later have I been able to see what occurred.

My Dad was an entrepreneur, and I was his only son, and for him, that meant that I must succeed him.  What did I know? 

Well, I did “know” that I was expected to live up to that duty.  There’s that influence thing again. 

Did I ever feel like I had any other choice?

In a word, “No”.

  “You Should Become a Priest”

Meanwhile, my grandmother (on Mom’s side) lived with us until my mid-teens. 

She had become pretty religious in her later years, and she often told me that she thought I should become a priest.

I used to laugh about that.  Nowadays, I look back and appreciate her wisdom.

But her ability to influence my life was much more limited than my father’s.

 

Bowen Theory Training

As I continue my own transformation from a “business circle” specialist to one who prefers to operate in the “family circle”, Bowen Family Systems Theory has been one of my major influences.

And wouldn’t you know it, quite of few of the other trainees at Georgetown’s Bowen Center for the Study of the Family just happen to be from the clergy.

Is my grandmother smiling down at me now?  Is my father shaking his head?

I don’t know.

 

How About “Self” Influence?

I do know that as a parent, I have tried very hard to NOT overly influence my children.  I prefer to allow them to make most of their own choices, and I try to simply “stay out of their way”.

I just dreamed up the term “self-influence” and did a quick Google search to learn that others have beaten me to the punch here.

Of course, my Bowen colleagues may be shaking their heads now, knowing that the concept of “Differentiation of Self” is the “cornerstone” of Bowen Theory.

 

Limited Sphere of Influence 

I need to tie this back to my title about the “limits” to one’s sphere of influence.

I guess that I was getting at the fact that your influence over others “should be” limited.  The part about the changes in society gets at that a little.

But the other limit is temporal.

 

Your Time, My Time

Family business leaders tend to believe that their influence will outlast them. Many of them end up being quite wrong about that.

If you “over influence” people in ways that don’t truly resonate with them and satisfy them intrinsically, that influence will dissipate quickly; as in “right after your funeral”.

If, however, you work on your family legacy, concentrating on each family member’s human capital, you’ve got a much better chance.

P.S. I’m glad that I didn’t become a priest! (Sorry Oma).

guy wearing suite holding hand up

Lonely at the Top of the FamBiz

Lonely at the Top of the FamBiz

This week we’re going to look at something that many family business leaders face, and that often makes them feel powerless.

While they appear so powerful to others, deep down inside, well, maybe, not so much.

 

Life Imitates Art

I was a big fan of the TV Show The Sopranos when it first aired on HBO, and it became appointment TV viewing in our house.

Tony Soprano was a mafia boss, and he had a family, but he wasn’t the prototypical family business leader.

We have a promotional poster for the series in our basement, that shows Tony in the center, with his wife, mother and kids on one side, and his “work family” on the other.

It reads:

“Meet Tony Soprano:

If one family doesn’t kill him,

The other family will”  

I still get a kick out of it every time I see it.

Not Just for Business Leaders

The Soprano quote below that inspired this blog post came from a story I read a couple of months back about David Chase, which ran in GQ Magazine.

The story was about Soprano’s head writer David Chase, and it examined some similarities between Chase and the Tony Soprano character.

The end of the story included this quote:

(Some of the letters have been replaced by ***, but I think you can still get the gist of it):

 

“All due respect, you got no f***ing idea

what it’s like to be number one.

 

Every decision you make affects every

facet of every other f***ing thing.

 

It’s too much to deal with, almost.

And in the end you’re completely alone with it all.”

 

Does It Have To Be So Lonely?

 Let’s look at some options that the person at the top has as possible outlets or resources.

 

     Spouse

Tony, of course, had Carmela and they spoke quite often about many important issues. But deep down, Tony knew that there were many things that he couldn’t and shouldn’t burden his wife with.

An understanding spouse who is a good listener can be very helpful but is rarely sufficient to relieve the loneliness burden.

 

     Top Management

Some of the most memorable scenes from the show were ones that included Tony and his top management. Paulie and Sylvio were the mainstays, and Christopher was a rising star in the group.

But much like the spouse, these people are so tied in with the decisions, that it becomes difficult to broach subjects that affect the group.

 

     Peer Group

The closest thing Tony had to a peer group was the other top mafia bosses from other territories.

We occasionally got glimpses of this, and they sometimes offered an opportunity to exchange with others who faced similar challenges and decisions.

The nature of their business on the show, however, added a dangerous element that discouraged too much sharing.

Real family business leaders usually have lots of opportunities to join peer groups, through organizations like FEX, TEC, Vistage, etc.

 

     Rising Generation of the Family

Tony’s kids were too young, and AJ, his only son, did not seem to have the “right stuff” for the line of work his father was in.

For real leaders of family businesses, there are plenty of opportunities to share what one is going through with their offspring, especially those who work in the business with them.

This is an area that I think is underexplored by most people.

Maybe it’s because they don’t want to appear to be playing favourites by sharing with one child more than others, or maybe it’s an effort to avoid putting a burden on them.

My belief is that some sharing, in appropriate amounts, at the right age and stage, and in the proper way, can be a win/win, because it also helps prepare the future leader(s).

 

     Trusted Outside Advisor

Tony’s frequent visits with Dr.Melfi, his shrink, were a recurring theme throughout the show’s run.

Mental health practitioners are a potential outlet, but so are other trusted professionals, like your accountant and lawyer.

There are also plenty of executive coaches and family business advisors that could certainly play a role too.

 

     Board of Advisors

The ultimate solution, just shy of having a full-fledged “Board of Directors” would be to set up a less formal “Board of Advisors”.

This takes time and effort to set up, but those who have done it swear by it.

Tony Soprano probably should have had one too!

 

 

A picture of the journey

There is No Destination

There is No Destination

The inspiration for this week’s post comes from a great quote that I saw on Twitter a couple of weeks ago. It’s from Marie Forleo, a life coach and motivational speaker.

I started following her on Twitter a few months ago, after catching an interview that she’d done with Brené Brown, about Brown’s book, Braving the Wilderness.

(Watch it on Youtube)

Here’s my verbatim recollection of her Tweet:

There is no destination.  

It’s ALL journey. All. Of. It.

Wow, I’ve been a big fan of the whole “life is a journey” mentality for a while, but I’d never heard anyone say it so clearly and emphatically.

 

Family Business Versions 

It’s pretty easy to get seduced by “destinations” in life, and family businesses are no strangers to this phenomenon.

“If we can just get to $X,000,000 in sales, then we will have made it. “ (Where X can be 1, 10, 100…)

Another good one is “I can’t wait to take over from Dad as President.”

Okay, a nice goal to have, but not really a great destination in and of itself, as that’s when the real work begins.

(I can think of a prominent example of someone wanting to become President, but then being less than thrilled with actually having to do the job, but alas, I try to avoid discussing politics in this space.)

 

Interim Stopping Points

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against setting goals, such as annual sales figures, or promotions to key positions.

Studies show that people who don’t write down their goals are much less likely to achieve them, and that makes perfect sense.

In fact, setting goals for your department, team, or the whole company, is also something that everyone should be doing, but you want to make sure that those are simply seen as interim stopping points along the way.

Hit the goal, savour it, celebrate it, and then move on to the next goal. Remember: It is not a destination.

 

Enjoy the Ride

For me, the biggest takeaway here is that we are always on our way somewhere, so we may as well enjoy it.

In fact, if we are NOT enjoying it, we should really consider finding another journey to take.

Find a journey that you will enjoy.

There are plenty of people who are doing things that they don’t enjoy, and guess what, some of them even work in their own family’s business.

Many of those are likely deluding themselves into thinking that things will magically improve, you know, once they reach the “destination”.

If you believe that, I invite you to re-read the title of this blog post.

 

Personal Perspective

We all have our own perspective on this subject and I’d like to share mine. No, this won’t be a “just do what I did” story because that isn’t generally how I roll.

Actually, it’s more of a “don’t do what I did” lesson, that I hope some people will benefit from.

And by the end of this, I may even partially contradict my major premise here, but here goes.

 

Early Liquidity Event

In 1991, with a freshly minted MBA degree in my pocket, I returned to our family business, expecting to be groomed to eventually take over.

This had been Dad’s plan since my birth. Notice I did not say it was MY plan.

Instead, within 6 months of my return, we (he) sold the operations of the company, and we went from 250 employees to 4, and eventually 3.

I then spent the following 2 decades running our small family office, doing what needed to be done.

 

No Destination, Not Even a Journey

I wasn’t until 2013 that I finally had my calling, to do the family business work that now drives me in everything I do.

For over 20 years, I did what I thought I was supposed to do, acting as the “dutiful son”.

I know other rising generation family members who are following similar paths, and while it is a path, if it isn’t a journey that you enjoy, it doesn’t make for much of an enjoyable career.

 

“My” Journey

Everyone deserves an opportunity to find and do something that drives them to be able to enjoy the journey of life.

So glad I found mine, better late than never!

What’s yours? What’s in your way?

Ownership Stages In Family Business

Ownership Stages In Family Business

Ownership Stages In Family Business

Readers may have noticed that the topic of “ownership” has been featured in this space more and more lately.

That’s no accident, because last summer when I wrote Ownership: The Forgotten Circle of Family Business” I also vowed to give this subject a bit more prominence here.

 

The Simple Stage “Model”

Most people who work in the Family Business field are well versed in this “model” that looks at things in their simplest form as a family business goes from one generation to the next:

Sole Owner => Sibling Partnership => Cousin Consortium

There really isn’t anything new here, but it’s a good starting place to discuss how the ownership of a family business can get more complex as the business goes from one generation of owners to the next.

The verb I chose there, “can get” was very intentional on my part, because things do not necessarily get more complex, depending on the desires of the family and the plans that they make about how the actual ownership will be transitioned.

 

Does this Tree Need Pruning?

As I wrote last year in Pruning the FamBiz Ownership Tree”, sometimes the difficulty in passing a business down through generations is complicated by something as simple as math.

I recently spoke with a second-generation member of a farm family, and their case facts make for an interesting example.

Mom and Dad had 4 children, and each one of them is now married and they each have 4 children of their own.

The family group is expanding at a geometric pace. Will the farm be able to match that growth? That’s the proverbial $64 million question.

 

Counting People and Households

The farm initially supported 6 people in one household. One generation later, that became 26 people in 5 households. So far the math is pretty simple but only in a textbook example do things remain that way.

Did I mention that the range of ages of the grandchildren (G3) varies from late 20’s to single digits?

The oldest G3 member already has children and yet their generational “equal” is still in grade school.

How are they going to work out all of that stuff?

 

Getting Good Help

I often write about the importance of getting help from outside the family to assist and guide any family through these difficult decisions.

Luckily, there are surely plenty of well-qualified lawyers and accountants out there who have crafted the types of agreements and structures that are required to work out these complex cases.

So is that my answer, to go out and talk to a lawyer or an accountant?

Not so fast, please!

 

What Exactly Are You Trying to Do?

Before you look to technical professionals to structure things and write up the agreements necessary to formalize things, don’t you think it makes sense to figure out what you’re trying to do first?

How will the four siblings in the example above work through the decisions surrounding the best way to structure things?

I’m going to assume that the four siblings won’t all necessarily agree with each other on every question right off the bat.

OK, so what if the one who is the de facto leader of the business were to simply get a lawyer to write it up his way?

Well, that might be efficient, but I’m willing to bet that some negative consequences would result, somewhere down the road.

 

Governance and Ownership

Who died and made him king? Maybe that isn’t just a rhetorical question; maybe before Dad passed away he did “anoint” his successor.

I don’t know enough about the specific case facts here, but they are not that important to the discussion.

My point is that the ownership of the business is a very important aspect to understand and work through in a thoughtful manner, but it is not sufficient by itself.

A family facing this type of situation actually needs more than just clear ownership, they also need to agree on governance.

 

How Will We Decide Things Together?

When people try to simplify governance, they usually mention communication, problem solving and decision-making.

I can’t really make it any simpler than the six-word question, “How will we decide things together?”

It’s a pretty short and simple question, but answering it is rarely short and simple.

And getting the right answer for your particular family is actually more important to work out than the more straightforward questions about ownership.

 

Please see: Family Governance, Aaaah!

Family Heritage

What is your “True Family Legacy”?

What is your “True Family Legacy”?

The term “Family Legacy” can conjure up different images and thoughts in anyone who hears it, depending on their age, wealth, and life circumstances.

This subject comes up a lot in my work, but I haven’t necessarily written about it much, and I feel a need to share more thoughts on it.

 

Twitter Chat

I recently took part in the monthly #FamBizChat on Twitter, where a bunch of my colleagues tackle a subject for an hour on that social media platform.

The subject this time was “Legacy”, and I naturally went to my view of legacy as being much more of a “family” thing than a “business” thing.

What struck me is that I felt pretty alone in that perspective.

Maybe most of the others were advisors who worked more on the business side of things, and less with the family, I’m not sure.

But it stayed with me, so I thought a blog on the subject would be timely and useful.

 

Business Card Title

The title on my business card is “Family Legacy Advisor”, which hints at my bias.

It used to say Family Business Advisor, but because I really prefer to minimize my interactions with the business, in favour of those with the family, I made the change a couple of years ago.

Admittedly, I usually answer “family business consultant” when I’m asked what I do for a living in some circumstances like going through customs.

 

Whose Legacy Is It?

But my bias is to concentrate on the family legacy versus the business legacy, although in truth, they certainly can and do co-exist together, often for decades at a time.

In a multi-generational family business though, at some point they can bifurcate.

Family involvement in the ownership and/or management of the company eventually changes, and the family eventually diversifies its focus to other endeavours.

 

Who Takes the Lead?

A business has many resources at its disposal, and they’re necessarily organized into functioning groups of people with more or less clear roles and responsibilities.

So ensuring that the business legacy is captured can actually become part of the job of a person or group. It will often fall under marketing because the business legacy is closely attached to the company’s brand.

And so of course the corresponding person whose job it is to ensure the family legacy is, um, well, of course it must be, um, well, uh, I’m not sure…(?)

“Sorry, our family doesn’t have a marketing department”.

 

Why Did You Work So Hard?

Most business founders work hard because they want to support their family, and as their wealth grows thanks to those efforts, they continue to work hard so that their wealth can serve the next generations of their family.

Many of those people, however, will fail to properly transition that wealth to their family, and that goal will never be reached.

Research shows that about 60% of the failures can be attributed to a breakdown in family communication.

 

Family Governance and Alignment

The exceptions, the ones who manage to keep their wealth in the family for multiple generations, are the ones who actually put in the work to establish some family governance.

That word, “governance”, scares some families, and I get that.

See:

It doesn’t have to be that complicated, especially when you are just starting down this road.

What it does require is some intention, which begins with a decision, normally from the top, that it’s important enough to direct some time and effort to this task.

 

True Family Legacy

Your “true” family legacy is one that’s custom tailored to your family. No other family resembles yours, so why even pretend that this work can come ready-made, off-the-shelf?

Two expressions capture this whole question rather well, and I’ve been known to use both of these:

  • Instead of concentrating on preparing the family assets for the heirs, make the effort to prepare the heirs for the assets
  • Don’t just concentrate on transferring the family’s valuables, work on preserving the family’s values

If you’re the person in your family who recognizes the need for this, you already know you can’t do this alone.

Maybe this can get you moving in the right direction:

The Exponential Magic of Family Collaboration

Also note the photo above this post: “Heritage”.

That’s much more about Family Legacy than any business the family happens to own.

 

Related posts:

My Beliefs on Family Legacy Advice

The Languages of Family Legacy

Brainstorming your Family Legacy