Saturday night, June 8, 2013. The place to be was the Sheraton Conference Center in Toronto. The occasion? CAFÉ’s annual Family Enterprise of the Year Awards (FEYA).

CAFÉ (Canadian Association of Famliy Enterprise) is celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2013, and I recently joined as an affiliate member, given my renewed interest in the family business area. I had not realized that CAFÉ began in 1983, but found it interesting because my previous involvement with them was in the mid-80s, as they were just getting started.

At that time I was the second-generation (G2) son who was about to enter the family business, and someone got my father interested in CAFÉ. That was where he learned the importance of getting the family more involved, even those who did not work in the business.

He actually set up a family retreat, which I remember mostly because it was the only one we ever had. Not that it went badly, but running the company was more urgent, and nobody stepped up to make sure that the event became a regular part of our calendar.

We learned a few things from CAFÉ, not all of which were applied, of course. I vividly recall Dad telling me about how they recommend that kids work somewhere outside the family business for at least 3 to 5 years before even being allowed to come into the family company. Made sense to me, but Dad felt it did not apply to our situation.

So back to the FEYA event on Saturday.The best part of any CAFÉ gathering is the sharing of stories. Family businesses are all unique, yet there are always things that you can learn from others, especially how they have handled the intersection of the family with the business.

The three finalist families were all in attendance, each with about a dozen or so people there, representing two or three generations. They each had a little speech prepared, as well as a great video that the CAFÉ folks obviously put a great deal of effort into producing.

Not surprisingly, the families were all very thankful that they had become involved in CAFÉ, as the interactions had helped them figure out some things that they would not likely have picked up anywhere else. The stories were all very different, but each was touching in its own way.

A key benefit for families who join is the PAG (Personal Advisory Group) network. My father referred to his as his “CAFÉ Buddy group”. They used to have regular meetings, alternating whose family/company they would discusss. It became an informal board of sorts, where he could share stories, ideas, and problems with others who were undergoing many similar issues.

Even after selling our operations, he continued to meet with his PAG. After he passed away, a couple of his former PAG friends invited me to their annual Christmas gathering, which was really cool, as we spent the time reminiscing and sharing stories about him.

CAFÉ can be very powerful. Unfortunately, it is not nearly as powerful as it could be. That is not meant to be an insult, as I know that the board is working hard at making CAFÉ become an even more important part of the family business scene in Canada. They had just concluded some board meetings and were quite pumped at what they were working on.

There was even a bit of talk about Quebec and its lack of presence in CAFÉ. How could they find ways to get more invloved there? Apparently there was a new member from Quebec who was keen on helping mobilize things.

That would be me. If you are in Quebec and also interested in “another round of CAFÉ”, please reach out to me, and let’s see where we can take this

J’imagine que mon prochain blogue sera en français et devrait toucher sur le même sujet, mais du point de vue québecois. À la semaine prochaine…

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.