I pride myself on finding interesting topics to write about here weekly. While the major thrust of my message targets the world of family business and family wealth transitions, the inspiration for my blogs can come from just about anywhere.
This week’s post simply comes from my everyday real life. I always keep my antennae tuned to things that are a bit out of the ordinary or counterintuitive.
These stories can then be artfully turned into useful metaphors, or at least that’s what I’m trying to do.
A Real Pain in the _______
My knees have been an issue for almost as long as I can remember. My Dad had both knees replaced in his 60’s, so I suppose that’s something else I inherited from him.
Of course the “misspent” years of my youth when I played baseball and was usually the catcher surely didn’t help me preserve whatever parts of my meniscus that were there to begin with.
I had arthroscopic surgery a few years ago and it helped, but relief was only temporary. My exercise options are now limited, and lately even riding a stationary bike results in pain after only short stints.
My doctor tells me that I should lose weight and that will help, and of course he’s right. But I can’t help think that there may be something they can easily “fix” in my joint, to minimize the pain of exercise, which should help with the weight loss.
I know, I’ll get an MRI!
What’s Covered, What’s Not
In Canada, our health care system is run and paid for by the government, and it’s generally very good. But not everything is covered, so sometimes when you want special services, you need to pay for them out of pocket.
No big deal, I think, I can afford the MRI, because this is what I need to allow the doctors to really see what’s wrong with my knee, and then devise a treatment solution.
Where’s the X-Ray?
Imagine my surprise when the orthopedic surgeon looks at the MRI and asks me “Where’s the X-Ray?”
WTF? Is he joking, I wonder? I feel like I sent an email attachment and was then asked to send a fax instead. Are we going backwards?
So I ended up going back to the same place I had the MRI done again, and instead of paying $500, this time it was “free” with the simple presentation of my Medicare card.
The Family Harmony and Governance Angle
The first metaphor that comes to mind when I put on my family business consultant hat is one that I touched on a while back, in Behind the Flawed Family Constitution.
The essence of that post was that some families who are unsure of what to do, but who know that they should do something, (and they can afford to do whatever it takes) will often overdo it and decide that what they need is a full-fledged family constitution.
Some of the biggest, most successful families do it that way, so we will do it too.
It’s actually a pretty good sentiment, but it shows a fundamental misunderstanding of how those successful families went about it.
Start Early, Start Small, Start Slowly
There is nothing wrong with having a family constitution. But, and it’s a big “but”, it is not the place to begin.
Families who decide that they need to institute some form of governance should instead follow the steps I outlined in a 2017 blog post, Start Cleaning Up your M.E.S.S.
The acronym “MESS” was something I came up with almost by accident. But I think it’s a useful way to remember things about “getting started” with big changes, such as instituting governance.
The letters in MESS each follow the word “Start”, as in “start moving”, “start early”, “start small” and “start slowly”.
Start with the X-Ray, Then the MRI
In the same way I went straight to the MRI, many families think that they can take a shortcut, and get someone to help them write up a family constitution, and then all will be right with the world.
But just like the clinic that gladly took my money for an MRI I probably didn’t need, there are plenty of people out there who will take your money and write you a family constitution.
A family constitution needs to be done BY the family, FOR the family.
There are no exceptions.