Conference in Miami

Selected Notes from FFI’s 2019 Conference in Miami

I’ve just completed an intense few days in Miami with some fantastic colleagues and friends.  The Family Firm Institute puts on an annual conference every October, and once again I’m so glad I made the trip.

I don’t typically take many notes at such events, but I do jot down little tidbits to use as blog material going forward.  

My blog calendar going out to late December is already full, so I’ll just share some random take-aways that I noted over the past 3 days.


Money In Motion

I spent some time with friend and colleague Kirby Rosplock, who mentioned on more than one occasion that there’s “more money in motion right now than ever before”.

I thought that was a nice way to expand on the old “largest wealth transfer in history” that some of us are getting tired of hearing, while also adding in the aspect of the moves being made by firms and professionals who are forever positioning and re-positioning themselves to benefit from said transfer.


Emotional “Investment” and Emotional “Ownership”

When people talk about family businesses, as they do constantly at FFI, the subject of “emotions” is never far away.  I heard a couple of expressions containing the word “emotional” in similar but different ways, and as usual, that caught my eye.

In one session, the presenters spoke about the difference between “real” (i.e. legal) ownership of a business, and family members who (simply) have “emotional ownership” by virtue of being family members.  These folks are often dubbed “stakeholders”.

That was not necessarily a new term for me, but then in a later session, I noted the phrase “emotional investment” being used to talk about rising generation family members, and whether they were ready to make the required efforts to take leadership roles in the business.

“Are they willing to make the emotional investment?” was how it was put.  It was much more about energy and effort than money.


Getting Value Out of Values

Peter Englisch of PwC made some interesting points around family values and how they can be important to a family business.

Values alone aren’t enough, he noted.  Here’s the money quote:

     “You only get value from the values if they’re communicated!”

It’s great to work out what the key values are in the family, but then the effort must be continued to communicate those values, both internally to employees, and then externally, to customers.


Hire Slow, Fire Fast

There was another great nugget from that session that I thought was worth sharing, and it has to do with finding key employees who share the family’s values.

Family businesses should Hire Slow, and, when required, Fire Fast.

There’s a tendency to do the opposite, especially with tight labour markets we’re seeing today.  But for family businesses, you need to make sure that candidates share the values of the family, and that can take time.

Likewise, if you discover that someone does not share certain key values, you need to hasten their exit, immediately.


Inspiration = Breathe!

I attended a session on Spirituality in Family Business Advising, given be friends Natalie McVeigh and Mette Ballari.  There were plenty of fellow meditators in the full house crowd, and it was inspiring.

In fact, as regular readers know, I love to point out interesting language facts, and I’m almost ashamed to admit that I did not see this one before myself.

Natalie noted that the word “inspiration” that we are all familiar with, actually means “breathe”.

In French, “la respiration” is made up of two parts, the breathing in “l’inspiration” and breathing out, “l’expiration”.

There are a few places we could go with that, but we’re out of race track for this week.


NYC in October 2020

I am already looking forward to coming together with this exceptional group of friends and colleagues from around the globe next year.

We will be doing it in the Big Apple, New York City, from October 28-30, 2020, right in the heart of things, in Times Square.


What I’ve shared here is less than 10% of what I got out of attending, and I’m still digesting much of it.

Advising family businesses in still very much a niche field.  As such, in order to bring together a large group of like-minded colleagues, a global group is needed.

Nobody does that better that FFI.