Where Do YOU Fit in Your Business Family?

This post has been a long time coming, because the idea for it actually first came to me a few years ago, but somehow it never made it to my blog calendar.

The idea resurfaced again recently in some work I was doing with a family, so that was the clincher; it’s time.


Doing your “Values Work”

When working with people from business families, many consultants, myself included, emphasize the importance of working together to define and clarify the values that family members have in common, because once that work’s done, many decisions become easier to make.

Likewise, when I first entered this profession, I began to work on constructing my first website, and the coach I’d been working with insisted that I do my own personal “values work”, so that we could make the decisions we needed to make, so that my website properly reflected me, and what I find important.

For what it’s worth, the three core values I came up with were:

                        Authenticity  – Belonging –  Empathy

Because one’s values are typically pretty consistent over time, it should not be surprising to learn that I think that these still “fit” me pretty well.

And, noting that “belonging” is one of them, it shouldn’t be surprising that writing a blog about this topic is important to me, even if it’s something I could have (should have?) done sooner.


Standing on the Shoulders of a Giant

I don’t often share the names of people who inspire my posts, but I’ll make an exception here because I really wouldn’t have learned the importance of this without Aron Pervin, who shared it with me a few years ago while we had breakfast together in Toronto.

I was still new in this game, and I think I noted something about the importance for people to understand not only “what you do” in your FamBiz, but also “who you are”.

I thought I was pretty clever, highlighting the “Doing” and “Being” aspects, to this man who had been doing this work for decades before I began.


“I Also Add ‘Where Do You Fit’

That’s when Aron replied that I was actually missing a pretty important piece, about “Where do you FIT”.

Hmmm. I thought.  That’s good. That’s really good.

I haven’t forgotten it either, but I do realize that I’ve been remiss in not sharing it here.

Because as much as I like it and think it’s important, I’m not sure that I’ve seen anyone else express it this way, this clearly.


Two Aspects, Two Steps

When I think about this question as it relates to enterprising families, it actually comes down to two separate components, or two aspects.  

The first part is all about “DO I fit?”, as in, am I welcome here, and it’s essentially a Yes or No question.  

It may seem like a small detail, but I can assure you that it’s not a negligible question.  Oftentimes, family members who aren’t employed in a business that is owned by the family will have trouble answering this question clearly and honestly.

There’s actually a degree of uncertainty in their minds, and it can sometimes be the subject of confusion.


OK, So Now Where Do I Fit?

The second part, assuming we have now answered that YES, we do fit, is to clarify exactly where we fit.  When answering Yes to the first part, it can sometimes become obvious that the second part of the question remains problematic.

There are many families where this line of thinking takes them “outside the box”, quite literally.

When a family business is still in its early decades, the idea that employees of an operating company have a place, and owners have a place, but that’s about it, can be prevalent.

The family members who don’t fit into those groups, but who are nonetheless “stakeholders”, can feel left out to some degree, and it can be a challenge to change that kind of thinking.


Family Council?  Board? Philanthropy?

For anyone reading this and scratching their head, I’ll leave you with a few possible ideas where non-employee family members might possibly fit into the family business.

Do you have a “family council” yet?  Is there a board of directors for the business, where some non-employee family members could add value?  How about family philanthropy?

These ideas work for some families, how about yours? Are you thinking outside the box?