19: The Family Business Myth and the Hero’s Journey


Welcome to Let’s Talk Family Enterprise, a podcast that explores the ideas, concepts and models that best serve Family Enterprise Advisors (FEAs) in supporting their clients.

All views, information and opinions expressed during this podcast are solely those of the individuals involved and do not necessarily represent those of Family Enterprise Exchange or its employees.


Guest host Steve Legler speaks with Guillermo Salazar, Founder and Managing Director of Exaudi Family Business Consulting to explore the Family Business Myth, the Hero’s Journey and the importance of storytelling when working with family businesses.

They discuss the importance of a family narrative around the history of the family business as a way to begin the process of creating a cohesive, shared vision for the generations who will take the family into the future, with a particular focus on how FEAs can be catalysts for these types of conversations with their clients.

Guest bio

As Founder and Managing Director of Exaudi Family Business Consulting, Guillermo has helped many business families in the different processes towards the transition of their legacy; integrating new generations and implementing methodologies that create sustainable businesses and align the vision of the family and its values. For over 18 years he has guided business families in Latin America, Europe and the United States in the process of designing family protocols, professionalization processes, effective decision-making and conflict resolution through proven models and methodologies.

You can find out more about Guillermo Salazar here.

See more: https://familyenterpriseadvisors.libsyn.com/19-the-family-business-myth-and-the-heros-journey

Speaker 1 (00:03):
Let’s talk family enterprise explores, global ideas, concepts and models that help family enterprise advisors better serve their family. Clients brought to you by the family enterprise exchange, all views information and opinions expressed during this podcast are solely those of the individuals involved and do not necessarily represent those of family enterprise exchange or its employees. Hello, and welcome

Speaker 2 (00:31):
To another episode of the let’s talk family enterprise podcast. My name is Steve Legler. I’m excited to be your guest host. Once again, today, we’re going to be talking about family business myths and the hero’s journey and how we can learn to use them to better understand our family business clients. Our guest today is Guillermo Salazar. Who’s written about this subject for the FFI practitioner, and who’s passionate about this way of relating to so many family business situations. Guillermo is the founder and managing director of [inaudible] family business consulting in Houston, Texas. I’ve known Guillermo for a few years through the family firm Institute. In preparation for this podcast, I went to check his LinkedIn profile. I’d noticed that we have over 500 mutual connections. Wow. I guess we’re swimming in the same global family business community. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover today. So let’s say hi to Guillermo and kick things off Guillermo. Thanks for joining us today and welcome to the let’s talk family enterprise podcast.

Speaker 3 (01:32):
Thanks very much, Steve, for this invitation and very excited to be here.

Speaker 2 (01:37):
Well, I’m glad you could join us cause your, your topic is, is intriguing to me because about the myths and the hero’s journey, sounds like a really compelling thing for family business leaders and the whole way it all ties in with storytelling. So how, why is this so important for business families?

Speaker 3 (01:57):
Yes, this is very important. Uh, and it’s all related with the way that we human beings things and feel about our reality and our wild, uh, our identity as human beings. So, uh, the importance of the myth is something that, uh, one of the first, uh, specialists in, in this, in this matter, who was Antonio Fereda from Palo Alto, he was the first to coin that there a family myth. And he identified this as a practical tool for the families to keep the, uh, mechanism of cohesion of the group of the family. So the meat is a convention that is installed in the unconscious of everyone in there in the family of every individual, that there are so things that are accepted and there are no ways to, uh, uh, uh, discuss about, about the, the evidence or the, despite the evidence, everything that they cool identify, uh, something asset truth. And this is the way that families keep together and prevent the system from the threat of disintegration or chaos. So this is very important because, uh, this is what prevent to the family to harm itself. That’s the importance, that’s the level of importance of a myth.

Speaker 2 (03:32):
Okay. So let me, let me just back this up. So the overall subject here are family businesses that transition through the generations and it’s part it’s, it’s talking, you’re talking about how storytelling and ways of storytelling and the importance of, of bringing the story out is an important element in keeping families together through the generations. Did I get that right?

Speaker 3 (03:56):
That’s absolutely right. And the way that we use the myth in the proper way, uh, we will find a better effect in the next generations to get the entrepreneurial spirit. So that’s the most important part of the myth in family businesses. Okay.

Speaker 2 (04:15):
So the, I, I, I love this, this term, the hero’s journey, because, you know, often when we talk to an entrepreneurial family, there’s a patriarch typically, or sometimes a matriarch that that sort of is the hero and sees themselves as the hero. And then often when it gets to another generation, there’s seems like there might not be a hero. And so how does the hero transition? How does the idea of a hero transition through the arc through the family business narrative so that it keeps going and keeps the family connected and moving forward in the next generation?

Speaker 3 (04:52):
Yes. Uh, but I have, I have to mention that the, uh, the right use of this myth of the hero in a family business is something that we are looking for when we talk about the heroes, the army, uh, uh, what, uh, when, when I mentioned the right use is because we have the structure of the narrative of the storytelling of this hero, uh, that it’s still, that is, is a focus in the right way of telling the story. If we, we, um, we try to, uh, for cues in a way that we, uh, embed the hero us as something that is not reachable for the next generation, if, if this is something that is like a, an impossible way to imitate, so we will have their, their, uh, the effect that we are not looking for. And, and, and then the way to understand, and to learn how to retell the story and how to folk use the structure. The hero’s journey is a big key to create that effect in the next generations.

Speaker 2 (06:04):
Okay. So you’re talking about telling the story in a way that does not set up one generation as having attained certain Heights that no one could ever attain again, and the moralize them in, in some way, but to tell the story in a way where a hero, the hero idea gets renewed in each generation.

Speaker 3 (06:26):
Absolutely. Yes. And every, everyone in a family, uh, can identify the hero, the hero figure, because the hero’s journey is a scheme, is a, is an, a structure is a, is a, um, archetype that, that works through the unconscious of everyone. So it’s very easy. Once you have the story in front of you to identify all the, all of the elements that will fit in a way that you will, um, uh, um, you will, uh, embed that concept in your unconscious, and you will have an identification with that idea, and you will be part of that idea. So it’s, it’s a very powerful tool for, uh, create identity in the family system and to inspire the next generations to go for it, to be part of that story and to, and to create a belongingness, uh, of, of, of, of these important part of, uh, of what our family business cool, inspired to the rest of the society.

Speaker 2 (07:39):
Okay. Let me just position this podcast is the main audience for this podcast are the, the FEA community, which are the family enterprise advisors of which there are several hundred, uh, mostly across Canada, but who have, who work with business families, uh, in different capacities and are always trying to find ways where we can add value and serve our clients and be resources for these family business clients. So I’m trying to figure out, is there a way where we as advisors, when we come to a family, a family might not be doing this on their own, but this could be something we introduced to them as something they could be doing. Is, is there a way for us to use our connection to a family to sort of get them started on this kind of important journey?

Speaker 3 (08:30):
Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, there is a connection between the hero myth and the entrepreneur model as an engine of change in the cultural system. So if we follow, uh, what the expert of storytelling of this hero journey, model kettles, there is a map. There is a route on how to tell the story in the right way. What I say is if we follow what Joseph Campbell said in his book, um, the hero’s journey, the hero with a thousand faces, which is the main, I would say is the most important book that influences in the, in the philosophy and way of seeing life in, in this set in the 20th century, if we follow that path, which is a path with three stages and 17 phases, we will see that there is a right and proper way to tell the story of the hero and the way that you re, uh, rewrite or re retail. The story following go step will help us as, uh, as advisors to, uh, our clients to see what they have in their, uh, history. Um, and, and this is a way to rebuild the narrative that they share. If, if we help them to rediscover what they already know, this is something that absolutely will help for them to understand what they need to do in order to change whatever they need to change.

Speaker 2 (10:05):
Okay. I think, I think I’m finally catching on it’s it’s, this is a, this is an idea of taking historically significant ways of telling stories that have been going on for hundreds of years, and that at that many Hollywood movies follow the same, it’s kind of like a formula that have a great way to tell stories. And if we can sort of help our family business clients understand this formula to tell their own story, it can be more compelling and it can bring more people in and more people can understand and buy in and feel a part of the family and understand how the story can continue in their generation. Did I get some of that? Okay.

Speaker 3 (10:49):
Yes, that’s exactly. That’s exactly the way to say. Uh, and, and again, I, I want to, to, to go back with this idea of, of, of, uh, taking advantage of the, the work of Joseph Campbell, when he published the hero with a thousand faces, he, because he really to revolutionize, revolutionize the, how do we understand the story? He combines all these psychological elements, uh, and, and those elements are based on the work of Carl Jong, uh, young, uh, he really discovered how symbols on archetypes work in our unconscious. So once we put all those pieces together, we can identify everything that everything that we need to do to understand in order to put, uh, uh, a coherent, uh, narrative in our own identity, as part of, so everything related with religious passages, legends tales around the world, everything is working in the same way. It’s the way that we understand what’s what’s around us as part of our reality.

Speaker 2 (12:05):
So, so Joseph Campbell studied all these stories through history and realized that they follow a certain pattern. And then he tried to find a way to explain it to, to break it down so that people can use it. And then what you’re saying about business families is if you can get the family story into this formula at which is already in people’s unconscious, you get it into a, uh, into a form where it’s, it’s better shared and remembered, and then can be continued. And so, so there’s a sort of a progression that all these stories follow is that right?

Speaker 3 (12:41):
Yes. And not only that, if, if you do that with a family, as I, as I mentioned, they are, they are three stages on, on different phases. And every step has a signification in the narrative. You can find things that are missing in your history. I think working with families when I applied this formula, that they discovery that a, we haven’t done that. We haven’t done that step of the hero. We, we didn’t recognize in our meat, this particular one, and we are missing that one. And sometimes because myths are dynamic, if you retell the story and you have the opportunity to include that specific step, that you are missing, everything start to make sense in your own identity. It’s very powerful.
Speaker 2 (13:34):
Okay. So you’re talking about now working with a family and asking them to tell their story, and then noticing maybe where it doesn’t fit with what you’re seeing as the typical narrative. And you can ask them questions about, well, what about this? What about that? And then they’ll, they’ll they’ll remember, Oh yeah, well, that’s what I met. So-and-so but they, it may be something they’d completely forgotten, but it’s because you are there to sort of show them where it fits in the formula. It’s sort of recreate some energy around a certain part that had been forgotten and brings that into it more into focus.

Speaker 3 (14:11):
Yes. I’ll give you an example. Uh, so first of all, the, the, the hero journey that the monoamines concept, as I mentioned, these three steps includes the first one, which is, uh, the separation of the ordinary world. Then the hero goes through, uh, uh, penetration to a type of power, power source, the magical world, and then he has to return. And when we compare these journey with the intrepreneur life, we will see, and, um, there is a book by Sonam field, uh, the hero’s farewell. He, he talks about, uh, how how’s the retirement process of the interpreters. We will see that these return, which use the retirement phase of the entrepreneur is the most difficult of all, all of the heroes. Every time that they have to decide to go back to the ordinary world, they refuse to go back. They want to keep going be heroes.

Speaker 3 (15:13):
So there are certain conditions that the hero puts to, to, uh, to return to the ordinary world. The first one is that he needs to be recognized. Somehow he needs some middle. He needs a recognition, a trophy, something that tells you are the one. And the other one is that he needs to leave a legacy in somehow there most to be a document or a documentation or, or record of that. What I did is what something good for my family, for my society. So if you don’t have those elements, it will be very difficult for the hero to return to retire. And if you are missing those pieces and their hero doesn’t want to return, he will be K. He will become, uh, in, in something different, which is, uh, uh, Tyron. Uh, every time that we see the, those, uh, uh, founders that they, they refuse to, to, to retire, they, they, they, they become tired of the system. So this is something that we want to avoid, uh, uh, try to, and, you know, as an advice or how, how you can advise someone to start the succession process, uh, working with the successor, and one is we succeed, but this will say it one need, see some conditions to do so. So those are all related with these concepts and those cells.
Speaker 2 (16:48):

Oh, absolutely. I think, I think, uh, our listeners will really identify with that part because we, we typically work with the current leading generation. We typically work with, with people who are planning for a transition where they, uh, are doing something that we might qualify as an exit in some sort. And there’s always some things that are stopping them from wanting to do that. And you’re highlighting a couple of them. So one of them is to recognize them, right. And they need to be recognized and they need to have a legacy. And if we are talking to people, uh, or a family, and they haven’t started to address how they’re going to do those two things, they might expect that there will be some resistance. So, so those are two elements that we should be working on to help the family to move to the next stage is to at least get those two parts of it.

Speaker 3 (17:47):
Yes. And for example, they have that family I was working with, uh, last year, uh, the leader, the founder, uh, he died, uh, I think it was like 15 years ago. And he was a hero of the family who was the founder. He was the one who, who created all the fortune that they share. And when we retold the story that they already know, but with this structure, they found that they were missing that recognition of the, of the father figure of the, of the intrepreneur and the legacy part. And they, you start work on creating a documentation of what was the work of the father. How, how, how did he contribute to the society? How, how he create this incredible enterprise and, and all of that information that, uh, was basically lost in their memory. Uh, they start working in a, in a project of, of, of curating a book to recognize his, his work. And that was something that really incredibly fit in the memory of them as a pending thing that they have to do with the, with the father figure. And, and they were so, like, I would say they like liberate. Uh, there was, there was like this relief feeling that they were doing the right thing because now the pieces were in the right place. So that’s the kind of things.

Speaker 2 (19:20):
That’s, you know, when, when, when we’ve been talking about this, I always assume that this is something you need to do while the person is still alive, but you’re telling me that even afterwards, if the FA if the story doesn’t include that part, you can still do that part afterwards. And, and in fact, you’re telling a story about a family who didn’t do that. And when they finally did it, they felt the relief that’s that’s I, I get it, but it was unexpected that that was part of it. So this is really powerful stuff.

Speaker 3 (19:50):
Yes, yes, absolutely. Because as, as Campbell mentioned, if you want to create a myth, you will need at least three generations, and probably you will have one of the first members of the first generation that we will be no longer around with the third generation. We’ll be, uh, we’ll be in charge of, of leading this project. But once you have created the myth, you can retail the myth, the way that you need, because that’s, uh, that’s one of the main, uh, functions of the meat. And one of the main characteristics, you can reshape it in every generation, every generation can retell the meat the way that they need to do. So that’s the way that it’s, it, it traveled through.

Speaker 2 (20:40):
Okay. So, so, so by telling the story or working the story through this formula, there is a way where it’s self sustaining and it, it, it, it allows it to repeat through the following generations. That’s, that’s, I, that’s a concept that I could get my mind around, but I don’t really understand how it works. Can you help fill that in for me?

Speaker 3 (21:02):
Yes. I mean, we have to understand that, that the myth and the stories has a function and in traveling through generations, and it’s not always related with the accuracy of the history. Uh, what I mean with that is that for example, uh, let’s think about, uh, the Spain in the, in the 11th century, they used to, uh, tell the stories to the troops before they go to battle. And, and those stories were telling where, where were telling stories about the heroes and, and, and how, for example, the Gasteia, uh, army have never failed. They weren’t, they have never lose a battle in, in, in two centuries. Um, maybe that wasn’t that accurate. Maybe they really love it, but they have retail that I will assure you. If I were a soldier, I won’t be the first to lose. Right. I’m inspired because I believe in that.

Speaker 3 (22:13):
So that’s the way that we use the metaphor and they go to the battlefield thinking on that, I won’t lose. I won’t be the first one. I can, I can be the first one. So that’s the way that we use the myth. And it doesn’t have to be very accurate with the history, but if we, uh, are, uh, uh, uh, good enough to retell the story in a certain way, that it’s, we are not lying, but we are telling you things the way that will inspire you. And that’s where, what we are looking for. We want to inspire you.

Speaker 2 (22:51):
So, so this is about keeping the family history alive, and there’s an old adage that, what, what is it? The, the victors are the ones who write the history. So, so the family can sort of reshape and retell the story in more useful ways than they may be.

Speaker 3 (23:09):
Yes, yes. And an element of, of, of, uh, uh, making tributes to your ancestors, which is something that is very important too. And, and, and try to be, uh, fair enough to recognize the good things over the bad things that they do, uh, or they did. So, uh, yes, uh, this is the way that we, uh, Rico seal with our past and build our future.

Speaker 2 (23:42):
So it’s about, it’s about creating the proper for communicating with all the stakeholders in a useful way that motivates them and keeps the story alive and keeps the family moving forward.

Speaker 3 (23:58):
Yes. And, and you have mentioned it stakeholders. I mean, I’ve been, I’ve been interviewing, uh, members of their, of the, of the business that, that doesn’t belong to the family. And if I, as a family have done the right thing on telling this story to the rest of the system, it’s incredible, the way that people worked on their inspiration, they talk about the founder, they talk about it, the, uh, all of the, the, the things that the family have, uh, had done and, and all the success of the business, and they feel that they are part of that, uh, because, because they are inspired that that’s the difference that the different inspiration and motivation are two different things. You can have motivated employees and that’s okay. But when you have inspired employees, you have something that is very, very different and very strong, and that, and that’s what storytelling do.

Speaker 2 (24:58):
And that’s important. That’s something I think we all understand like in our minds, but this is, this is more than that. This is, you’re talking about employees of a business who are not family members, but who are, are never the less inspired because they are working for a family business where the family has created this, not just motivating, but inspiring idea of being part of it. And so, so, and that’s what keeps, you know, family businesses are always well-trusted and, and, and, uh, have a great reputation in many communities. And I guess that’s all part of, of this and the, and the, I guess the ones who don’t do a good enough job of keeping this alive risk, you know, falling to the, to the side. And so it’s important for every generation of the family to keep that narrative alive. Yeah.

Speaker 3 (25:54):
Yeah. And, and, and, you know, marketing, marketing guys know how does it work? I mean, if you want to create brand, you have to tell the story. And when you connect with it with the public, with this story, uh, you will have a powerful brand. And that’s the way that they use the same tool to inspire the rest of the consumers of the, your clients, your, um, everything that these are related with the business. So it’s basically the same.

Speaker 2 (26:23):
I think we went through some period of time, uh, maybe a few decades ago where being seen as a family business felt kind of like a negative that, Oh, you’re just a little family business, but I think that’s changed in the last little while. And I think that some of the bigger family businesses have sort of taken advantage their familiness and it’s become more invoke and maybe more families should be taking advantage of this and working with their marketing people and working on the family angle of things. And it sounds like this hero’s journey is one way they might be, be thinking about doing that.

Speaker 3 (27:00):
Yes, it’s, uh, I mean, if, um, if families are conscious of how important this is for them to shape the future, and they start doing this as part of their, of, of the way of, of keeping together the family, they will find a perfect UN very original way to, uh, inspire not only the family, but the rest of the, of the stakeholders, shareholders, employees, clients, providers, everyone around this story of the heroes,

Speaker 2 (27:38):
But it starts with the family though. I, I, that’s what I was starting to think that you, you don’t want to take this as, Hey, let’s get the marketing people in here to tell this story. Although, although if it came that way and the marketing people, by asking their questions, got the family towards this kind of work, but there’s gotta be a better way to get a family working on this. So how do, how do we as advisors introduce this idea to our clients and get them started on, on their own family narrative and looking at their own heroes?

Speaker 3 (28:09):
Well, if you have a methodology of working with families, I will suggest that one of the very first steps is to make a specialization for this. And, and, and, and you can tell it, uh, we are going to meet today to retail your story. I know that you guys know your story, but we are going to retail in a way that you never tell before. And once you start doing that, following that map of Joseph Campbell, as, as the us, the route to, uh, put all the pieces together, helping them to find all of these information and going back and forward telling you the story, once you have the complete map. And, um, and I suggest you to write down all of these in a, in a huge piece of paper on the wall, uh, doing, uh, uh, a timeline and putting all the, uh, all the, the, the main characters of the plot, all the main milestones of the story.

Speaker 3 (29:14):
And they start to see, uh, and have the vision of what they, they do. They below to, uh, the impact that they will have on the way that they understand themselves. This will be absolutely wonderful. And that will be your work, your work as an advice, or you will guide them to, um, find their own identity of where do they belong and spatially, whilst they have that identity, uh, spotted, they can start work on the future because there’s no future. If you don’t know what’s your past, that’s absolutely that way. The only way to see the future is when you see the past, you use the same tools you use the same part of your brain to remember than to imagine you have to, you have to use the same tools that you have to create in one way or other. So this, that, that’s why it’s very important to, to integrate these, these structure of your past, because this is the way that you will create a more, uh, believable future of yours.

Speaker 2 (30:27):
That’s, that’s incredibly profound. And I wish I would have known about this a couple of years ago, I’ve had the privilege of sitting in a room where, you know, one Jew, the current generation is, is sharing some of the history with their children and, and, and seeing their eyes light up and, and seeing how fascinated they were to learn about new things. And it feels now, like it was a missed opportunity for me to, to, to actually take that, which was already a very good experience and turn it into a greater experience, but I won’t make that mistake again, GMO, this has been great. Unfortunately, we are getting to the end of our time together, and I’ve got a couple of final requests of you before we wrap up, which we do with all of our guests. So I want to ask you for one book recommendation, although I think I have an idea of what it might be, or there’s maybe a couple of them. And then, uh, one other piece, one piece of advice from an advisor to other advisors. So can we start with a book recommendation?

Speaker 3 (31:29):
Okay. Yes. I see. You can guess, uh, we’ll recommend this one is a classic. I like recommending classics. Uh, I will recommend your two classics. Okay. The first one is the one I mentioned before, uh, by just a Campbell, the hero with a thousand faces. Uh, most of my friends here in the U S they say that, uh, they already have that book in their childbirth, but they, they don’t remember that. So, uh, you probably have that book in your shelf or your, or your policyholders. Uh, it was, it was, uh, the first, uh, edition was in 1949. So it’s been around our own mythologies since then. Um, the other one I would recommend is one reading by Jeffrey song, field, the heroes Farwell, what happens when COLS retire, which is a masterpiece of these most important part of the hero’s journey. When, what, how do they return to the normal world? And it’s a book of the eighties. It was, uh, published in 1988, but it’s a compilation of 17, uh, different cases of most of the most important CEOs of corporations in the U S that, uh, got into retire. So goes to spook. I think that will help you to understand the other things

Speaker 2 (32:54):
We will, we will put a link in the show notes to those. I do have the, the, the second one on I’ve. I’ve read it. I did my Kindle, not on my shelf, but I do have it. Okay. So Guillermo, one piece of advice from an advisor, who’s worked with lots of families to other people who are working with families, probably many of them with a bit less experienced. So what, what can you, what kind of piece of advice could you give us?

Speaker 3 (33:18):
Well, I would say that, uh, something that had helped me to, uh, connect with the essence of the families is precisely storytelling, uh, helping families to read this cover. Their own story is something that I would try to do on the first steps of working with the family. Uh, it helps you to understand them and it helps you to connect with them. And it’s something that once you master that, uh, exercise, uh, it’s incredibly simple on, um, very enjoyable to trust your feelings on helping them to go through the history, because it’s all about connection of the unconscious. And once you make conscious what is unconscious, you will start to have control of your Fisher. And, and that’s what I will tell you, trust your feelings, help them to tell the stories, and you will have a more enjoyable relationship with your client

Speaker 2 (34:26):
And what a great way to develop. Like you said, that connection. And we’re all trying to be the trusted advisor. And by asking questions of a more personal nature and trying to learn about the whole history, we’re demonstrating our, our willingness to get right in there on these important family matters. And, and we connect with our clients on a deeper level, and that will serve us well in our reputation, in our, in our work with that, those, those family members you’re right. Awesome, wonderful. Well, that flew by as usual. Um, Guillermo, thank you so much for joining us and sharing your expertise with our audience listeners. If you haven’t already subscribed, please do so. Make sure to never miss any of these episodes. Thank you again, Guillermo.

Speaker 3 (35:17):
Thank you. See it for invitation and my pleasure as always.

Speaker 2 (35:20):
All right. Thanks for joining us.

Speaker 1 (35:22):
I’m Steve Legler, and we’ll see you next time. If you enjoyed today’s episode, you can subscribe to us on iTunes or any other podcast apps. And don’t forget to share this with family, friends, and colleagues. If you have feedback on this content or suggestions for future episodes, please email us@feaatfamily-enterprise-xchange.com. We’d love to hear from