Most Enterprising Families Want the Same Things
I love it when a positive blog topic lands in my lap out of the blue, especially when it falls on the heels of recent “negative” posts, like last week’s, Avoiding Adversarial Relationships in Your Enterprising Family.
When I say “out of the blue”, I mean that I was simply jotting down some notes during a discussion, and then had an “A-Ha!” moment where something hit me, and I knew I was onto something for an upcoming weekly missive.
The context was a course given as part of the FFI GEN program (Family Firm Institute – Global Education Network) for which I serve as one of the instructors.
I was invited to join the faculty in 2019 and readily accepted, becoming part of the GEN 502 team, for the “Family Governance” course.
We All Learn from All of Us
Some of the things I love about FFI are the fact that it truly is global, with members in dozens of countries, from 6 continents, and the fact that there are so many experienced practitioners who are members, and we all learn from each other in every course.
Since GEN 502 is one of the more advanced courses, the students all have at least some real world experience, and so whatever they share with the group (whether in the online discussion board that the instructor monitors over the quarter, or in the capstone webinar) is for the benefit of everyone.
It was during one participant’s concluding thoughts during our webinar that I heard an innocent comment, but that I captured in a novel way.
Harmony, Unity, and Growth
She stated what every family wants, i.e. “They all want family harmony, family unity, and growth of the business”. (Thanks, LM).
I jotted down, as a list, the following:
Ta-dah! I could not argue with her premise, and, as she happened to put it, she gave me a “family hug” to write about.
Usually when a great blog idea comes to me during a discussion I’m involved in, I share it on the spot with the person who sparked it, thanking them for the idea, but this time the context did not lend itself to that, so I kept it to myself.
So in some ways I’ve been dying to share this even more.
OK, That’s What They Want. How Do They GET It?
Anyone who has spent time with people who lead business families will agree that just about every family has these same three wishes.
Let’s dispense with the “growth” part first, as it’s a bit different, since it typically revolves more around the business or the wealth, as opposed to harmony and unity which are more about the family.
Actually, the growth is ultimately about the family as well, because the family will also grow, even exponentially over coming generations, and deep down there’s a fear that if the business’ growth doesn’t keep pace, that will impact the family negatively at some point.
But even though growth is important, it can always be worked on by all the management and employees, while harmony and unity are a family concern.
So how do you ensure harmony and unity?
Family Governance to the Rescue
Given the fact that a course on family governance was the genesis of this post, you won’t be surprised that my answer also lies in how a family governs itself.
Family governance, in turn, is all about communicating and learning how to make decisions together.
These things don’t always come naturally to families, and so they need to work on them, sooner rather than later, in order to work out the kinks.
The ways that families come together and meet to discuss important topics need to be co-created and developed over time, by the family.
It isn’t exactly natural though, so many families get expert help, from people who have already played similar roles for other families.
Nothing Important Happens by Itself!
Of course no two families are the same, and so you can’t just use a cookie cutter and copy another family’s governance either.
Such trusted outsiders do exist, and the good ones will play whatever role the situation requires, from project manager to quarterback, from implementer to consigliere, and from facilitator to mediator.
But it will take time and effort, from many members of the family too, because nothing important happens by itself.
Hopefully, you’ll also end up with plenty of hugs too!