Girl readying from a red book

Too Many Important Subjects Don’t Get Discussed

Everyone is familiar with the old story about pulling a jacket out of a closet and then serendipitously finding a $20 bill in a pocket.

I had a similar experience a few weeks ago, that didn’t involve clothing or money, but I feel even luckier.

I was getting ready to go to a face-to-face meeting with a man from a local business family, and in-person meetings have not been a regular part of my routine lately, so it was kind of cool just because of that.

I don’t usually take many notes when I speak to someone for an initial meeting, because I think it’s important to give them my full attention and not seem like I’m interviewing them (because really they’re the ones who are interviewing me).

But I do need to make a genogram so that I can follow along with who all the people are and how they are related.

Oh, There’s That Old Clipboard

So I dusted off an old clipboard and opened it up to discover some notes from the last live conference I attended, in January 2020.

It was by the Institute for Family Governance in NYC, and there was the one-page brochure and some notes I had taken.

I noticed something at the top of the page that I had written:

            “On everyone’s mind, but on nobody’s agenda. K.G.”

I instantly remembered the quote, but struggled to recall who K.G. was, so I looked at the conference papers and at all of the names of the speakers, but there was nobody whose initials matched.

Finally, it hit me; there was also a half-day, pre-conference session the day before, where the presenter was none other than Kelin Gersick, one of the founders of the field of advising enterprising families.

Now it all made sense, and I could properly credit the quote.

You Are Always On My Mind…

Apologies for the Willie Nelson flashback, but there are some subjects that are always on the minds of people who belong to a business family, and there’s a subset of those thoughts that just don’t ever make it onto an agenda for discussion.

Speaking of flashbacks, I recall a first meeting with “Sally,” a mother of four, who told me “I’ve been thinking about this for 10 years, and talking to my husband about it for 5 years, and now, we are finally going to do something about it”.

I ended up working with their four offspring for about 4 years, and as I share the types of things we worked on together, you’ll understand that while the concerns of such parents are common and widespread, that doesn’t mean that they are easy to put into words and describe.

It’s also not always easy to know where to turn when you do decide, as Sally did, when it’s finally time to do something about it.

It All Boils Down to Family Governance, Again

As I wrote in Instituting Family Governance, Incrementally, the blog post that I wrote immediately after that IFG Conference, families need to make a commitment to doing this work, and to find someone from outside the family to help lead the way.

Nobody just wakes up one day and says, “Today we’re going to start to work on our family governance”.

What is on their minds is typically some worry, about how their offspring are going to get along once their parents are no longer around, at some point long into the future.

Somehow, that idea that’s on their minds needs to make it onto their agenda, and it usually doesn’t happen all at once.

Like Sally, who was thinking about it for 5 years before she even shared those thoughts with her husband, and then it took them another 5 years to start to move

From My Agenda to OUR Agenda

To go from one parent to both is already a huge step, but the bigger step remains, getting the rising generation interested and involved, aligned and engaged.

I worked with the four siblings, every month or so, together and as individuals, and got them used to working together on projects that were important to their family, especially as they approached their eventual intergenerational wealth transition.

It isn’t rocket science, but it doesn’t just happen all by itself either.

Get it on your family’s agenda already.