Can the Family Actually Implement your Ideas?

A Key Question you NEED to Ask

Many of the professionals with whom I interact in my work with enterprising families are specialists in a particular domain, with decades of experience providing solutions for these families.

In many ways I admire these people because the work that they do is relatively easy to describe and ends up with a clear “deliverable” for the families for whom they toil.

When the result of that work actually ends up being useful to the family in question, it must be very validating for them.

Unfortunately, in many instances the output of those efforts never gets implemented into the family’s plans.

Ideas Are a Dime a Dozen

The question of “great ideas” recently hit me and had me searching for the quote that brought home the wisdom around how ideas are insufficient in themselves.

Google was quick to respond with the nugget I was searching for, courtesy of Mary Kay Ash, an ultra-successful U.S. entrepreneur in the last century.


                                    “Ideas are a Dime a Dozen

                                 People who Implement them

                                              Are Priceless”


Families who’ve accumulated a certain amount of wealth eventually face the challenge of transitioning that wealth to the rising generation of their family.

There are hundreds of ideas that can be useful to these families, and thousands of professionals who are expert in wielding them.

And yet the question of whether or not the family will actually implement them rarely gets asked in advance of the work being done.

MBA School Flashback

I’m now flashing back to my days in MBA school, a little over 30 years ago. 

It was one of the top business schools in the country, and they were quite sensitive to ensuring that the freshly-minted MBA’s they were shoving out into the workforce were actually delivering what their new employers were hoping for.

Lo and behold, they had discovered that in some ways, they were missing the mark.

The school had been great at producing experts who could analyze any business situation, produce alternative solutions, and recommend the best course of action.  There was no doubt about that aspect.

Where this school (and all others) was falling short, was in producing people who could actually implement the proposed solution.

You know, the priceless ones.

Bricks, Mortar, and a Mason

Regular readers recognize that metaphors and analogies are some of my favourite ways of communicating complex ideas.

I’ve borrowed the one about the difference between the bricks and the mortar from others, because it nicely illustrates the distinction between the two main physical components of a brick wall.

I also like to add in the part about the mason, or bricklayer, in whose absence no wall will be built.

The one who builds the wall actually “implements” the bricks and the mortar together to create the desired wall.

Stop with the “You Should Do This”

A few weeks ago, in Some Woulda Coulda Shoulda’s for Family Enterprises we looked at part of this question, and I suggested that instead of telling families what we think they should be doing, we might instead help them think about what they could accomplish together, and what the other family members would be up for trying to do together.

This gets right to the heart of what the family is actually interested and able to work on, as they think about the wall they want to build together, and hopefully has them working together to co-create something they will actually implement.

They will certainly need some special bricks supplied by experts along the way, and many of those will include important elements that they should be incorporating.

But the bricks are only a small part of the wall, and the experience gained by the family in building it together will have been priceless, as Mary Kay Ash suggested.

Another Flashback to a Different Analogy

Writing these missives every week is so useful to me because quite often I don’t know where they are going to take me before I begin writing each post.

For instance, I had no idea that I’d flash back to a blog from almost 4 years ago as I wrote this.

But Building a Bridge Versus Buying One instantly came back to me just now, and it’s the perfect place for this piece to land.

Going back to the title of this post, “Can the Family….”, I recognize that another verb, “Will the Family…” poses an equally valid question that should also be asked!

Please ask both!