The Challenges of Working with a Flat FOOT Enterprise

Speaker: Steve Legler, MBA, FEA, CPCC, Family Legacy Guide, Coach, and Facilitator

Host: Kirby Rosplock, Ph.D. Founder, Tamarind Partners, Inc., PPI Dean of Family Offices

Summary: In a recent article published in the FFI Practitioner, Steve Legler shared his observation that, in some family enterprises, when a generational shift occurs, an existing corporate hierarchy may transform into a less defined and ambiguous structure when the next gen leaders have roughly equivalent managerial roles. In his article, Steve explores the challenges of working with clients who are experiencing what he has dubbed as the flat “FOOT”: the “Family Owner-Operator Team.”

In this session, hosted by Kirby Rosplock, Steve and Kirby share thoughts and perspectives on such family situations, and how they differ when there is an operating company, versus a family office, or when much of the wealth is held in trusts.

0:07
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1:34
All right. Well welcome everyone and thank you all for joining us for today’s thought leader and industry innovator webinar. The title of today’s session is the challenges of working with a flat foot enterprise. Our guest speaker today is Steve Legler. And our host is Kirby Rosplock . My purposeful quote that Steve selected that I’ll share and then I’ll turn it over to Kirby to get us started. The quote is by George Bernard Shaw, the test of a man or woman’s reading is how they behave and a corporal. So thanks for that. Steve and Kirby over to you to get us started.

2:11
Thanks, Julie. Welcome everyone who’s joined the call today really excited to feature Mr. Steve Legler who is someone a dear friend, an incredible peer and a thought leader, innovator, researcher and incredible consultant and advisor to many families and family enterprises. So we are so thrilled to jump into the topic. Of these special kinds of organizations and Steve coined this the flat foot enterprise. So we’re going to talk about what is that the challenges of working with these kinds of families. And all of this was inspired by a piece that Steve wrote for the FFI practitioner, but before we go there, Steve, can you tell us just a little bit about your own purposeful Odyssey how you got to this place and what inspired you to do this kind of work?

3:14
Yes, absolutely. Thanks, Kirby. So I was born into a family business. I’m based in Montreal, Canada. This is where I was born. I’m still here. My father was an immigrant entrepreneur, and I have two older sisters and they were not suitable people to take over his dirty steel fabrication business. But when I was born, my earliest memory was that I was supposed to eventually take over from him. And so the first couple of decades of my life, that was my entire orientation. And then I went straight into the business out of college, which I know you’re not really supposed to do, and I discourage people from doing that. But we were different. We were special. So it was good for us. Then I went to do my MBA and came back two years later, only to realize that the business was slowly going downhill and my dad was panicking and saying, We have to merge, we have to sell, we have to close reps to do something. So long story short, instead of coming back to a company with about 250 employees. Six months later, we had sold our operations and we’re now four people. Two of us were named Steve Legler. I had a junior after my name, my dad had bought himself a farm. He was off breeding cattle and I was left to handle what was left so it was 1991. And it was a very small family office, but I didn’t know what a family office was but that’s what that’s what I was left with some money from the sale, some buildings that we needed to eventually divest which when you have contaminated an industrial real estate that isn’t necessarily something you can do quickly. And so, here I was doing this for longer than I care to admit it was a job that needed to be done but a bit less than fulfilling. Lo and behold, about 10 years ago exactly. It was late 2012 I was on LinkedIn and I saw an ad that said, become a family enterprise adviser. Now you might see that logo over my shoulder here. FTA so I didn’t know what I was doing. I just sort of signed up and I ended up in Toronto in this cohort of people who were there to learn what makes family businesses tick. Now, all the people in the seats besides me, either work for banks, or they were accountants or they sold life insurance or there were investment managers and they are there because they serve a lot of family businesses. And I’m just this guy who’s running his own small family office. And I was wondering what I was doing there because I had nothing in common with the people in the seats. But it took me a little while to realize that the people are up at the front of the room. We’re talking about doing some really cool things with families, helping them figure out their vision, their values, their goals, prepare the rising generation, have family retreats, family meetings, then I was like wait a sec is is that a thing? Like people do that? And I had my calling. Better late than never. I thought I was 48 I finally figured out what I wanted to be when I grew up. And that’s what I’ve been doing for the last 10 years. I jumped in with both feet, wrote a book started writing blogs found a few clients now I teach in the FFA program, Kirby and I were teaching the same horse for a while there to same one that Dennis Jaffe teaches. So I give a hats off to Judy Cunningham who started the FBA program, who’s also on the board of advisors of ppi and then I wrote this article for the FSI practitioner. The day it came out in July. I got an email in that afternoon from Dennis Jaffe saying, Hey, this is great. No, you’re right. Nobody’s talking about this. And then the next day I think I got an email from John a saying, Hey, you got to come and do a Tuesday call about this. So here we are. Epi FSI, family, enterprise, Canada all coming together and hopefully talking about something relevant to some of the people listening.

7:03
I think that’s a perfect entree into this topic, which I mean, you. You coined this sort of catchy

7:11
I know love it. I don’t love it, I have to call it something. I have to call it something. And so the foot part is family owner operated team, right. So what I kept seeing like Not, not in a majority of cases, but I kept seeing these examples of sibling groups and sometimes with some cousins but three or four people from from a G that’s a number bigger than one, so g two or G three that are working together with key roles. As like their main people operating a business. And they have either one parent or a couple of uncles or whatever above them. And that sibling or cousin group gets along fine. And they’re becoming a family owner operator T and then something happens there’s an exit of the G above them, whether through death or retirement or sale of whatever. And now all of a sudden, this group of people from the same generation that all used to get along fine. Now they start stepping on each other’s toes a little bit more because usually they’re all equal owners. Right? So they have different roles in the business that one might be president, one might be vice president. Sometimes the roles are the titles are all kind of skewed so they don’t even make sense so that there is no hierarchy because nobody wants to be below someone else from their generation. They have their sibling order birth order, and but they’re all equal owners, and now they’re, they have to run the business, have meetings about working in the business, maybe not doing enough working on the business. And I was trying to figure out, there’s gotta be a way because I kept seeing examples of this, where I had three sisters that took over a business from their father. I had two brothers and a sister who the father who had started the restaurant chain died and now they were running. I had three brothers somewhere where the father was was giving the ownership to them and stepping aside and they were all facing the same. Oh, this is great. But now what now that we’re a flat organization, we’re no longer a pyramid where there’s someone above us, who breaks all the ties and breaks up the fights and referees. Things now they have to do that stuff themselves.

9:38
Well, it’s a concept and a theory that I think has tremendous weight and, and you know, when I think about where we are, with the greatest wealth transfer of and our world’s history happening when I think about boomers exiting or retiring, moving on, you know, this is probably more than norm than people want to admit. But we we have historically been so focused on sort of that, you know, pyramid sort of structure. I’m gonna pop open my my share my screen here for a minute and bring attention to the article that inspired this whole discussion today. That is the in the FFI practitioner from July and I love that you, you know brought the spotlight to this topic, and you also honored you know, the, the theoretical models that have come before us. So I’m scrolling down through here for a reason. And Julie

10:40
has just put a link in the chat to it. So anyone who wants to go and grab it, just click that link.

10:46
Perfect. So let’s just talk about this flat foot model visa vie, say the three circle model, and then I’ll eventually get to the four room model. I don’t know we have to come up with a five something but let’s let’s talk about how you see this differently than say this the three circle model?

11:06
Well, so the three circle model is fantastic when you’re looking at a big family with people and all these all, like there’s three circles, but that turns into seven different sectors. Right? And so when you have a big multi generational family where you have a bunch of employees that aren’t part of the family, and you have some owners who own but don’t work in the business, like you have people in seven different sectors, what ends up in these in this flat foot is they are all family. They are all working in the business and they are all owners. And so they’re right there in that center spot. And so when we talk about with a big family, you say okay, well, you’ve got to each each circle has its own people, it has its own governance, it has its own culture, and that’s all great and you try and separate like which hat are you wearing? And is this an owner meeting or is it a business meeting or is it a family meeting? And that’s sometimes easier to sort of get people to be clear on Oh, yeah, that’s right. This is a family meeting so that that outside CEO who’s not a member of the family, he doesn’t come to that meeting. Okay, that makes sense. So So in terms of excluding who’s in the room or who you know, which hat are we wearing when we’re discussing things that’s in big families with a lot of people that’s those are salient these these three circles in the seven sectors. But when you’re talking about this, these two brothers and the sister who now are running this chain of restaurants, and there’s nobody above them, they all work in the business they all own and they all you know, are part of the family. They are stepping on each other’s toes, and they get confused as to when they’re having a discussion. Somebody brings something up that’s a family issue. And then it gets twisted into a business issue. And then someone adds something that’s more about the ownership. They have trouble focusing on their their discussion on on what what they’re actually talking about.

13:08
Yeah, no, that makes sense. And it would be very challenging. You’re used to sort of having a governor right, some of the above you who might be sort of dictating how we’re going to parse out a challenge or work through a strategic planning initiative. And without someone who breaks the ties or keeps people on track or even explains, you know, governs the whole process, right. It gets it can get a little messy. Let’s let’s scroll down. I have to just wait

13:44
I just want to say one more thing about that. There’s even if one of the people takes on the nominal title of president or CEO or whatever. I know I always used to say this with when my dad died. Now I’m managing the assets on behalf of me and my sisters. Well, my dad could do whatever he wanted. My sisters would never question him. Now that I was the one making the decisions, I don’t get that same slack from them. And I don’t expect to have that either. So whereas the vice president used to say, Well, dad is the President the President decided this I’m going to do it. Now when Big Brother or Big Sister is the president and the president says something. It doesn’t carry the same weight anymore. Oh, no. Right. I mean, it’s very, very difficult. Some families are very, they have it all set up that somebody is the de facto leader and everyone falls in line. But that I think those are the exception more than the rule from the ones I’ve seen.

14:47
Well, I also see sometimes that maybe it doesn’t carry this same weight as a senior generation, but it might carry a different way where there could be maybe a little resentment, maybe a little frustration. So there might be actually someone who is de facto a leader and a generation but that doesn’t give them the pedestal. It’s sort of like bumping up against that flat foot of the pyramid, right. And still struggling to be recognized by their siblings. If they really feel like they shouldn’t be the anointed that leader. Maybe they never really were given that mantle or given that status, right. And so that creates a whole nother layer of tension.

15:36
Yeah, the whole thing is that there used to be a clear leader, and now there’s maybe some jockeying for leadership.

15:43
Yeah, yeah. Okay, so what do you think? Are we ready?

15:48
Yeah, let’s go down to the four room model because the four rooms really has the same as this circles right on top you have the owners, you have the family along the side, you have the business and the management, what’s added here, besides the fact that they’re, they’re not overlapping in this illustration. There’s the board and this was where I started to think of, if I’m working with a family like this, what can we learn from bigger companies or more mature companies that actually have a board and boards typically have a quarterly meeting and it has a set agenda? And it has somebody leading that discussion. And so I said to myself, I think what these families need to do is make sure that they start to schedule a quarterly meeting, or which they all come prepared. And that that meeting then is broken into three parts. So years ago, I met someone, I think it was that candidate conference that you invited me to in Boston, Kirby and there was somebody on the panel that I was on, and he talked about how they start every family meeting with some good news. So they go around the table and everyone has to say something good about what’s happening. And so I said, You know what, I’ve adopted that with many families that I work with. And I said, I think the best way to start a meeting like this where it’s a little more formal, we’re coming together. It’s one supporter, let’s just start with some family discussion. Let’s just have somebody go around and say, Let’s go around and let’s go and say something good about the family to make sure we’re kind of reminding each other that we are a family and that we don’t want to just start right into the business issues. Yeah. So I was thinking, so you know, what, maybe one person for this next meeting, that’s, you know, at the end of the month, it’s going to be Bob is going to do the family part. And then let’s get to the other parts. There’s the management, and there’s the ownership. And the same thing if you had different people, that if you had some outside key managers, and you were having your management meeting, you’d have them there. And then when you got to the owner stuff, you’ve asked them to leave, but we’re talking now the same group of people, right, so now let’s just have let’s work on the business. No, no, sorry. Let’s work in the business. So let’s have the second part of the meeting would be the business meeting where we talk about the operations and the results and things that need to get done. Then we end that part of the meeting. And then we have an owner’s meeting where we talk about working on the business. And so to physically, temporarily separate those discussions. And I think it would make sense to have a different person leading each of those three, and that could rotate on a meeting by meeting basis. The whole idea was, I’m proposing a structure I haven’t done it yet with anybody. I’d love to try it. Because I think that there’s some valuable stuff that we could get out of a method like this. But I also know this is not something I would print out and give to a family and say here, go do this. This is just something that they need to learn how to do. And I’m proposing kind of a coaching model to say I would work with each of these people for an hour or so every month leading up to the meeting. Then I’d sit there in the meeting with them, make sure they do it. And then the next quarter again and again until they get the hang of it. It’s basically at that concept for an idea of regular regular quarterly meetings for these types of families to get them to the point where they are running a successful, well structured quarterly board meeting without calling it a board but they’re effectively the board in these in these situations.

19:50
Okay, so full disclaimer, everybody on the call. This is a half big theoretical concept that Steve is proud to take ownership of. Basically, it’s a little bit of a call to action to our community and to other advisors to help figure out a process and approach actualizing it bringing it into purposeful work with families, family, businesses, family offices, so you know, we need you know, a community to help embrace some of these ideas to help bring them into fruition. And if there’s one thing I know, at my core working with families is that giving a clear and defined process and approach can anchor the results to something that is sustainable. It’s hard, you know, and not to take us off track too much, Dave, but it’s really many times we’re coming in to solve an issue to work through one specific trigger problem transition, but oftentimes what families need most is something that they can do, you know, teach a family to fish, don’t give them the fish, right? It’s very easy for a consultant to want to come in and give the fish when in fact you need to help build these types of processes in to help families self govern self monitor.

21:19
LD, teach them to do something because left to their own devices, they won’t be able to get there by themselves. But that doesn’t mean that I want to be there forever with them. I imagine this is something that after three, four or five meetings, if I can help them get structured and have this regular schedule and know how to do it and how to how to separate the different discussions. I think that after a year, a year and a half, I could be out of there. And and so you know, we all not all but a lot of us like to graduate our clients and get them to the point where they don’t no longer need us. And I think that this is a perfect example of how we might do that.

22:00
Yeah, working yourself out of a job right. That’s the greatest success any consultant truly can have. And so yes, families might need to come back and get a little fine tuning or tweaking or sort of specific help or guidance through certain things that feel unsafe or unchartered, but I hear you let’s let’s just talk a little bit more about you know, why a process might also help the flatness of the flat foot model like Why Why am I this approach? You know, do other things you think conflict resolution, communication, more stability, talk to us a little bit more on that. The whole

22:51
you know, I see this in all sorts of areas of society where we’re, we’re going from more of an autocratic to a more democratic group decision making. And so my parents generation, everything was autocratic, I think, by my kids generation, very little will be autocratic. So we’re, we’re getting to this to this point where there’s so much more of this people being equals and learning how to do things where one person doesn’t have authority over everybody else. But how do you go about doing that? And even, you know, I think about people who used to run an organization and they were at the top and they could always get stuff done because they just told people what to do and everyone did it. And then they go and work on a volunteer board somewhere and all of a sudden they realize how hard it is to get stuff done. Because you’re dealing with volunteers, right? And so you’re dealing with with equals, it’s it’s kind of the same thing you’re you’re you’re trying to figure out a way to get people who are all equals to coexist and learn to govern themselves. Right It all comes down to governance and the three parts of governance are, how we’re going to make decisions together, how are we going to communicate how we’re going to solve problems together. And so these people who now no longer have someone to look up to for guidance, what I’m suggesting is they have someone to help them set up a system with some rules in it and some, some guidelines of how they do it. And so those guidelines are breaking the meeting into different sections so that you have some clarity those one of the other one is having different people, leading different parts of the meeting to just sort of introduce some discipline because what often happens, you’ve seen it with these families, they get together and they just start arguing and yelling and screaming at each other and nobody even knows what they were talking about anymore. So I My theory is that with some outside independent help to teach them how to do this and and enforce some of the discipline and and make sure that they are involved in CO creating what those guidelines are, to the point where hopefully they can learn to do this than in the absence of the person who taught them to do it.

25:08
Yeah. And so much of what we’re talking about here is how do we build really robust sibling teams? And how do we help them orient around their own unique leadership skills, but one of the things I love about the process that you’re proposing is, let’s be honest, there tends to be different personalities by sibling right. We know birth order, and family systems work, you’re a guru and that and so it’s very often that maybe the middle child has sort of a different persona than, you know a baby or a you know, oldest child and that sometimes, you know, we don’t all have the same voice. So giving everyone potentially a voice to step up in areas that maybe they’re not feeling particularly strong or competent or totally assured as maybe their other sibling, that in itself. Really right starts to democratize interaction.

26:07
So I I kind of borrowed some of this from a family that I started working with many years ago, and there was four siblings and they were starting a family council. And I was just working with the four siblings, not what the parents and so then we started getting the four G threes to run the family council meetings. And the way we set it up was we randomly picked one of them and said you’re going to you’re going to chair the first meeting, and then you’re going to be the secretary and then the next meeting, the one who was the secretary becomes the chair and the next one steps up to be so we rotated that around. And it was just kind of like a wild idea, but it really, really worked well. And you should have seen the parents when they they were invited to these meetings and they saw their offspring running these things and then handing it off and sharing the load. I mean, it was it really was incredible. So that’s where part of it was, you know, rotating the chair and I’ve also been involved in committees where we rotate the chair around and there’s there’s really there’s pluses and minuses of having the same or having different but I think if you’re trying to build capacity and build democracy into it, sharing or passing that baton to the next person and taking on a different role becomes part of a sort of leveling up. It’s sort of like when you do these these games and things with families and you’ve set up the the the old patriarch to fail to look foolish, because he’s never looked foolish. And now for once everyone sees that he’s not perfect, right? It’s just sort of leveling everyone to where everyone’s going to be outside their comfort zone. And they’re going to learn more about each other through that whole process.

28:01
Hey, Steve, are you frozen on your end because you look a little frozen

28:04
while you’re frozen on my end, but I still hear you so I hope that now she’s okay. Did we lose Kirby? Not anymore. Here she comes.

28:19
Yeah, and see if you’re coming through crystal clear your screen was not frozen. So

28:24
Kirby was frozen. Yeah. But I think she’s

28:29
coming back. Sure. I’m not sure what happened to me but it was a dramatic exit and entrance.

28:37
Is it cold and is in Wisconsin today?

28:41
Is a typical gray Wisconsin day. I will be honest with you. It is uninspiring and go out there. So it’s very typical. It’s very the same thing here

28:53
in Canada where it’s gray and fall cold but so now we’re no longer frozen. So

29:00
okay, perfect. Well, apologies for that little accent and Adriaan try. I mean, when I think about this concept and working with a lot of sibling teams, because I’m doing the same work and somewhat of a different capacity, but similar kinds of work, right. You know, one of the hardest things that I constantly observe is that there’s typically one sibling that cares more or has been anointed to do more or just has stepped up more. And so when we get to the tip of the pyramid falling off, and we’re now flat there, there isn’t necessarily a sense of like we need to have anyone else step up but we don’t really want you to we don’t really to your their skepticism right to to that person who’s maybe been the brother or sibling sister who’s taken more charge or more leadership. How do we start to build on ramps or get more folks to rise? I mean, what what what do you see in this process? I know we talked about changing roles and responsibilities, but how do we build capacity among siblings to be good team members,

30:13
you know, you’re you’re highlighting the part that there’s different levels of ability, different levels of interest. We see these things. I wish I had a magic answer, but I think that that getting them to come together as a board on a quarterly basis with sort of, okay, let’s put all the other stuff. Now here. We’re all we recognize we’re all equal. We’re all like board members. We’re not we’re all owners. Let’s take a half a day every quarter and walk through things and make sure that we’re taking the time and we’re listening to each other and we’re hearing each other and we are not just doing what the guy who thinks he’s the boss always says we are supposed to do because that’s what happens often right? They get into these ruts and stuff happens and a couple of them don’t like it that one of them’s doing this over here, but they don’t say anything and then it just gets worse and worse. So what I’m calling for is to have a quarterly thing on that. It’ll be the third Thursday of every, you know, third month and that’s what it is. And so if something comes up, you know that within the next few months, you’re going to have a chance to come in. And this is going to be on the agenda. And so your agenda topics in the business circle might be about the leadership and how we’re getting along and how we’re making decisions on the day to day operations. And maybe in the ownership circle. That part is well how are we making those decisions which are less frequent, but also have a lot of importance to them? Often they get sort of shelved to a once a year type of thing. Well I’m what I’m calling for some more regularity to put topics on the table a little more frequently, so that you don’t end up with such long periods of time where things don’t get addressed. So just the simple fact of what now we are coming together and we are doing this and someone is going to walk us through okay, this is this let’s we will co create together what goes how we do each section of it based on the people. I don’t want to come and say here’s your agenda. I want to come and say what do we need to talk about? Let’s make an agenda. And then let’s use that agenda. And then for the next quarter we say So how was that agenda? What do we have to change? What do we have Let him prove this and tweak it until it really works for us, but just the simple fact of bringing people together for a structured meeting that goes through these things in a in a logical way. To me there’s a lot of value in that that most people won’t recognize that there is value in it. Because it seems Yeah, yeah. So you call a meeting? No, I didn’t just call a meeting. I set up a regular recurring stream of meetings and we set up some ground rules of how we’re going to run them trying to bring some rigor to it, which is often missing.

33:20
Yeah, I love it. I love it. I’m also thinking and again, I’m just thinking out loud brainstorming with you here that potentially for those families that don’t have a lot of practice working together. Don’t have a lot of clear alignment among siblings. I mean, maybe beyond the owner board management of the floor room model and the three circle model. Maybe there’s just some like real work to do at the sibling team level. Like let’s figure out I mean, we know very common that there’s passive inactive typical engagement and you might be in the flat, you know, the family owner operator, but more passive, right and how you show up. So sometimes I’m wondering too, if siblings actually have to kind of just do some basic work around alignment values. Where do they share a similar vision with what what you’re trying to achieve? So that you just get some cohesiveness of the sibling borough. Before you even try to tackle write some of these owner board management discussions. What do you think about that? Yeah, well,

34:30
no. Well, it depends on on how they got there. So once I start working with a family where they’re already into that team thing, I got to straighten them out on one thing, if there’s some that are less engaged or like in many families, there’s some that are not part of that. middle part of those three circles. Then there’s different work that gets done that takes care of just helping them figure out their modus vivendi, as opposed to modus operandi. Like, how are we going to be together as opposed to what we’re going to do together? So there’s work that can be done in that as well. But you’re also bringing up something that I spoke to someone just a couple of weeks ago who runs a multifamily office here. And I was telling her I asked, Do you have many of the families you serve who still have an operating business? And then I told her about this and she says, Yeah, but even if they don’t have the operating business, I see that all the time, where whoever was the wealth creator has recently exited and now there are a group of siblings who all own the same percentage of whatever they have, and now it’s a family office. So they have an equity portfolio, a private equity portfolio of foundation, some real estate, and everyone has their own pet projects. And I want to do this and I want to do that and but nobody has the majority to be able to just say, we’re doing this or we’re doing that. And now they have to sort of juggle those roles, and figure out how they’re going to make decisions together. Well, here we are, we’re back at governance again. And how how do you instill governance? It’s it’s a series of regular meetings, where you get together to discuss these things. So it really it has application in many different ways. Sometimes they’re all pretty much equal. Sometimes there’s a beer, you know, there’s a really silent one. Oftentimes, it’s it’s two siblings that are sort of jockeying for position and then there’s one outsider that has to break the tie all the time, right and they’re trying to triangle that person in all the time. I’ve seen that more often than I can remember. Yeah.

36:42
So what about the families where and I see this, so I’m really curious to get your take on it. Where the matriarch or patriarch or both are no longer in the picture. And then you have one or more sibling almost channeling, right. Especially in the very autocratic families, sometimes I work with and then a sibling now takes on what used to be the form of patriarchy sort of persona. And you start to see how there’s like this homage to the past, and the siblings are now manifesting what they kind of grew up in to talk to me about how you know your thoughts about how you break that cycle.

37:27
That’s, I was speaking to someone a couple of years ago about she was she was talking about how her brother who was starting to act too much like their father. I was like, oh, yeah, so where I said somebody said so whereas your dad says something and you’re saying yeah, sure, no problem because your dad when your brother now tries to act like that and say the same thing that’s not gonna fly with with you and she goes, No, that’s not gonna fly with me. And so that that that gets even trickier but there’s there’s a real coaching opportunity there I think especially so if you’re talking about situations where one person acts as if they control and should control and want to control, but they don’t have the majority, and so they could be out voted. If the others would get together and have the backbone and be able to say, no, it’s to me, the key there is to sort of soften up the one who thinks they’re the boss. And to let them know that some humility and trying to cooperate as opposed to being the the carbon copy of what dad was, it’s not with with the siblings. It’s not easy but and sometimes you almost have to set it up so that they get taken down a notch and get out voted on something and sort of have push come to shove, because otherwise this this can stay underground. It’s like the iceberg it’s it’s the part that you don’t see that’s going on. And I haven’t done it yet, but I’ve been tempted to sort of have something pop up just to make sure that they have it out and clarifying because the longer it stays hidden. The worse the

39:27
dangerous. Yeah, absolutely. And I’m also wondering, I just recently did a podcast with Betsy Fort Lewis, from inner will Leadership Institute. That’s the company’s not to go on a totally different tangent, but I just also wonder how we empower siblings to own their own leadership style and to become to fulfill sort of their own end as a sibling to work with their peers versus channeling the past, reliving the past. And I love this concept that you’ve sort of created here as a working a work in progress of a process to approach this because I think sometimes it’s about kind of coming into your own leadership as an individual, but as a team and what does that look like? And that’s, that’s not something predefined. I mean, the siblings aren’t, there’s no roadmap here, right?

40:30
No, and that’s why what what I, what I’m proposing is a coaching model. So the meetings are only quarterly but but my idea was to work with all the people at least, you know, two half hours or one hour or two hours a month to coach them into not only understanding the structure and what the role is, and which segment they have, but also how they show up in this meeting and what kind of a role and the fact that Yeah, well, my big brother is always going to try and put me well like to coach them through what that’s going to look like. And and how they can react in a different way from the same old way so that they can sort of establish some new footings because I really think as as the outside are trying to come in, I’m trying to create as equal a setting as I can’t, unless if they all agree that you know, yes, sir. Yes, sir of sister or brother, whoever will do whatever you want, if they, if they can work like that, and it works for them great. But I think most of the time it’s, you need to sort of even them out a little bit. And that’s why I’m proposing to work with them in this way that sort of gives everyone different turns, and so that they’re not always sitting in the same person. There’s no was at the head of the table and that actually brings up something I think I would take a break and move the people around in the room and have the head whoever’s heading the meeting, be sitting at the head of the table. And now it’s the family meeting, and it’s Joanne who’s running it so Joanne, sitting at the head of the table. Now they come back and Louise is running the business meeting. Well, she’s going to sit at the head to really just sort of reinforce some of these things that we don’t often think about but that’s why they paid people like us to come in and and work on these little details that do actually make a big difference.

42:29
So hey, I’m gonna just pull grant Connery was kind enough to ask a question that chat. And I just wanted to bring it to this to our conversation. Sure, yes. How helpful isn’t to have groups slash family values identified, so that decisions communication and problems are being viewed against the same of quote, align framework. One do you typically introduced the exercise to the siblings, eg values Ed, or, you know, inner wills got a great a lot, a lot of values, rules, and Gunther has a bunch of values tools as well. So what are your thoughts to answer

43:08
my thoughts are when when do you introduce that as soon as they’re ready? Now? When are they ready? I’ve had I’ve had somebody storm out of the values edge thing saying, Oh, we don’t have time for these card games. And you know, they weren’t they weren’t ready although they needed it. But but other facts. So like everything else that I always say what would I work with a family we need to co create it. And so you need to figure out when people are ready, you need to sort of put things on the table and see what they grab on to and if I say we should do values, and none of them want to do it or they don’t understand it, then we’re not ready to do it. And other times I can I’ve worked with a family where after a while, they said when are we going to do values and I was like, You’re right. We haven’t done values yet. But we were working on other things that were positive. So yes, it is important. Yes, it should be done earlier rather than later. But if you try to do it before they’re ready, you might get some resistance. Now the other thing is we walk into a family. There’s some people that are running really fast, and they want to go and there’s other people that don’t even want to get up off their chair. And we’re supposed to try to lead them somewhere, right? So we have to sort of find that speed of a tour guide so that we don’t lose anybody but that we’re making progress. And there’s no formula for that and there’s no rulebook, or you just got to kind of go and try to move people along. It’s not always easy, but sooner rather than later on the value stuff. Thanks. Thanks, Greg.

44:54
So grant, you’ve inspired I think, I think others might have questions or thoughts. If you do, don’t be shy, get into that chat room and give us your thoughts. Ask us your questions. We

45:09
can raise hands and open a mic or whatever that works, too. So

45:13
yeah, so I just want to shout out to the community who’s listening watching. If you want to jump in Cindy raised her hand.

45:22
She’s got her hand up so Cindy is a good friend of both of ours so come on, and Cindy

45:28
I so loving this. I’m not turning my my recording or my camera on because I had a late start to my day but I’m loving loving this idea what I really liked cuz right at the very beginning I’m i My mind went to why did we always talk about this just in the context of family business, and that kind of came up a little bit later on in the conversation and I work with a lot of families that don’t have a family business. So the comment that Stevie made about the woman can’t remember her name with the family office experience. That is exactly my experience as well where tool tools like their processes and structures like this are at least as important if not more important. Once there’s been this monetization and finding those those leadership roles and helping people find their position in the family. And I’ve done these quarterly meetings and and tried to find rules for people in the family, but they’ve gravitated to and it’s working really well and it’s sort of course without conflict etc. But but the conflict is good because we’ve started a process of learning around the table of being systematic, getting together quarterly setting agendas. People have different report back processes. We start with front page news or the good news thing at the top. And and it works really really well. So I think you’re definitely on to something I just like to see the conversation broadened beyond family business.

47:20
Well, and I think that’s where somebody like John A when he saw this realized right away that although PPI is much more family wealth as opposed to family business if we want to paint that continuum, yes, all this getting together and figuring out how to make decisions as a group of relative equals is something that does come up in the work of a lot of people even when in cases where the family business is something that is just a relic of the past and was the wealth creation engine. But now there’s a lot of liquid or other investments that people need to come together and make decisions. So you’re Cindy, I think you’re saying that, you know, you have family members that gravitate to different roles. And that’s probably even more appropriate in some of those situations. If one person always wants to do the family part and they’re more of the family champion, and one person always wants to be the one who does whatever. That’s perfectly appropriate. My idea of mixing it up was if they are all really operating something one, one operating unit, but there’s none of these are cast in stone. These are ideas I’m putting out there to say what are some ways we can create a process for families to follow that will help them to be a little more methodical and well structured to kind of get the results that they need. And so you’re I’m glad to hear and I’m not surprised in the that that you’re doing this and setting up these meetings for families, and they learn how to be together over time and it helps to have someone from the outside guiding them, and presumably at some point they’ll be able to do without the outside guidance.

49:21
Yeah, so one family for example. I actually chair these quarterly meetings for now, with the goal being that eventually somebody else would show the meetings. But somebody somebody talks about, we’ll call it the family office piece. Somebody talks about the investment piece, somebody talks about the philanthropy piece, and any other like any other items just to give an update and what’s going on, but it does it does very much rotate and there’s some people who who’ve opted out. And people have acknowledged that that’s fine, but they always participate. They always show up. So

49:59
well yeah, that’s another one of my rules for family meetings. As always, everyone is invited but no one is forced to come. And so if if there are people who don’t want to be there, please don’t insist on people being there who don’t want to be there. It usually subtracts more than it adds.

50:17
Hey, Steve, we have another great question in the chat. How would How would you modify your process with families who come from different cultures? So such as how many verses or hero cultures so like what happens when all of a sudden, you know now we have maybe very different types of families, different families of origin heritage values coming from east versus West? This is a great question.

50:49
Yeah. I fully recognize that the different cultural upbringing that people bring to this does have an effect on how well it will be agreed to. And and especially, but in an in a North American context. My assumption is always that with time the family will gravitate more towards North American Western ways. And, and I’m not trying to push them there faster than they want to go. But if there’s one person from a previous generation, trying to hold on to the old ways that they had, often there’s dissent on that and so part of my I see my role as the one to sort of try and bridge that gap. And if the younger generation wants to go more towards that, but there’s other people who want to hold to the what was it that’s that’s a tightrope we got to walk and patients to me, and slowly but surely, and looking for progress and not perfection, and having giving the people who want to move towards more progressive ways of thinking, giving them the floor to express why and how they want to do that and moderating a discussion with the people who want to keep to the old versions. I think that’s part of where we as an outsider can add value. And help them have a civilized conversation by bringing in the validity of both perspectives. And saying, yes, you’re right. And yes, you’re right. And now what are we going to do? Right and let’s, let’s figure out how we can slowly turn this a little bit to give everyone some of what they’re looking for. But it’s not easy, but but it’s it’s a challenge. And I really think as advisors to family, to families, we don’t necessarily understand the potential power that we have, just to be there and to offer them this perspective and you do it in a calm way and help them have a valuable dialogue where people are sharing. And there’s Jane. Hi, Jane Jane.

53:18
Nice day. Hi, Kirby. Thank you so much. This is fascinating. And I want to tell you three things that jumped out at me there are many more, I’m sure. But one, Steve, I love this idea of creating a structure of meetings. normalizing the idea of this is what we do. We don’t wait till there’s a crisis. We do this. And it’s going to take time to get better at this. We can get better at this. And look at us. We can get better at this. Is that a piece of it? You think? Oh, absolutely.

53:54
That is but that’s the part like I was saying it seems like it’s nothing. Okay, good. Something on the calendar. But no, you didn’t just put it on the calendar. You made sure that everyone actually knew that they had to show up and they knew it that that prepare and they knew that they had to be on time, and they knew that they had to behave in a certain way while we’re there. But it starts with putting it on the calendar.

54:17
Yeah. Which is what we do. And I think just your discussion, just them about cultures and moving over time toward most likely a North American approach to things if it’s mostly North American family, when you have set up this idea of regular meetings, you will evolve you evolve together. Oh, you’re starting to see it differently. Let’s talk about that. And then the final thing that strikes me is when you can get them past it, as Kirby mentioned the immediate Why did they contact anyone at all? There’s usually some big inflection point. If you can get past that and into the idea of we’re building a foundation, whether you say it explicitly or not have positive interactions, when we have something difficult come along. Well, what do you know I know something about you. I understand that this is going to push you to widens a little bit and it doesn’t require me to then be an idiot and do something that makes everything worse because I’m so frustrated with you. And similarly, because I have my own hot buttons. You may know oh my god, she’s gonna get upset about this. What do we do about that? But I’m loving. Thank you both so much.

55:29
Thank you, Jane, that that was great. You’re making me think that just that you know what, when you start to tell a family that they need to have regular meetings, and often it’s it’s a patriarch, who will have wants to divulge a bunch of stuff and they want to they just want to have that one meeting and get it all over with and we try to go whoa, whoa, whoa, use the dimmer switch, do a little bit at a time. The whole point is that it’s not one meeting that’s going to do anything. It’s the series of meetings. It’s the fact that you always know after you have a meeting, that there’s going to be a next meeting and you know what to expect at those meetings. And you learn how to behave together at those meetings. You learn how to be together at those meetings. That’s what is so important for families to get into and but which they on their own probably won’t get to by themselves. So what I’m proposing is, get them to buy into the program, get them to understand and then get them to start having a few and having it evolve and having the process evolve and having the people involved and having their relationships grow and having a place for conflict to come. Up in a safe way to get discussed and have them then go back over the next three months and adjust to that and then know that they’re going to come back and discuss it again and say, You know what that thing we talked about? We resolved the problem or that thing that we talked about? We thought it was resolved. We didn’t resolve it. So we have to put it back on the table again. But let’s have a place where we can come together and have these discussions in a in a safe space, being guided by someone who’s helping us to do this and learning how to do it so that we can keep going that way.

57:18
Hey, I I also wanted to just put a shout out to everyone on this call to all of the peers that we know doing this kind of work. Let’s do a second edition or SEC part two of Steve’s article. Let’s make it a call. to action at the end here of how can we bring stories and narratives of what we’re doing and in the spirit of this flat foot model to create some evidence based practice that can help our community and more families who are bumping up with this sibling team issue. How can we get get it out there to help iterate this further and bring it into practice? Because at the end of the day, let’s take this theory and let’s actually use it and let’s work out some of the kinks and refine it. So we can allow more practitioners to protect Lee embrace us. I know we’re coming up right at the end of this hour. Steve, do you have any sort of closing thoughts?

58:21
I would love to continue this discussion with anyone who is watching this now or watching the replay. Reach out to me on LinkedIn or through the connecting point on on ppi and let’s set up a call to chat about it and figure out ways where we can take this that I put out there and sort of twist it around and make it better or tweak it or do whatever hopefully it’s helpful to some people and we can learn from each other on how best to use it.

58:53
Excellent. Excellent. Well, I know we’re just at the top of the hour. I just want to say thank you to those of you too. Took a little piece of your day to join this PPI webinar. And thanks, Steve, for some really great illuminating thoughts and ideas Jane and Cindy and so many of you who chimed in I know Johnny was just putting some stuff in the chat saying this is great. I love this. So again, I want to thank ppi and all of you for being part of this and Steve. Great job. Always. All right. All right. Sounds good.