Getting Rich Is Actually the Easy Part

There seem to be way more wealthy people around these days, and a lot more striving to join their ranks every day.

So many of those who have “arrived” in the land of wealth are satisfied that they have now made it, and assume that all their problems will disappear.

When you have a family, though, and you begin to ponder the transition of that wealth to the younger generation of your family, things get tricky.

Can it really be that getting rich was the easy part?


Concentrating on Financial Wealth – Like Everyone Else

When a family becomes wealthy, via a family business, working for a company that goes public, or via stardom in entertainment or sports, there’s often a nice period of adaptation where the newfound abundance of financial wealth solves so many problems, so it’s all viewed as a plus.

At some point, which could be months, years, or decades later, everyone realizes that there’s probably enough money to do whatever we want, and this is when the various views, needs, and wants of the different family members start to rise to the surface.

How will the family make the decisions around the deployment of the financial wealth?

How will the family members communicate about the wealth and how it will be saved, grown, spent, invested, given away, and transitioned for future generations?

How will the family members solve problems together, when they arise, without resorting to legal remedies?


The Other, Non-Financial, Capital of Families

This is where it’s good to look at the other kinds of capital that the family also has, and can try to develop, in order to help figure out answers to the tough questions we just raised around the financial wealth.

Let’s take a look at the family’s Intellectual, Human, and Social capital, and see how the financial capital can be used in ways to support those, and determine if looking at things from this angle might provide some useful viewpoints.


Intellectual Capital – Between Your Ears

The first other type of capital we often think of is intellectual, as in the things that you know and have learned.

My grandfather used to say that anything that you can put between your two ears, nobody can ever take away from you. Having had almost every possession of his taken away, he knew what he was talking about.

Most people think of formal education as their intellectual capital, and it is often a big part of it and the simplest example, but there can be more to it, of course.


Human Capital – More About Your Soul

When we switch to looking at human capital, that’s a lot more about your soul. Your humanity includes what you care about, what you pay attention to, and how you relate to other people.

It also includes health and mental well-being, how you communicate and solve problems with others, and your general ability to get along with others in all situations.

The way you communicate with others and demonstrate respect for others also falls in this category.


Social Capital – Where the Family’s Heart Is

My favourite form of non-financial capital is social capital, and when looking at families, it can really come to the forefront.

The problem is, making it one of the family’s strongest forms of capital isn’t usually simple and easy, and it takes a lot of work.

When talking about how wealthy families stay wealthy, all three of these are important, and social capital is where they all come together and become part of what the outside world will often see.

They all combine into a family’s legacy, and you will likely note that those families who have stayed wealthy through a few generations, almost always have a legacy component that we can see, respect, and relate to.


It’s About Much More Than Money

I’ve written about some of this already, notably in Is Your Continuity PAL in Danger, as well as in When Your Greatest Desire Is Also Your Greatest Fear.

Research shows that when families lose their financial fortunes, the reasons have less to do with events relating to the financial elements of their wealth.

Families usually fail to stay wealthy because the family falls apart, because they haven’t been properly prepared to inherit their wealth, and they haven’t learned to work together to maintain it.

So the key to maintaining a family’s financial capital lies in developing the other kinds of capital, not being ultra-focused on the money.

There’s help for that, you know…

What Does It Take to Play a Key Role in a FamBiz?

A few weeks back in Hey, the Expert Is Here! (Uh Oh…) I hinted that this post would soon be coming, as its genesis stems from the same virtual study group call that gave rise to that blog.

That missive dealt with the difficulties advisors sometimes face when working with families, who look to us to have simple, expert solutions to their complex challenges.

This week we’ll look at how family members sometimes have expectations for roles in a family business that are not well aligned with the reality of the situation.

I’ll share some insightful ideas while suggesting ways to avoid those misalignments by having some important conversations from an early age.

 

The Robinson Family and the “Scholastic” Case 

Our study group occasionally uses a real life case as a basis for discussion, typically from a real family client of one of the members.

This time though, we took one from some recent headlines, involving the death of the CEO of Scholastic Corp., a book publishing giant responsible for some well-known series, including Harry Potter and Clifford the Big Red Dog.

When family business stories make headlines, it’s often for the wrong reasons, and this one does qualify, thanks to some of the decisions Richard Robinson made when writing his will, followed by his unexpected death, albeit at the age of 84.

The case supplied our group of “experts” with plenty of fodder for discussion. One of the members of the group (Ok, it was me!) couldn’t resist poking fun at one of the CEO’s sons, who was quoted in the Wall Street Journal story about the case.

 

Dressing Up as Clifford the Big Red Dog

The young man seemed to think he was in line for a position on the company’s Board of Directors, even though his most noteworthy contribution to date was having donned the Clifford costume for some promotional events.

That’s when someone suggested the headline I used for this post (thanks KH).  

No, he isn’t likely ready to join the Board.  But what made him think that he should be?

It’s hard to know for sure, but one thing was clear from the story, and that’s that very little communication about roles in the company of any sort ever took place between the CEO father and his sons.

He did communicate a great deal with his mistress who worked for him and who inherited most of his assets, though, which is what gave this story so much press attention.

 

Aligning Expectations and Preparation

I’ve written a lot on alignment and expectations, but very little specifically on preparation.

For rising generation family members who aspire to some role (or roles) in the family enterprise, preparation is a must.

It is not, however, as simple as one might believe.

In decades past, “go get an MBA” was a quick and simple way to prepare, and that’s still typically a valid step to be taken, depending on the desired and expected role.

Wise families now realize that there are important roles to be played not only in the business, but also in the family and ownership circles.

 

Preparation and Leadership – Who Can Do What

The whole question of preparation also drags along with it another key element, and that’s leadership.

That MBA may be the best way to prepare for a key role in running the business, as it has over the past few decades.

But other roles also require leaders, and preparing for such roles takes time and intention, and a recognition and acknowledgement that such roles are worth developing.

Leadership roles in the family clearly require different skills and abilities from those in the business.

Ownership roles are different still, although there are always overlaps.

 

Pushing AND Pulling Are Required

Regardless of what type of role you’re looking at, there needs to be action on both ends, i.e. pushing and pulling.

The rising generation needs to make the effort to push their way in, while the leading generation also needs to make the effort to pull them along.

Needless to say, this requires coordination, which means that communication needs to be clear and frequent.

 

It’s Never Too Early to Begin

So young Mr. Robinson, while removing the Clifford costume, could’ve asked his Dad about what roles might be available to him in the business some day.

And Dad also might’ve asked his son if he thought that some day he might want to play a larger role in the company.

It’s never too early to start.

Lots of Angles Available for This Question

This week we’re staying in the same general territory as we explored last week in The Doing / Being Connection, while zeroing in on some of the various aspects of the “being” side of things.

Astute readers will recognize that the exact same game we’ll be playing could then be replayed using the “doing” side of things too.

(To receive extra credit for that, make sure to get your report in before the end of the semester.)

As usual I’ll share the genesis for this post, which once again came from a coaching call I had recently. I was the “coachee”, in this case, and Melissa, my long-time coach, was on the other end of the Zoom call.

The true spark actually came about 10 minutes before our session, as I jotted down some notes about what I wanted to tackle during our time together.

Coaches love it when our clients come prepared with a subject that’s top of mind.


Still in “Role Mode”

I was just coming off writing My “Role / Goal / Control” Life Hack and so the “role” part was on my front burner.

I had some ideas to share and explore with her; here’s what I wrote:

  •  Who AM I Being?    
  •  Who CAN I Be?
  •  Who Do I WANT to Be?
  •  Who Do I NEED to BE?

We spent the hour meandering around these questions, and without too much surprise, we didn’t resolve much of any significant importance for the short run.

We did, however, consider all these angles in ways I hadn’t anticipated.


An Objective, Non-Judgemental Listener

If you’ve never worked with a coach, you need to know how liberating it is to speak with someone who has no other agenda than to be there with you.

If they know what they’re doing, they’ll be objective and listen to you without judging you, and give you some new perspectives.

They’ll probably ask you a lot of questions that will make you think about subjects that you will then reflect upon between sessions.

So just how does this fit into the world of family enterprise?

I’m glad you asked.

Finding Who You Are in the FamBiz

 

You may have seen this coming, but considering and reflecting on who you ARE in your family, and then contrasting that with who you CAN be, just might be a worthwhile exercise.

Likewise, if you consider such ideas as who you WANT to be in your business, and then rethink these thoughts in light of who you NEED to be, those discussions with a good coach will also be ripe terrain for some useful insights.

Imagine now what could be accomplished if a few members of the family undertook some regular work on considering such important matters.


Who Actually Does This Stuff?

Of course this isn’t the kind of stuff that the average person who is part of a family business does.

But then again, I’m sure that the people who read my blogs regularly are not average, and neither are the professionals who serve them, and many also read my musings.

When you get right down to it, most people who read my stuff will probably nod their heads at times and agree that what I say makes sense, perhaps “in theory”, but it probably isn’t right for them, “in practice”.

But that’s where I wanna say “Whoa, hang on there!”

Looking at Successful Examples as Models

If you know anything about successful family enterprises that have lasted at least a few generations, you’ll know that they got that way by doing things that the average ones just didn’t do.

You’ll also know that very few of them got that way without any outside resources, guiding them at important times along the way.

It will take work, it will take effort and intention, and it will take years.

See: Contrasting Transition Timelines: 15 Minutes or 10 Years

There are now way more resources available to all such families, and some of them will do the work and succeed.  Others may try and give up, and some will have a modicum of success for a while despite a lack of consistent effort.


Leadership Is the Key

In the end, it all comes down to leadership, which of course requires some courage.

The courage to start, and the courage to ask for help.

What CAN your family be?

Who do you NEED to be to make that happen?

Bonus: What are you going to DO about it?

A Real “Chicken and Egg” Conundrum

This week we’ll be looking at an idea that has been turning around and around in my head for a long time, and it’s now high time for me to try to deal with it here.

At first I had planned to title this post “The Doing / Being Circle” because to me these two interconnected concepts feel like a wheel that just keeps rolling along, with each one taking a turn at being on top.

And then of course my opening sentence, which was spontaneously written as opposed to planned, used the phrase “turning around and around”.

So, please sit down to read the rest of this, because dizziness may ensue. You’ve been warned.


Sparked by a Quote from a Book

I consume books in various ways, from hard copies to the many audiobooks I enjoy on my long drives to and from our cottage, to the ones I read on my Kindle while pedaling my exercise bike.

When I see something I want to refer back to on Kindle, I typically take a photo of the page with my phone.

Yes, I’m aware that there’s a way to annotate Kindle books and probably even export quotes, but my kids have used the phrase “OK Boomer” with me, so I’m just glad to be able to do it, my way.

The book was Adam Grant’s Give and Take and here’s the quote:

                     “To paraphrase the writer E.M. Forster, 

                ‘How do I know who I am until I see what I do?’”.

Let’s just say that reading that brought this idea to the front burner of my mind pretty quickly.


Don’t You Have to BE, Before You Can DO?

I guess the factory setting in my brain worked the other way from Forster’s, because I used to think that you had to be someone or something before you could do anything.

Now I’m not sure what to think.

Actually, what I’m not sure of is whether either one of these really does “come first”, just like the old “chicken and egg” quandary.

As I consider how this whole subject fits into my work with families who own and manage assets together, it has me harken back a few weeks to My “Role / Goal / Control” Life Hack.

There, the first step was to determine what role one is playing in a given situation, so that’s all about the being, and figuring out who you need to be for that role.

What you then need to do will flow from that. 

But does it always work that way?


And What About “Modus Operandi” vs “Modus Vivendi”?

Almost a year ago now, in Family Governance, More Than a Modus Operandi, we looked at this very same question.

Here’s a direct, cut’n’paste quote:

                 I feel like I’ve been over this territory a lot, but it’s so 

                       important that it bears repeating nonetheless.

                          This “territory” is the distinction 

                            between “doing” and “being”.

 

Because “Modus Operandi” is about doing, it refers to how family members “co-operate” together.

Modus Vivendi, for its part is more about how family members “co-exist” and “co-habitate” together.

But of course these are all inter-related and cannot and do not exist in isolation from each other. 

We can, however, benefit from thinking about each separately.


Interdependence Strikes Again

Like so many aspects of this work with people, interdependence strikes again. Not just with the fact that the people are interdependent, but the concepts that we need to work on with them are as well.

What you do, over and over, becomes part of who you are. And, it follows, who you are will necessarily influence how you do all the things that you do.

When you run into a tricky situation with one, you may want to look at it from the other side, to see what you might learn about how to deal with it.

Like the “family alignment / family engagement” issue we talked about in Family Engagement and Family Alignment – Chicken and Egg when you run into something from one, you can look to the other for a next step towards enlightenment and resolution.


Questions, More Important Than Answers, As Usual

I also like that this is yet another illustration of the fact that knowing the right questions is more important than having all of the answers.

When you work with members of a family on their relationships, it’s mostly about getting them to communicate in productive ways, so that the “right answers” for their particular situation will emerge, and that they end up co-creating their own solutions.

They’ll do what they’re going to do and be who they’re going to be, and we just need to guide them.


Resisting the Cry for Help Can Be Difficult

Let’s face it, when people are happy to see you because you have some specialized expertise that they could use, it feels good to know that they’re looking up to you in such a positive way.

While I continue to wrestle with the best words to describe myself to the field of family enterprise consulting, one word I shy away from is “expert”.

There are some professions that lend themselves better to the “expert model” of service, and when I go to a doctor or to get my car fixed, I know I also arrive with an “expert, please help me” look on my face.

I work with families who share ownership and/or management of a business or assets together, and sometimes they feel like what they need is an expert, and that’s understandable.

But that doesn’t mean that that’s what’s truly best for them.


A Group Call Inspires Another Blog

Regular readers know that I participate in many groups that get together to discuss the field in which we work, and that one by-product of those is blog topics like this one.

Stay tuned for another one soon, featuring Clifford the Big Red Dog, which is another topic that arose during the same FFI-Virtual Study Group call I was recently a part of.

But this one about “experts” came from out of the blue during a discussion and I quickly jotted down the words of my colleague (thanks DC) because I’d never heard this subject phrased this way.

I don’t even recall the exact discussion, but she said, “Oh, like when they say ‘Hey the expert is here!’”, and I knew exactly what she was driving at.


Just Tell Us What We Should Do

Although there are people who put themselves out there as experts, most of the issues that the families I serve are facing aren’t the type that can be resolved by one single “right answer” provided by any expert.

And this is even true of those “experts” who would be rightfully considered expert in their field.

An expert can be quite useful to guide you and help you avoid making some terrible mistakes, so that’s positive. 

But when such professionals then extrapolate what happened to work in one situation and continue to serve up the same solution to others, whose circumstances may be similar in some ways, but quite different in others, then it’s no longer positive.


Solving for One Person, or for a Family?

One of the simplest explanations for why this continues to happen and why it’s sub-optimal comes down to the fact that when I work with a family, the family is actually comprised of many individual people.

So it’s rare that any simple solution to an issue will be the optimal solution for each and every member of that family.

The old-fashioned way of ignoring the needs and desires of the younger generation on the assumption that they should just be happy with whatever they get is thankfully going the way of the dodo bird, although not as quickly as might be appropriate.


Well, They’re the Experts, so this MUST Be Right

Another by-product of this thinking that affects families is believing that solutions proposed by well-regarded experts in their city must necessarily be accepted because they come from “the best firm in town”.

But this is admittedly a tough one, since we can’t blame the families who are searching for resources from hoping and believing that there’s someone out there who can “save us” by giving us a simple solution to our issues.

And likewise, we can’t blame such experts from selling their services and believing that they are doing what’s best. Or can we?

Every family that reaches a certain stage of size and complexity will require the assistance of several different experts from different fields of specialty.

So it behooves all of us to do a better job for these families by learning to work together, perhaps as a “team of experts”, as opposed to any one of them being the expert.


Simple => Expert; Complex => Team

Revisiting the title of this piece that came from the quote of a colleague, when I started writing this, the keyword was clearly “expert”.

Now that we’re winding down, I realize that perhaps the keyword was actually “the”!

Experts, working together, are fine, and we need to learn how to work together well.

Developing the Leadership to Find the Right Mix

Colleagues sometimes ask me what it’s like to write a weekly blog post, typically wondering how I constantly find topics to write about.

I normally note that I only write once a week, and I get ideas much more often, so it becomes more about sifting and sorting than dreaming up subjects.

Quite often, like this week, an idea hits me between the eyes and I cannot put it down, and then the tough work begins as I try to figure out how best to share it with readers.

I’ve gotta say, this one could go any number of directions, because it’s so foundational to my work.


Thinking Out Loud, In Writing

Selfishly, I write in order to force myself to clarify my thinking, and would do so even if I didn’t make my writing public.

It’s my version of “thinking out loud”, which I’m known to do, but I do it in writing. It’s kind of my personal journal, open for viewing.

So what was it that “hit me” this time, that I’m about to share?

I’m taking a series of online courses through Coursera, and there was a video in which a presenter uttered a sentence that made me immediately hit pause and rewind.

I’ll spare you the details of the courses, but note that they’re in the area of Positive Psychology, a recent interest of mine.

I don’t have the verbatim quote, but got the five key words.

      “…the right mixture of governance, culture, and leadership…”

Whoa, some of these words are right up my alley, but I’ve never heard them put that way before.


He’s Speaking My Language

Regular readers know how often I write about governance, despite the fact that that word has less than positive connotations for many people.

I also write about leadership often enough, or maybe not often enough, since it’s so important in so many places, especially in enterprising families.

Culture isn’t a word I use much, but it’s also key, and never far from the subject either, even if I don’t use that word.

So while those three words caught my ear, it was the ones right before them, “the right mixture” that got me thinking.

As I considered the idea, I couldn’t help coming to the conclusion that governance and culture fit together nicely as different ways that people work together, formal and informal, but leadership seemed to stick out a bit.


Mixing Governance and Culture

Governance is mostly about the formal structures, procedures, and mechanisms that are put in place to make sure that things run well, and that there are actual written ways that remind us all how we have agreed we will act together.

Culture is more about the informal “that’s how we do things around here” that are almost never written anywhere, yet they’re typically even more powerful in guiding actions than the written rules are.

Finding the right mixture of those two elements, the formal and the informal, is where a lot of the magic happens, and I use the word magic because it’s something that we usually can’t explain and perhaps don’t even try to comprehend.


The Right Mixture Needs to Be Found

But that “right mixture” does need to be found, and it will often happen with trial and error.

It will also vary from one family to another, as well as from one decade or generation to another within the same family, depending on where they are in their evolution of working together, and who the key players are.

But it’s not as if there’s a dial that we move to the left or right to adjust to the right setting, it just sort of evolves.


How and Where Does Leadership Fit?

Maybe that’s where leadership fits in, after all?

Who moves the dial towards a need for more formality, or towards more informal discussions, with the goal of moving the entire family system to a more appropriate equilibrium?

That work can only be done by those who take on that leadership role.

Lest you think that such leadership roles are assigned, or given based on age or seniority, let me remind you that this is not the case, and when leadership is set by this “default” setting, sub-optimal results normally follow.

Someone needs to step up to these roles, and take them.

Is that you?

A Necessary Evil Worth Getting Right

Working with enterprising families, there’s a lot at stake, because you’re trying to preserve the family’s wealth while also worrying about the quality of their relationships.

This work always entails some agreements that are put into writing and then signed by the parties, supposedly to make sure that all possible scenarios have been thought through, understood, and agreed to.

Preparing these agreements is done by well-trained and well-paid attorneys specialized in such matters, so everything should work out just fine most of the time, right?

If only it were that simple.


Formalized Governance Is VERY Important

I write about family governance a lot, but rarely about the formal written agreements that enterprising families typically put into place to formalize all the legal questions around both their business or wealth and its ownership.

The governance I usually work on with families involves their family relationships, and is thus typically much more informal.

Of course all three of these circles are interrelated and so the manner in which they’re governed cannot be looked at independently, but rather interdependently.


There’s More to Governance than Written Agreements

Although my specialty is governance of the family, I do get involved in how the written agreements relating to the business and its ownership get put together and signed by the family members, when appropriate.

My role, and my goal, is to make sure that the affected family members fully understand what they’re signing, so they know what they’re agreeing to.

Those agreements are necessary, so it makes sense to try to get them right, lest they be deficient when they’re actually needed in the future.

Ideally the relationships of the parties will be so positive that they’ll never need to rely on those documents, and they can simply gather dust. 

And that would be a good thing, in my view.


Do You Want Them to Just Gather Dust?

This subject came up recently while working with a family; the patriarch mentioned that he didn’t want to have an agreement that just gathered dust.

He was coming at this from the other side, and from there I could understand what he was getting at.

It gave me a chance to clarify this question with them all (in addition to giving me another blog topic).

In short, agreements that gather dust are neither good nor bad in and of themselves, they are good or bad depending on the contexts of what they were designed to do, and whether or not the circumstances ever require the family members to blow the dust off them.


Gathering Dust – BAD Version

Some lawyers note that a majority of the agreements they draft never even get signed, because the parties can never actually agree to all the terms.

So when an unsigned version sits for a while, the chances grow that it will only continue to gather dust because the longer it takes, the less likely it is that the parties will finally agree.

Perhaps these should be considered a work-in-progress and some time should be spent finding ways to modify them so that the parties will agree and sign… but that’s a lot of work!


Gathering Dust – GOOD Version

In contrast, as I explained to the patriarch of that family I mentioned, I firmly believe that the goal should actually be to have agreements in place that do nothing but gather dust.

What’s the key difference in my version?

One of my favourite words that has come into my lexicon since I began working in this area is “co-creation”.

The best family governance is the co-created kind; period, full stop.

But what about when we’re talking about documents drafted by those aforementioned attorneys?

Well, they wrote them, but they wrote them for you, the family.


Making Them Your Own

So you all need to “make them your own”, which means that there’s some work involved by the family members to read and understand what’s written and to agree together on how they will use these documents.

You actually want them to gather dust and never be needed, so you need to figure out how you’re going to work together, with the goal of not ever needing to resort to blowing the dust off of what you paid those lawyers to write.

That takes time and effort, and often some outside help, and it’s all well worth it in the end.

Bring on the dust.

 

 

What You Call People DOES Matter

Like most areas we encounter in our lives, the field of Family Business has a lot of familiar vocabulary attached to it.

Certain terms become common to those who practice their profession or craft in this space, and words and phrases start to take on common meanings among most of those who inhabit this world.

And sometimes people keep on using words long after better, more appropriate terms come along, and an extra effort needs to be made by some industry leaders to help others make important shifts.

There are also a number of terms that get used to describe certain groups of people that we serve, and these “labels” that get attached to people can become particularly ripe for scrutiny, and overdue for some action to move towards better identifying labels.

This is where I’m going this week, please join me in this exploration.


Succession Planning Vs. Continuity Planning

I can’t believe it’s already been 8 years since I wrote Say Goodbye to Succession Planning in which I first mentioned that because of the negative connotations around the term succession planning, forward-thinking advisors were now using the term “continuity planning” in its place.

When you talk about succession planning, the “NowGen” are forced to think about what things should look like after they’re gone, and few of them really relish such conversations.

Continuity planning feels like it focuses more on what needs to stay the same, regardless of who will be actively involved.

It’s a subtle change, but one that seems to resonate better with the people who are being forced to talk about a subject that many would rather delay or avoid.

 


NextGen Vs. Rising Gen

Another change in lingo that I wrote about years ago is the use of the term “rising generation” in place of next generation.

This one feels like it has caught on even better, possibly because much of the impetus for the change came from James E. (Jay) Hughes Jr. himself.

See: The Rising Generation in Family Business

For those unfamiliar with his work, if you are at all interested in this wealth transition world, he has written some classic books and has been one of the thought leaders for the past few decades.

 


Children Vs. Offspring

There’s one big change that I’ve been trying to champion that I hope will also become more mainstream, and that is to get people to stop referring to their children as “children” once they reach adulthood.

As someone recently pointed out to me, “adult children” is an oxy-moron; they are either adults, or they are children.

The problem with using that term is that we end up treating people as little kids long past the point where it’s healthy to do so.

I like the word “offspring” and have been trying to use it every time I speak or write about this. It seems like I’ve increased the tempo too.

I used the search feature on my website and typed in “offspring” and the first 20 hits I got were all from 2021.

I’ve heard parents in their 70’s referring to their offspring in their 40’s as “the kids” and it always makes me shake my head, especially when those “kids” have their own kids!


Heirs and Beneficiaries Vs. Human Capital?

Depending on the profession one comes from, there are also some terms that get used that make me shudder when they’re taken too far.

Those who draw up legal documents use terms like heirs and beneficiaries, and I understand that some of these terms of art are necessary in certain contexts.

But they can often take on a life of their own when those who have those labels ascribed to them are treated as somehow “less than” or somehow undeserving of their good fortune.

I realize that I’m probably going too far for some here, but I would be thrilled if people started to consider the members of their family as human capital, a term that has much more positive connotations.


Slowly but Surely, Change Is Coming

I believe that progress is being made in many of these areas, and that’s a good thing.

What you call people makes a difference.

Now if I could only figure out what to call myself, as I’ve gone from a “family business advisor” to a “family legacy advisor” to a “family legacy guide”.

A Shortcut for “In the Moment” Challenges

Most of what I write about each week focuses on issues on the far end of the spectrum of the “long-term vs short-term” continuum.

I’m referring to the loooooong term, in case that wasn’t clear.

I work in the intergenerational wealth transition space, which typically concentrates on years, decades, and lifetimes, not hours, minutes, and seconds.

However, just as each year contains many hours, each of us runs into challenges on a day-to-day basis, and sometimes a little “life hack” will come in handy.

So this week, for a change, I’m focusing on the other end of the continuum, the very short term.


“Oh Crap! Now What?”

A couple of weeks ago, my daughter was charged with organizing an event over a weekend, which involved a few dozen people coming together, indoors, for an inter-collegiate competition.

It happened to be a curling bonspiel, for the curious.

Thanks to COVID, all of last season had been wiped out, and this was the first tournament of the new season, so there was plenty of uncertainty. 

It was also the first time she’d been in charge of such an event.

When I spoke to her by phone on Friday evening, things were going fine.

Alas, I awoke Saturday to a text from her that read, “Please call me whenever you get the chance, thanks” and the time stamp was 7:09 AM. 

I also noticed that I had missed her recent call, because my ringer was off.


Daughter in Need = Dad as Hero?

If you have very independent young adult offspring like me, you learn to relish any opportunity to feel needed in their lives, so this could be a rare chance to play hero.

I called her right away, got a quick “I’ll call you back in ten”, and my mind went to work, wondering how best to be a “responsive, reliable, resource to her.

How I would frame all my experience and wisdom for her, I began to contemplate.

  • “What’s your ROLE here?”, I thought, would be a good place to start to help her clarify whatever the challenge was.
  • “What’s your GOAL, in that role?” would be a great next step to help her think through.
  • “What is actually within your CONTROL?”, I considered adding, lest she begin to worry about things over which she had none.

Proud Wise Dad, Ready to Serve!

Well, wouldn’t you know it, when she did call, I never got to share this wisdom, as the issue had already been settled.

One player had a close contact with someone who’d tested positive for COVID, so he needed to declare himself ineligible, and they were able to find a replacement. 

It turned out to be a very wet firecracker for Dad to help her out with.

But wait, I write a blog every week, and am constantly on the lookout for ideas to write about.

Now, how do I turn this into something that affects enterprising families, as I typically do?


The Meta Version!

Well, I imagine that many parents of your adults face similar challenges of how best to be useful to them, without over-functioning and jumping in to fix things for them.

Maybe I could apply this Role/Goal/Control hack to myself and see what happens. 

Here goes…

My role could be summarized as follows

  • Resource; thinking partner; coach.

My goal

  • Get her to a place where she feels confident that she can handle the situation; without being too directive; so that in the future she will readily reach out to me again

What can I control

  • My tone; my positivity; my brief words of encouragement to her.

Wrong Answers Only Version

Role: “Wise Dad” with all the answers.

Goal: Get her to listen to my wisdom.

Control: Well, this is where it falls apart, doesn’t it?

In reality, I’m not the one running this tournament, as much as I want it to be a success, I have no say in anything, and all I can really control is my interaction with her, which will likely only last a couple of minutes.


Take-Away Wisdom

While I wasn’t able to try out my life hack “in the wild”, I still like it and will keep it handy.

I hope others find it useful, especially those of you who over-estimate the sphere of your control.