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Some Useful Parenting Advice 

Every so often, I’m lucky enough to hear a great pearl of wisdom and manage to jot it down, and it turns into a perfect title for a blog post.

This one came from a presentation I attended at the recent FFI conference in Boston.

Many of the blogs I write are of course based upon the wisdom of others, and I think I do a pretty good job of sharing the credit when it’s due, at least when it makes sense for me to do so.

Let’s jump into the details so that we can then unpack this subject a bit more, as it relates to family wealth and its eventual transition.


Emerging Adults Don’t Always Launch as Desired

The presentation in question was a breakout session entitled “Emerging Adults: Moving forth the family firm”. 

It included three presenters who shared ideas and strategies around helping families get positive results for their family businesses by ensuring that their rising generation members were well prepared for what is expected of them.

One of the presenters, Diana Clark of the O’Connor Professional Group, provided my money quote, towards the end of the discussion.

As someone who has worked in the field of addictions for decades, she had a warning for all parents.

“Don’t make having “happy” kids your main goal; make sure it’s a by-product”, she said.  “Otherwise”, she continued, “they’ll end up coming to see me.”


What’s Wrong with Being Happy?

To be clear, she was not saying that having happy children was not something to strive for.

She was, however, providing a warning that I think all parents should heed, i.e. Don’t make their happiness the primary focus.

The familiar refrain we’ve all heard (and likely even said), “I just want my children to be happy”, can lead to many undesirable consequences.

I touched on part of this way back in 2015, in the post “Over-Parenting: Worse than Neglect?”

What I had labelled “over-parenting” back then included some examples of not allowing children to struggle for themselves, which has as its root a desire to keep them “happy”.

What I think Clark was getting at is that making your children’s happiness the main focus is actually kind of a cop out.


From Dependent to Independent

When you reflect on the roles that parents are expected to play, I’m not even sure if happiness is supposed to be near the top of the list.

To me it is much more of a recent phenomenon, a far cry from the “children should be seen and not heard” that was popular not too many decades ago.

I’ve been a parent for over twenty years now, and it is definitely a work-in-progress

Also, times have continued to evolve, and it’s often difficult to swim against the current when you live in a society of instant gratification.

I’ve always felt that one of the primary parental responsibilities is to make sure that our offspring progress from a state of dependence upon their parents to a state of independence from them.

What a child needs a parent to do for them at the age of 5 is different from what they need at 10, and at 15, and at 20 and 25.


From Independent to Interdependent

When dealing with the families I work with professionally, those who’ve built up a significant asset base, that they hope to transition to the next generation of their family, making sure their offspring are independent is only the beginning.

I urge these families to work towards a state of interdependence, because that’s what is necessary to increase the likelihood of success.

I believe that Clark would agree that trying to make sure that those who succeed us become independent, and capable of functioning as adults in every way, is way more important than making sure that they’re happy all the time.

In fact, when parents succeed at this, their children will more likely be happy, as a by-product, as she suggested.


A Tale as Old as Time

This can get quite complex, and the struggle to get it right is a story that’s been around forever.

Getting parenting right is tricky, especially when you can do everything for your kids. It’s hard to say “No”.

But having them never require addiction treatment is probably something we can all agree is a good thing. 

Best of luck (that helps too!)

The Continuing Evolution of Our Professional Space

There’s nothing like a conference with peers, who come at our work with enterprising families from a variety of different professions, to stimulate reflection about the journey we’re all on.

When that conference (FFI Boston ’22) is the first big get-together in 3 years, it’s even more impactful.

And, when that conference has as its theme the future, it makes members of that community even more reflective and inspired.

Please join me as I continue to process all of what I took in, along with all the debriefing I’ve done with colleagues since then.

See Now What? After the Great Meeting


From Multi-Disciplinary to Interdisciplinary

Let’s begin with the insightful framing of an FFI Award that was shared by this year’s recipient. Jack Wofford received the annual FFI Interdisciplinary Award for 2022 at the FFI Fellows breakfast on Friday morning.

Wofford is an attorney who has a long history of acting as a mediator in all sorts of multi-party disputes, including many involving enterprising families.

During his acceptance speech, he made a point of stating that the name of the award is “interdisciplinary” which he contrasted with another, oft-used similar expression, “multi-disciplinary”.

Hmmm, I thought to myself, I’d never thought about this distinction before.


A Multi-Disciplinary Field, Requiring Interdisciplinary Effort

There is no denying that the people who serve family firms come from a multitude of different disciplines, this has been known and acknowledged for decades.

What is more recent is the understanding that in order to do this work well, and not just in our original silos, requires some effort to be able to work with people from disciplines different from one’s own.

Many professionals do not even really recognize this, and even among those who acknowledge it, my guess is that there are only a small minority who really do a good job of learning how to do it well.

Perhaps that’s one of the reasons that it merits its own award.


From Field to Ecosystem

The title of this post hit on two parts of the evolution of the professional space in which I and many readers endeavour, the part about the disciplines, as well as the issue of how we label the area in which we all work.

Let’s switch gears and take on the second question.

The A-Ha Moment for this came during an off-site dinner that I attended with what we called “Team Canada”, which was a wonderful opportunity for many of us Canucks to spend some time getting to know one another a bit better.

Without naming names, I was seated next to a friend and colleague who I happen to know was born about two and a half decades after I was.  Across from him was a woman I know, who I also understood to be much younger than my late-50’s.

As it turns out, they had already compared notes and were born in the same year.  I was suddenly quite jealous, but maybe not for the simple reasons you might guess.


Entering and Ecosystem, Not Just a Field

I had my calling to do this work relatively late, and so I’ve been trying to make up for lost time for a decade now.

I’m jealous of these two professionals not just because they are so much younger, but also because they both seem to have found work that really suits them and that they enjoy.

And, the field has continued to evolve, to the point where it is now so much more than a plain old field, it has become an ecosystem in its own right.

The opportunities for those entering this space are so much better defined and available now than they were even a decade ago.


The Family Enterprise Parallel Version

I always like to draw some sort of parallel to the situations involving business families in these posts, so let’s do that before we run out of room.

Any FamBiz going from the founder’s generation (G1) to the next, offers some complexity and opportunity, and things to work on.

But when you see a family where there are active members in G3, G4, and G5 (and so on) that’s when things really get interesting.

Just as the young professionals I spoke about have plenty of opportunities, I’m also jealous of the rising generation members of such families, because they have a much broader path of opportunities ahead of them too.

Following Up After the Big Meeting is the Key

“Now what”, or “what’s next”, are so important to making the progress we want to make, in so many areas of our lives.

And, it’s good to remind ourselves that even though we need to take time to recover from a big event to rest and reflect, we cannot take too much time “off” and very much need to get back into the rhythm of what was so great about a meeting.

Okay, so let me step back here and share what I’m getting at, because I uncharacteristically jumped right to my point without much context there.

I’ve just returned from another wonderful conference and I’m still coming down from the high of spending time with so many wonderful people, and as I planned to share the experience here, I realized that there are parallels here to the kind of work that I do with families.


Setting the Date for the Next Meeting

Whenever anyone asks for tips on holding a great family meeting, I’ve been known to say that the most important thing you need to do is make sure that you set the date for the next meeting, so that everyone can put it on their calendar and make sure they’ll be there.

I drove back from the annual FFI Conference in Boston yesterday, and so I just followed my own advice and added next year’s event to my calendar for October 25-28, 2023 in New York City.

I also made a note on my calendar for Monday morning, when I get back to my desk, to make sure I look through my notes and the event brochure and be sure not to let any follow-ups fall through the cracks.

I already went through the attendees list and made sure to hit up all the new folks I spoke with over the past few days with LinkedIn connection requests.

My notes will surely reveal some blog ideas and at least one follow up for a podcast guest request, if not more.


Connecting Like-Minded Colleagues

During the three days of the conference I was on the lookout for other fellow Canadians, so that I could add a Canadian flag sticker to their name badge.

I can’t believe that the 25 stickers I brought weren’t sufficient and I ran out. I must remember to bring more next time, and I should probably make sure I order extras, because they were quite popular.

Besides trying to herd all my fellow great-white-north friends, I was also on the lookout for any French-speaking attendees.

FFI has had a Spanish language study group for a decade now, and some fellow Quebecers want to launch something similar in French, so I spent some time trying to connect colleagues for that too.


More Jolly Good Fellows

Every year at the FFI conference they announce another group of members who have achieved “FFI Fellow” status, and this year I was very honoured to be part of this group.

I’m still a tiny bit disappointed that they haven’t adopted the tradition of singing “For he’s the jolly good fellow” during the ceremony, but I’ll get over it.

It is indeed gratifying to be part of the growing group of leaders in the field of family enterprise, all of whom make an effort to share so generously with colleagues so that we can all serve our family clients even better.


Back to the Family Meetings….

I just spent a few paragraphs writing a lot about “who”, and when you think about family meetings, the “who” part is also huge, because spending family time together is obviously a huge part of what you are trying to do.

Sharing common experiences is key to the family bonding and understanding, which is all part of making sure that your communications are working.

There’s also the “what” part you need to consider, and the content and planning are not something you want to skimp on or leave to the last minute.

Just like this conference I was at, many people spent a lot of time creating the conditions for success, and your family meetings deserve as much as well.

Make sure your agenda includes learning and fun, as well as some break time for people to just “be” together.

You want them to leave satisfied and looking forward to the next one.

It’s All Interconnected and It Never Really Ends

Every week in this space I tackle an issue related to the challenges families face when trying to ensure that the wealth or business they own will be successfully transitioned to the following generations of their family.

I’ve been doing this for a decade, and have yet to exhaust the topics on which I enjoy sharing my thoughts.

Sometimes the subjects are narrow, as they’ve been recently (see Should I Join My Family Business and Getting your MBA to Lead your Family Business: 5 Things to Consider), and other times, like this week, they’re reallllllllllly broad.

I’m not sure how to narrow my thoughts down into one post, but I’ll give it a shot.


Complex Subjects, with Lots of Moving Parts

Wealth transitions affect people from different generations of every family, and often deal with ownership and control going from a small group of people to a larger one.

Each person brings their own desires, needs, and expectations, making this work fraught with potential conflicting views and ideas.

There’s no “one-size-fits-all” method, although many professional experts in a particular subset of the field may try to make you believe otherwise. 

I’ve recently been involved in a few different discussions and activities that made me realize how much of this work defies a linear approach, and is in fact very iterative and cyclical.

Few circumstances in this world lend themselves to a simple “do A, then B, then C, then D, and you’re done”.

Instead, when you get to C, you may realize that some elements of A need to be revisited, and the work done in B may now be irrelevant.


And This Is All a Good Thing

Lest readers begin to think that I believe that this is bad, well, NO, it actually has to be this way, assuming of course, that you want it to work.

Indeed, oftentimes experts have “shoved” their A-B-C-D process onto an unsuspecting family, which makes everyone happy and relieved in the short term, only to see most of it unravel once the family needs to actually live with the result.

With complex issues that involve so many parties, it is not realistic to think that a couple of people will be able to come up with the ideal plan for all right off the bat.

And even if you could, all those affected by it would not feel any ownership in it because they were not involved (or even heard) during its creation.


Planning and Governance Must Evolve Over Time

Whether we’re talking about structural elements of planning for which you involve experts in law, trusts, and taxes, or the family dynamics aspects that lead to what I call family governance, the same holds true.

You need to start by trying to figure out what you want, then you need to have discussions about it with those who will be affected by it, then you need to speak with experts and get their input.

Then you go around again, taking what you learned from the experts and sharing it with those who will be affected by the decisions.

After getting their input, you can go back to the experts again with plan 1.1 or 2.0, and get advice again.

And then repeat.

Even when you have something that works and that all agree on, that will only serve for a certain time (although it could be for years) until circumstances have changed and a new, refreshed, and better suite plan will be needed.


Regular Dialogue Where These Subjects Are Safe

Back in 2020, in How to ACE your FamBiz Succession Planning, we looked at how Alignment, Clarity, and Engagement are important elements to keep in mind.

I could have added that making sure your family has a regular forum where dialogue around these subjects is allowed, expected, and safe, is also a key success factor.

We’re talking about important subjects that deeply affect the lives of every family member, so if you’re trying to do the best job you can for all of those people, you need to have them involved, and do it in a positive and intentional manner.


Did Anyone Say This Was Supposed to Be Easy?

I know that the desire for an end point or “destination” is very strong, and nobody can “argue with” that.

But, assuming that you really want to prepare everyone and everything as best you can, then you really need to think about all of this as being more of a journey instead.

Try to enjoy this journey, even though it will not always be easy.

A Road Well Travelled.

The idea of going to do your MBA in order to then come back and work in (and possibly lead) your family business has been around for a long time.

It has been repeated often with varying degrees of success over the past few decades, in many places, and probably in every industry, somewhere on the planet.

It can be the perfect next step to give an aspiring leader the extra tools, confidence, and respect from fellow employees that they’ll need to take that next step in moving up the ranks and eventually taking over.

And sometimes, well, not so much.

This week I want to look at 5 things that you should consider before taking that leap.

 

Learning and Growth, or Just the Letters, Please

Whenever anyone is making a big decision, like going back to school for an advanced degree in anything, I always encourage them to think the decision through, and especially make sure that they’re doing it for the right reason.

If all you really want are the letters “MBA” after your name, that probably won’t be enough to sustain you on your journey.

If, however, you are looking to learn and grow as a person and as a leader, then your chances of success, during your studies and long after, will rise markedly.

But please be honest with yourself during this reflection.

 

Is This the Missing Link?

Even if you do realize that you need some more learning and growth in order to increase your chances of success, is the MBA route truly what’s missing for you to advance to where you want to get?

In many cases the answer is still YES, but there are lots of other educational opportunities that may be more suitable to you, depending on what strengths and education you already have, what industry you are in, and what type of role you hope to grow into.

 

What Role Likely Awaits You?

And that brings us to the role you are looking to occupy. 

Since we are looking very long term here, you need to think about not only the next role you hope to grow into, but also any subsequent ones.

You may see roles that interest you now, and it may seem clear that they seem tailor-made for you (and you may be right).

But please, before making a big decision like going back to school, make sure that you have a number of discussions with other family members who are above you in the business hierarchy before you make any commitments.

 

Podunk State Vs. Harvard/Stanford/Wharton

Assuming you’ve thought through it all, discussed it with all important stakeholders, and are ready to take the leap. You need to figure out where to set your sights.

There’s a huge variability in the quality of the programs out there, their cost, their ease of qualifying, and time commitment and distance.

Assuming that you could qualify everywhere and cost is no object, it may well be worth reaching for the top schools for a better quality experience, as well as interacting with a higher level of other students.

That may not be realistic in most cases, so a detailed evaluation of schools and programs is worth the effort, which in this day and age is so much easier than it was decades ago, thanks to the web and Google.

There are even a number of schools that have specific offerings for those coming from family businesses, which didn’t exist when I was beginning this journey in the ‘80’s.

 

Build Your Network Too

I alluded to this above when noting the “higher level of other students” but no matter where you might end up, do not neglect the opportunity to create a network, not just of friends but of future colleagues on whom you can lean when you will need them.

Schools that emphasize family business education may be preferable for just that reason, as you are more likely to meet and get close to others whose career situation will better resemble yours, and with whom continued contact may be mutually beneficial.

 

Aren’t MBA’s “a Dime a Dozen”?

Doing my MBA was a rewarding experience for me, even though we sold our family business soon after my return.

These days, there are many MBA’s out there, and the experience can still offer a lot.

But think it through before committing.

Human Insights from a Family of Geese.

When people ask me about my favourite place to be, and I want to be really specific, I mention sitting on my kayak, on the Chockpish River behind my cottage in New Brunswick.

I’ve written posts about my time here over the years, notably Stuck in the Mud? Don’t Wait for “MayDay” about an incident that has stayed with me for a long time, as well as From Upstream to Downstream in the FamBiz in which I raised some wealth transition lessons from a natural phenomenon.

But today I’m writing this post after a fresh experience that I had early on a Monday morning as I paddled along and came upon a family of geese.

Most of my blog writing occurs on Fridays and Saturdays each week, so for me to be working on next week’s post this early, you know that something resonated with me.


Just Minding My Own Business.

I woke up early and decided that the combination of the weather, the tides, and a light calendar of Zoom calls offered me an opportunity to get out there an explore the river just after sunrise.

It was a rare trip already when I met an oncoming canoe in the first 10 minutes, and I jokingly mentioned to the couple and their dog that I didn’t expect so much traffic.

Little did I know at the time that I was foreshadowing lots of honking!

Onward I went, minding my own business, when I approached what shall henceforth be called “Goose Island” heading south.


Mother Goose Shows Wisdom – Father Goose, Not So Much.

A family of Canada Geese were all on this small island, and one of the adults, who I assumed was Mom, saw me coming from afar and began heading to the far side of the island and into the water.

She was eyeing me the whole time, and seven of her brood slowly got up and followed her into the water, heading away from me, the oncoming perceived threat.

Nicely done, mama goose, I thought.

Then a moment later, I notice another adult, Father Goose, I assumed, who saw me a bit later, and who had three of their youngsters in his charge.

I had hoped that he would lead them away from me as well, but if that would’ve happened, there would’ve been no goosebumps nor story to tell.


Honk, Honk, Honk, He Bellows.

Father goose, with his three offspring, Tom, Dick, and Harriet, all enter the water on the side of the island where I’m trying to simply glide past them so as not to cause any unnecessary fear.

The incessant honking has now begun, as father goose is likely trying to scare me and also alert the mother of their goslings that there’s a danger in their midst.

They continue swimming south, trying to outrace me, and the honking gets more aggressive.

I’m trying to speed past them to put any fear at rest, but instead I’m seen as more of a threat as I accelerate.

I try widening my distance, but the narrowness of the river prevents me from doing so.

At one point, Dad even starts flying to get further ahead of me.

And then, suddenly, something changed.


The Rising Generation to the Rescue.

I looked down at my leg and noticed goosebumps, and was struck by the irony that they were caused by a goose, which I guess gives me a story to share if ever I’m on Jeopardy.

Suddenly one of the goslings, likely Harriet, decided to do a 180, and began swimming northbound, you know, the other way!

Her brothers did the same, I was finally past them, and Dad finally gave me a final honk, which sounded to me a bit like “honk off!”


Some Morals from this Story.

Aside from the fact that the gender attributions I made are mere guesswork, and that the whole affair didn’t last any more than a couple of minutes, I do have some take-aways.

Parents don’t always make the best decisions for their families.

What is perceived as a threat is not always a threat, and I was riled up by this too, as I did not want to get goosed!

Sometimes a well-timed move by one family member can end up benefitting the whole family, and often that member is part of the rising generation.

Later, as I passed Goose Island on my return, they all just watched me intently, with nary a honk. Phew!

Thoughts on Who Leans In and Who Leans Out

Most of the posts I write here weekly are based on ideas that have been simmering in my head for a few weeks or even months before I write about them for public consumption.

Every once in a while, like this week, they stem from an urge to quickly try to process a confluence of many recent ideas, before the potential magic they may contain begins to dissipate.

Leadership of families is often top of mind, but this week some conversations that included the ideas of “leaning in” and “leaning out” added to the mix, and so here we are.

Let’s see how I can tie something coherent together that is both useful and entertaining.


The First Family Meeting Is the Hardest

I should first set some important context though, because I recently had the privilege of working with a family for a number of months in preparation for their first in-person family forum.

When these go well, as this one did, there’s a magic that happens in the room, as the family comes together to discuss important topics as a group for the first time, and they typically begin to discover what’s possible for them going forward.

Too many families know that they should be discussing these things, but because they’re not sure how to start, or they fear that they’ll accidentally kick a hornet’s nest, they put these discussions off for “yet another year”.

So I was coming off a high, where I’d been with some people who had a new sense of possibilities for their future.


Yet Another PPI Call Inspires Me

As has occurred many times over the years, attending the weekly PPI Tuesday call was an additional source of inspiration.

The subject that week was women and philanthropy, and the guest mentioned that women need to learn to “lean in” to get more involved.

My friend Amanda, who was hosting the call and knew that I was in attendance asked if I had any comments, and of course I did (!)

They opened my line and I highlighted the concept of leaning in, and the fact that sometimes others, who have been leaning in, need to start to learn to “lean out”, so that others can play a more prominent role.

This applies to both women and men in philanthropy discussions, as well as to the Rising Generation and the Incumbents in families who are hoping to transition from one generation of leadership to the next.


How About the Outside Professional Advisors?

Part of the magic in a family forum comes from the fact that participants begin to realize that sharing of leadership is both welcome and required over the long term.

But the idea of leaning in and out is not just limited to the family members. 

As the outside facilitator of the meeting (and the only non-family person in the room), I also need to be aware of my own presence in the room, and to try to make sure I allow the family system to manage itself.

I may begin each part of the meeting by taking some leadership in teeing up a discussion or activity, but then I absolutely must lean back and let things happen organically, and only step back in as necessary.

If I try too hard to make everything work in a way that seems perfect, because I’m worried about looking good, I’m no longer properly serving the family.

My goal is to get the family members to lean in and put in the work required to build the connection and understanding with each other.


Sharing Leadership as a Family

The goal for many families is for their wealth to transition successfully from one generation to the next, and because that typically involves more people in subsequent generations, it’s important for everyone to learn to make decisions together in as democratic a way as possible.

Having all of the leadership and decisions concentrated in the hands of one person or a very small group can be a recipe for trouble.

There are usually more aspects of the family that require some leadership than they realize, and because everyone has different strengths, it makes sense to share roles among as large a group as possible.

And the parents first need to learn to lean back, and then the offspring need to lean in.

Admittedly a Little Bit Counter-Intuitive

In last week’s blog I talked about the latest super-spreader event that I attended in 2022, and enough time has passed that I can safely confirm that I emerged unscathed once again.

I did leave the latest RendezVous of the Purposeful Planning Institute with lots of good stuff, of course, as has been the case each time I’ve attended since 2014.

There was a small nugget in the opening keynote presentation that made me jot down one single word, and I’ve been reflecting on its importance ever since.

That word was “direction”, and even though I can’t recall the exact context in which it was shared, it resonated with me, and so now I need to share some of my thoughts about that.

 

Fundamental Human Connection

The theme for this year’s conference was “The Fundamentals of Human Connection”, and our opening keynote was wonderfully delivered by Akasha Saunders, from Cultivating Leadership.

When he noted the importance of direction it hit me like a lightning bolt, as if it were the missing link to a number of disparate ideas in my head.

I write about families who face the challenges of transitioning their wealth or their business from one generation to the next, which is never simple or easy work.

When I’m engaged by a family as a resource to them to guide them on that journey, they often ask me lots of questions about the destination we are trying to get to.

I don’t like to get into “destination” type talk, preferring to focus on the “journey” instead.

The idea of focusing on “direction” appeals to me, probably because it’s even simpler than the journey, and is in fact a small subset of it.

 

But Doesn’t the Destination Give You the Direction?

I wrote about this 4 years ago in There IS No Destination which was inspired by a great quote I’d read: 

                                          There Is No Destination.

                                                It’s ALL Journey.

                                                    All. Of. It. 

That remains one of my favourite posts, and now I’m please to be able to revisit it and add the importance of direction.

Just because it’s a journey, that doesn’t mean it needs to be random.

You have a general idea of where you want to go, and that helps you and your family to point yourself in the right direction.

 

In a Hurry to Get to the End

I recently ran a first in-person family meeting with a family I’ve been working with remotely in 1-on-1 calls over the past 6 months, and as we wound up our successful time together, we ended with a look ahead at what could be the next logical step on our journey together.

Some of the family members seemed in more of a hurry than others, as the idea of tackling formal governance appealed to them.

I discouraged them from trying to “jump ahead” too quickly, and we decided together that working on defining the family’s shared values made more sense.

I explained my penchant for attaching the adjective “evolving” to the term “governance”, and they agreed that this sounded prudent.

See The Evolution of Family Governance, among other posts.

 

Shared Values Help Provide Direction

Uncovering a family’s shared values provides a great foundation, and that helps inform the logical direction that the family members need to take.

Getting everyone pointed in the same direction, and then starting to slowly move the proverbial train down the track is how I like to explain it.

Are you heading west, or south? 

You don’t have to know exactly where you are trying to go to begin to overcome the inertia that keeps too many families stuck in neutral.

Sticking with the train metaphor, there are lots of places where a train can deviate from straight ahead and take on a new direction.

The flexibility component of not simply looking rigidly ahead to a specific destination should not be understated.

 

Engagement and Alignment – Redux

In Family Engagement and Family Alignment – Chicken and Egg we looked at these two key elements and how interdependent they are.

We can now add direction, and perhaps even momentum, as key areas for families to focus upon, as they work to overcome the many challenges involved in successful intergenerational wealth transitions.

Most families have a good general idea of what it could/should look like, but that doesn’t mean that the exact destination is known or even achievable.

Simply making sure you have the direction right is something worth thinking about from time to time

Searching for the “Goldilocks Zone”

These weekly missives have been inspired by a variety of sparks over the years, and this one is sort of a “mish-mash” because it comes from a number of places.

I’ve long wanted to incorporate a great quote from a colleague into a blog, and I’ll finally do it in this post.

I love it when some social media interaction on one of my posts creates a new spark, and that’s also the case here.

And, when I speak with potential clients about situations that concern them, that also makes me want to share my ideas here too.

So let’s dive into the deep end and look at some liquidity issues for families (see what I did there?).


An Old LinkedIn Post Gets a “Yeah-But!”

My social media folks schedule regular posts from my accounts on LinkedIn and Twitter, which weave in both my new weekly posts along with plenty of “recycled” content from days gone by.

I continuously create regular content, which I enjoy, but if you only post and repost the same piece several times over and over each week, it may not be as well received as when you share more variety.

Recently, a post about liquidity from a few years ago sparked a comment that seemed to take an opposite view to one of the points I made. See Liquidity Events in a FamBiz – Pros & Cons.

They took issue with the fact that I suggested that it can make sense to not share too much liquidity right after a business is sold, for a variety of reasons.

The alternate viewpoint is also quite valid, of course, as there are cases where a family has plenty of wealth and yet most family members will wait years or even decades before they will see any direct benefit from it.


“It’s Great That We’re Wealthy, But…”

This made me recall that great quote from my friend and colleague Travis Harms, another guy who regularly creates great content for this field.

He shared with me the way one family member put it to him: 

                    “Yes, thanks, it’s great that we’re wealthy. 

                         But, can we also have some money?”

Bang! Drop the mic! What a great way to summarize the way so many rising generation family members feel.

Imagine living in a town where everyone knows that you are part of the family that owns an extra-large enterprise.

Everyone knows that you’re wealthy, and yet they look down on you because you appear “cheap” more often than not.

Little do they know, you may own a portion of a large asset base, but you’re still working your butt off each week just to pay the mortgage on your modest house.


An Apple a Day – And Then the Orchard!

That brings me to a family I recently heard about, where the parents were quite wealthy yet were successful in keeping secret the extent of their wealth from their sons.

One son was being modestly supported to a certain extent due to some personal difficulties, yet he would eventually stand to inherit way more than he could reasonably spend in his remaining lifetime.

As I thought about a metaphor for this, I landed on getting an apple a day from your parents, because they didn’t want to spoil you.

You ate that apple every day, kept the doctor away, and then after the parent’s funeral, you discovered that you now own an orchard!

All along, you knew they had a few apple trees in the backyard, and assumed that was the extent of it.


Lots of Planning, Lots of Sharing, Lots of Transparency

The “answers”, if there are any, to these situations are never simple.

However, when there is a lot of planning, a lot of sharing, and a lot of transparency around what the leading generation is hoping to accomplish with the decisions they make, things generally go better than when the opposite track is taken.

When there’s no planning, no sharing, and no transparency, it’s a recipe for disappointment, mistrust, confusion, and conflict.


Taking Advice Versus Co-Creation

Too often, such parents blindly rely on the advice of certain professionals whose viewpoint is conflicted by their desire to remain part of the picture in managing the wealth of the senior generation.

Once the offspring are mature enough to understand what will eventually be coming their way, I recommend they also become involved in co-creating their future as stewards of the family wealth.