Introductory Family Business Meeting

Many business families feel stuck.

Different people have different points of view, amounts of information and ways of communicating. To share or not share. Openness in giving and receiving feedback. Who speaks first! The different stakeholders in a family often have trouble simply knowing how to start talking.

They are not communicating as clearly as they need to and they can’t keep going in circles. They need to do something. They need to get the conversation started.

Bringing in a skilled and neutral 3rd party brings in clarity, which will lead to harmony.

STOP working in your family BUSINESS,
START working on your business FAMILY

Types of service

Because of their very nature, family businesses are often fraught with conflict. Some families simply wait for conflicts to erupt before even looking for help, while others will do everything in their power to avoid any sense of conflict, only to have solvable problems fester and get worse over time.

The good news is that conflict is often healthy, but only when managed properly.

In most cases, family members have so much personal history together from outside the workplace, so solving their issues amongst themselves is virtually impossible.

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An independent, third-party, usually someone from outside the family, can make all the difference. When you bring in someone who not only has the experience with business families, but who has also been trained in mediation and coaching, it can make a huge difference.

Whether you are looking at situations that have been around for a long time, or something that has just popped up recently, beginning to find a way to deal with things before they get worse is almost always a good idea.

If you are dealing with a problem between two people, or between one generation and another, that independent outside viewpoint can be just what it takes to help the parties begin to understand each other better, which is the first step to a satisfactory resolution.

After the parties resolve a few issues, they can usually make significant progress in other areas, and the entire family can often move on to bigger things and a brighter future for all.

The term Continuity Planning is slowly but surely replacing the expression “succession planning”, because it has much more positive connotations and makes people think more about what they want to stay the same over the long term.

How can the family continue to work together, grow together, and stay together over the coming years and decades, as the family moves from one generation of leaders to the next.

Exit planning is sometimes a subset of continuity planning, as some individuals have roles within the family or business that will be phased out over time, as part of the overall continuity of the business family.

The two things that both of these subjects have in common are the following:

  • The more time taken to make the plans, the more successful they are.
  • The better the communication about the plans, the better they turn out.

Unfortunately, another thing that they have in common is that people often start their planning much later than they should have.

Will your family members even understand why they are being asked to come? Will they take it seriously?

If you want to create a professional family meeting experience, the best recommendation that I can make is to bring in an outside professional to help you plan the meeting, organize the invitations, and facilitate things at the meeting itself.

Did you ever notice how everyone behaves a bit better when there is someone from outside the family around? A family meeting is no different.

Using an independent, non-family facilitator will add so much to your family meeting. This is not the kind of meeting that you have very often, so you want to make sure everything goes right, to make the experience valuable for everyone.

These kinds of meetings are wonderful when done right, and if you understand how important they can be, you will want to make sure that everyone actually looks forward to attending future events too.

Away from the day-to-day business

A family retreat can be a great way for all family members to get together away from the day-to-day business, and spend more time talking about how the business issues affect the family, and how the family issues affect the business.

The toughest family retreat to schedule is the first one, since it will be new, and people will wonder what it is supposed to be all about.

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The goal is to make it memorable, fun, and educational, while providing family members who work inside the business the opportunity to interact, in a variety of situations, with those who have far less attachment to the everyday activities.

Once you have had one family retreat, you will probably want to make it a regular occasion, every year or two.

Some families “get it”, and think that they can just do it all themselves, but very few of them actually pull off something worthwhile.

You don’t want to have a bad first experience, because it may be tough to recover. A great retreat takes careful planning of both “what” you want to have happen, as well as “how” you plan to pull it off.


So many of the most important changes that you face are long term in nature, so it is best to look at them not as a “one shot deal”, but rather as a transition.

If you are trying to figure out who would be the best person to take over a particular responsibility, you do not typically wake up one morning and just fire one person and replace them with another.

In a family business, there are often other considerations that you must keep in mind as well, since many key positions may be held, now or in the future, by family members.

Furthermore, in addition to transitions that concern the running of the business, you will also likely need to look at how the ownership of the company will transition from one generation of owners to the next.

All of these transitions are best conducted after careful planning and discussions have taken place. And even then, their implementation needs to be handled properly so they do not backfire.

When you enlist the help of an independent outsider, you benefit from their ability to facilitate the discussions that lead to successful transitions. This trusted advisor will help you with the entire process, from planning and discussion, to sharing the decisions and implementing the results.

Governance Development in Family Businesses

Governance is a big word that often scares people off. It does NOT have to be that way, nor should it. It is a fancy word, but its meaning is much simpler. Governance is just the way the family and the business will structure things, communicate, and make decisions.

Okay, so the word is not that complex, but it seems to cover a lot of serious areas, that is true.

But there is a lot of good that comes out of having governance structures in place in both a business and a family,

There is no need to develop governance structures just for the heck of it. Nor is it necessary, or even advisable, to do a lot of it in one fell swoop.

I refer to development of governance for the very reason that it is not something one institutes overnight, but rather “slowly but surely”, as needed, where needed, and as the family and the business get used to doing things in a more formal way.

It is truly an incremental process, which means that one step is taken, confidence is gained and people see the benefits, and only then are the next steps even contemplated.

After a while, you will probably wonder how you ever lived without good governance systems.

Business is business.

But family business is both business AND family. Adding the family aspect already makes things more complicated, but when you throw in ownership too, things can get tough to decipher.

Business is business. But family business is both business AND family. Adding the family aspect already makes things more complicated, but when you throw in ownership too, things can get tough to decipher.

Thankfully, there is a Three Circle Model that helps to explain things. This simple, yet powerful, tool has done more to help business families and their advisors understand all of the relationships than anything else in history.

Once you understand the Three-Circle Model, you can begin to see just how and why Family Businesses are different.

There are only Three Circles, but because of the overlaps, there are actually 7 different sectors. People from different sectors will naturally see things differently, from their own perspective.

Sectors 1, 3, and 5 are relatively simple to deal with. But in Sectors 7, 6, 2, and 4, the overlaps between Business, Family, and Ownership, make things trickier.

When you look at how the people from the 6 other sectors see things, and how all the people from the various sectors relate to each other, you can start to try to improve the communications between the sectors.

The key to moving forward together is to understand each other. The key to understanding each other lies in the communications.

Examples of a Tool I Use Depending On Clients’ Needs:

The Family Continuity Blueprint was conceived as a tool to help families and their advisors get a clear picture of where they are and where they want to go.

It can serve as an important first step in a process.

The world of family business and wealth always gets complex when it comes time to figure out the best ways of getting it from one generation to the next.

The first goal of the FCBP is to get a true, factual picture, on one piece of paper, of what is at stake. Clarifying the situation is always a productive first step.

Many parents shy away from important discussions they know they need to have with the rising generation. Making the FCBP a family project is a novel way to get families to begin sharing their views on this critical matter.

You can’t keep everyone in the dark forever. To initiate important discussions about business and asset ownership and their future transitions, you need to know where you are starting from today.

Completing the FCBP might be just the excuse you need to begin having these discussions.

Getting everyTHING on one page helps get everyONE on the same page.

Introductory Family Business Meeting – I offer these meetings at no cost until I have a sufficient understanding of your family’s needs and what you would like to work towards.

Once we determine what you want to achieve and how I can best support you, the investment in your family business harmony is usually done on a monthly or quarterly retainer, based on each family’s individual needs, the speed at which we can proceed, and the number of hours I need to devote.

Steve’s New Book on Family Business


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“If you own a family business and want to read a fun book on how to become a business family you will enjoy this one. It is written from the business owner perspective and is straightforward. I’ve shared my copy with a number of people.”

If you are in a Family Business or you deal with a Family Business, and you are so busy that you cannot see the forest because of the trees, I would highly recommend you take some time and read this book. It reads very quickly and feels as if you are having a conversation with a friend of the family who understands what you are going through because he has gone through it with his own family. Very enlightening, very clear, and actually fun to read!

I strongly recommend anyone that has a family business to read this book. Steve Legler will open your eyes as to what it takes to run a successful family business all while keeping family harmony. He provides lots of tips and advice in a way that is easy to understand. You can really feel his enthusiasm in the way he writes, and how he is committed to helping business families create the legacy and family spirit they really want.