One of the great benefits of the ever-increasing dialogue around family business challenges is that many families have a much clearer picture of the things that are required to sustain the business into future generations. Readers of our books and articles will see that our experience with business-owning families has shown certain things to be very helpful in balancing the needs of family and business, including independent boards, family councils, family policies, family meetings, and family education.
And so, it can be tempting to dive in and start putting those things in place. Take the example of instituting a family council. It can seem fairly simple – selecting people to serve on the council, organizing meetings, creating agendas, etc. A successful family council, though, requires the family itself to change, giving up old ways of communicating and making decisions in favor of this new structure. This kind of change takes time and may feel like two steps forward, one step back for a while until the family adapts.
This is why the process of how these important structures are created is as important as the structure itself. A board of directors will be most effective when the board has the trust and respect of the family. A family council will work best when the family understands its purpose and respects the council members who represent them. The process of creating these structures includes what they are and how they’re formed, plus education, agreement, and engagement.
As we enter a New Year we may look to set goals that will move our families towards better continuity planning. Keeping the focus on both where you need to go and how you’re going to get there is important to smoothing out the bumps in the road on the way to change.