Due to our long winter this year, my mind has just turned to spring cleaning. The concept of spring cleaning – organizing, starting with a clean slate, focusing on priorities and getting rid of what’s not so important – has a number of applications for family business. So, let’s dedicate the week to Spring cleaning!
I spent a lot of my time with family business clients developing policies and processes to create order and accountability, increase family harmony and ensure the family and business operate effectively. Often, hours of work goes into creating these rules, sometimes involving difficult family conversations and multiple revisions until the family is comfortable with the result. Once all that work is done – what happens? The policy is saved on someone’s computer under some name, and then….. I often get calls from clients two or three years later asking me if I have the final version of a policy. They can’t locate the document they spent so much time and care creating.
So, my first spring cleaning suggestion – create a protocol for how you name, store and revise your important family documents. Each document should have a header or footer with an embedded date so that you can track versions. A common naming protocol should be used – for instance, if a document is final, you might use final in the name. If it is a draft, you might include the word draft and the date in the name. And, you should use the same name for the same type of document. So, if you keep minutes of family council meetings, they should have the same file name each time with the appropriate date included, for example, FBCG board minutes 41013.
The naming protocol should be agreed upon by everyone involved in creating or revising family documents so that the standard form is followed. Then, a central repository for documents should be created. And, that repository shouldn’t be your family business consultant! Or the head of the family council, for that matter. Ideally, a location that is protected and will last over time should be selected. The company intranet or a family website is ideal. The goal is to have a place where an archive can live for a long period of time.
For those readers who already have policies and other important family documents developed, take advantage of that spring cleaning spirit and review your current files. Purge old versions or drafts that aren’t needed. Consider renaming the ones you have in a standard format. And, agree to a home for them. When next spring rolls around, you will be glad you did!