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Helping Family Businesses
Prosper Across Generations®

Family Meeting Ideas

  • A family evolving from four second-generation sibling owners to 15 in the third had members of the cousin group interview family members of the second generation. (See below.) The interviews were then presented at a family meeting.
  • Other families interview independent directors and/or key non-family executives. Of course, these folks can be invited to attend family meetings too.

When presenting the family company's financial statements consider reformatting them to present:

  • all wages and salaries
  • employee benefits
  • supplies and materials
  • energy costs
  • advertising services
  • all computer costs
  • other items of special interest

Also show total taxes:

  • federal income tax
  • state income tax
  • property taxes
  • employment taxes
  • local income taxes
  • etc., etc.

and, if possible, show who receives them. For example, show how much of the property taxes support public education, parks, etc. and how much of the federal income taxes support defense, interest on national debt, etc.

  • Share with the family lists of customers or suppliers the company does business with.
  • Provide a profile of employees by age, race, gender, years with the company, education, etc.
  • Most of all, tell the stories or philosophies that shape the culture. For example, what's the business' philosophy on employee benefits, how does the company make charitable and community contributions decisions, what does the company do for training or safety, etc.?

By definition, family meetings should include people of all ages and different educational backgrounds. Moreover, time is always precious as you squeeze in all the necessities: fun, personal education, business information and family continuity planning. Making family meetings efficient and interesting is an art. We welcome our readers' suggestions from their experiences.


Interview Questions of the Senior Generation

  • How did you decide to work at the company/not work at the company?
  • During your career, what were your most favorite assignments? Least favorite assignments?
  • What has been your greatest achievement and toughest challenge?
  • How did your generation resolve conflicts and make decisions?
  • How would you like to see the business in the future?
  • What were the most valuable lessons your parents taught you about business? About family?
  • What words of advice do you have for the next generation?

Six Tips for Family Meetings

  • Use a skillful facilitator -- especially for the first meeting.
  • Begin the meeting with a review of meeting and communication rules.
  • Have tissue available for tears of sharing and tears of joy.
  • Have an audio or video recorder available for precious moments of story telling or personal expression.
  • Start with easier, positive issues and plans.
  • Incorporate time for play and fun.
 

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