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Family Meetings Matter

Dear Advisor: Who should attend family meetings and what should be discussed at those meetings?


To answer this question, we surveyed 17 business-owning families about their family meeting practices. Not surprisingly, their answers varied. Some restricted meeting participation to “family members who own and manage the company.” Others focused on ownership status, often including owners’ spouses or former shareholders. Still others broaden inclusion based on family ties: “Siblings, parents and children of principals involved in the business;” “All family members over 16;” or “All family members who might be effected by the business.” The most fascinating and elaborate answer received: “All family members working in the business and all other adults sharing at least one of the following with one of those family members: genes, marriage license, mortgage, tax return or bank account. Those qualifying above must also share a commitment to the success, happiness and health of the others for the benefit of the whole.”

Topics discussed at family meetings also varied widely. Fundamental questions were confronted: Do we want to be a family business and why; what is the purpose of family in our business; what are our philosophy, goals, values and family mission. Several families used facilitators and/or survey instruments to help to identify, define and prioritize issues confronting the family business. Other topics included increasing the family’s capacity for communication and conflict resolution; policies concerning employment in the family business, retirement, and compensation; and reconciling active and inactive owners. Time was devoted to discussing business performance and prospects, individual plans and goals, and the process of managing the family meeting process.

For more information on family meetings see Family Meetings: How To Build A Stronger Family And A Stronger Business.

 

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