FFI offers an opportunity to come together and exchange perspectives that can electrify our thinking about the families we study and serve. This engagement with other practitioners and new thinking is a fundamental way that practitioners can further develop skills and approaches in service of family enterprises. In honor of the conference theme, consultants of The Family Business Consulting Group offer some of the resources that have shaped their thinking.
Sometimes, insight comes from unexpected places. Here are some recent - and enduring - reads and “watches” that have sparked new thinking for us.
“The book that I've recommended more than any other is Man's Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl. Owning and/or operating a family business is hard, and a key to sustained success is alignment around an empowering purpose. I've never read another book that makes a more powerful case for the importance of purpose than this memoir by a Holocaust survivor.” - David Ransburg
“An excellent and old standard for me is Peter Senge’s The Fifth Discipline. He writes about how people in organizations work in groups to be continuous learners and to practice a systemic approach to strategy and leadership. I find that many of his principles translate directly to family groups. For example, his section on Advocacy and Inquiry is information I use with families all the time.” - Kent Rhodes
“Last year I read Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown, which talks about being disciplined in the decisions you make with respect to your time and your priorities. I liked the book because it forced me to look at how I use my time in a very different way. In a word, basically, if it’s not a ‘Hell Yes,’ then it’s a ‘Hell No.’ Using this approach has influenced my decisions with respect to building my consulting business in terms of networking, speaking and even which types of clients I want to work with.” - David Karofsky
(See also: Kelly LeCouvie also wrote a brief blog post on her thoughts on Essentialism)
“My greatest influence has been a simple phrase in Hebrew, common in Jewish worship service, in Hebrew songs and in the Bible: 'L-Dor v'Dor.' It means 'from generation to generation.' It refers to passing Judaism -- its lore, culture, peoplehood, family - across the millennia from Abraham and Sarah through today and infinite tomorrows. For family businesses, the goal is similar: sustaining, adapting, innovating to pass values and resources from generation to generation.” - Craig Aronoff
“The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz. This book focuses on managing energy rather than time. The authors identify and highlight that our energies (physical, emotional, mental and spiritual) are finite resources. They get depleted and need to be replenished. When we are managing our energies effectively not only are we more fully engaged but we contribute more and reach our potential more readily. It is a powerful concept that is easily grasped plus the book is chock-o-block full of tools. This book has not only transformed how I manage myself but has also transformed how every client I work with does too!” - Wendy Sage-Hayward
“I recently read Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling by Edgar Schein. The book reinforced the importance of the process by which we engage with those in our work sphere, including clients, subordinates and superiors. Schein caused me to rethink how I interact with clients in ways that I know will drive to deeper understanding, trust and appreciation and better results for my client. The real life examples he shares demonstrate how his method can be effective across all aspects of our personal and work lives.
“I also appreciated the HBO documentary, ‘Becoming Warren Buffett.’ There are many embedded business lessons, but even more around being a good person and making smart life decisions. Warren Buffett could serve as an outstanding role model to those of any age pursuing any vocation. This film would be great to watch as a family with teenagers, young adults or older and discuss what each person took away.”
- Jennifer Pendergast
“Immunity to Change: How to Overcome it and Unlock the Potential in Yourself and Your Organization by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey provides insight on the ‘competing commitments’ that keep individuals and organizations from achieving change. This book helped me expand my thinking about the challenges we all face with goals that require us to change our behavior or our thinking, and provides some new tools for helping to identify and break through the things that get in the way of what leaders and families really want.” - Kristi Daeda
“Three books that have recently jostled my thinking are:
Time to Think: Listening to Ignite the Human Mind by Nancy Kline. One of the most compelling points that Kline makes is when groups are together, in meetings, etc., people do not give others the chance to think and respond to challenges. We jump in, finish sentences, and fail to convey proper non-verbal language that encourages problem solving. I see this in family groups constantly. The ability to grant time, even 2 minutes for someone to think through their thoughts and problem solve is crucial to innovative problem solving.
Emotional Life of Your Brain: How the Unique Patterns Affect the Way You Think, Feel and Live and How You Can Change Them by Richard Davidson, Ph.,D. Families are instrumental in helping individuals to form deep neurological pathways in the brain that are difficult to change. It is a book that can help the individual understand scientifically what happens to the brain and change their own lives. I like that it advocates for individuals to take control of their own lives, not blame others for how they're thinking, feeling and living. It is empowering for anyone who wants to understand themselves better.
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg. This book has helped me to understand why habits are so hard to change, how we can recognize our triggers, and that we get right back on the wagon if we jumped off. I think this is important for families in business together because there are numerous triggers that family members unconsciously do that induce negative behavior. It is another opportunity to discover what trips one up, how they can understand themselves better, and change their behavior.” - Deb Houden
“I continue to pick up The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business by Patrick Lencioni. His crisp and lively descriptions bring to life the patterns I observe every day in my family business clients. The book suggests that organizational health is the foundation of a firm’s competitive advantage. And he goes on to break that down into a foundational principle: Set clear expectations and then communicate them. He then goes on to lay out the ‘how’ in a way that makes it tangible and accessible. It’s made me a better consultant and improved productivity and relationships in the clients I work with.” - Barbara Dartt
Also mentioned from Patrick Lencioni: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team
“Two recent reads for me are:
Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek. Centered on how inspirational leaders start by identifying their purpose, cause or vision. The introduction to this book led me to another inspirational book:
The Wright Brothers by David McCullough. This book clearly shows how innovative and persistent Wilbur and Orville Wright were in achieving their vision of human flight. Their tenacity grew out of the lessons learned in their family business, a bicycle shop in Dayton, Ohio. This tremendous feat against much better financed competitors, demonstrates that family businesses are indeed innovative and contribute greatly to societal progress.” - Joe Schmieder
TED Talk by David Brooks: Should you live for your resume… or your eulogy?
Eric Barker's Barking Up the Wrong Tree: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You know About Success is (Mostly) Wrong.
Favorite Family Business Resources and Readings
Many books, articles and journals with a family business focus impact thinking across the field and within our practices. Here are just a few of the guides that are making an impression lately.
“I recently re-read Managing For The Long Run: Lessons In Competitive Advantage from Great Family Businesses by Danny Miller and Isabelle Le Breton-Miller. It is a fascinating read that focuses on matters of differentiating strategies common to long lasting and highly successful family firms. I think too often consultants lose sight of the critical role strategy plays and that poor or absent strategy is often the genesis of family implosions.” - Drew Mendoza
“Family business autobiographies are a great way to learn from the experiences of others. Two of my favorites provide honest, compelling narratives of the pleasures - and agonies - of taking the reins from a wildly successful predecessor. These stories contain dramatic moments that rival the best Greek tragedies or Shakespearean theatre. Most important, they are instructive and humbling real-world illustrations of the enormous responsibilities borne by next generation successors: Father, Son & Co: My Life at IBM and Beyond by Thomas J Watson Jr. and Personal History by Katharine Graham (Washington Post)” - Amy Schuman
“Dennis Jaffe's new research is a tremendous resource that I have drawn from frequently. These 30-50 pg. booklets are all based on deep interviews with legacy families and utilize great analysis and case studies.
- Joshua Nacht
Family Business, Risky Business: How to Make it Work by David Bork
Beyond Survival: A Guide for Business Owners and Their Families by Leon Danco
Raised Healthy, Wealthy and Wise: Lessons from Successful and Grounded Inheritors on How They Got That Way by Coventry Edwards-Pitt
Favorite FBCG Resources
The Family Business Consulting Group has a rich history of publishing practical, comprehensive perspectives on a variety of family enterprise topics that draw from thousands of family cases and dating back to our founding in 1994. These are a few of our new and notable publications.
Coming December 2017:
Transitioning from the Top: Personal Continuity Planning for the Retiring Family Business Leader by Stephanie Brun de Pontet
How can you move most effectively from the pinnacle of business and leadership success into "post-work" life that energizes you, and leverages your experience and your interests? This book draws on the experience of several past CEOs to address the important topic of ‘personal continuity’ for family business leaders transitioning from the day-to-day leadership of their enterprise.
Recent Book Releases from the FBCG Team:
Family Wealth Continuity: Building a Foundation for the Future by David Lansky
Human Resources in the Family Business: Maximizing the Power of Your People by David Ransburg, Wendy Sage-Hayward and Amy Schuman
Leading a Family Business: Best Practices for Long-Term Stewardship by Justin Craig and Ken Moores
Comprehensive Guides to Family Enterprise Concerns:
Keeping the Family Business Healthy: How to Plan for Continuing Growth, Profitability and Family Leadership by John Ward
Building a Successful Family Business Board: A Guide for Leaders, Directors and Families by Jennifer Pendergast, John Ward, and Stephanie Brun de Pontet
The Family Council Handbook: How to Create, Run, and Maintain a Successful Family Business Council by Chris Eckrich and Steve McClure
Family Business Succession: Your Roadmap to Continuity by Kelly LeCouvie and Jennifer Pendergast
The Family Business Leadership Series includes a number of focused reads on popular family business topics, including governance, succession, family education and more. These can be helpful tools for educating families on terminology and concepts appropriate to their situation.
Over 1,000 articles on family business topics published in The Family Business Advisor and other publications are searchable on our website as well at www.thefbcg.com.
Have more to add to the list? Please email Karen@thefbcg.com
Continuing the Connection
The Family Business Consulting Group dedicates itself to creating a community of practitioners that are in service to the world’s leading family enterprises to collaborate, learn, and advance the practice of family enterprise consulting while building thriving individual practices. To learn more about what it means to join FBCG, visit us here.
The Family Business Consulting Group does not receive any revenue from non-FBCG publications purchased from Amazon or other sites linked to in this article. Links are provided for convenience only.