From its founding, The Family Business Consulting Group was intended to be a connected community of highly skilled and collegial practitioners dedicated to the service of family enterprise around the world.
Today, FBCG consultants collaborate in many ways: working with clients, creating educational resources, developing workshops, sharing in peer groups and learning through formalized mentorships. We also work together on teams and task forces that help advance areas of practice for the benefit of clients. The advent of technologies like video conferencing and cloud computing have made things easier.
In the early days, however, the founders put a stake in the ground that building this culture would be a priority.
The following is an excerpt from FBCG’s “Autobiography” history book celebrating our 25th anniversary.
Members of the firm were initially spread primarily between Chicago and Atlanta, and later across North America and the world. Everyone had their own offices.
Our headquarters and staff were small. The challenge of building a strong organization and shared culture was daunting. In the beginning, there was no internet. Conference calls were rare and expensive. Phone, fax and face-to-face were our primary means of communication.
From the start, it was determined that the group would meet quarterly, alternating between Atlanta and Chicago determined by season. The ownership group would meet before the entire group convened to discuss business development, then focused on building relationships within the group. Founder Craig Aronoff called quarterly meetings our “virtual office building” where we could all be and work together.
One hundred quarterly meetings later, our goals seem to have been accomplished — we are a strong organization with members in constant contact with each other, bonded and guided by a strong shared culture. The meetings continue and are seen as a crucial element of who we are and our continuing evolution.
FBCG Quarterly Meetings: An Appreciation by David Lansky
Each quarterly meeting is planned and staffed by a small group of rotating consultants and staff who structure our time together, present material, and manage various panel discussions, speakers, and group exercises. With respect to FBCG culture, the quarterly meetings are a potent demonstration of our commitment to continuity and to the professional development of every consultant.
Just as we emphasize to our clients the value of transparency, we manage our firm with great transparency, openly and continuously sharing financial information, strategy, and plans for management and ownership succession. Every quarterly includes a report from the managing principal concerning firm performance and plans and from our board chair concerning the board meeting that always occurs on the day prior to the quarterly.
We believe that our culture should support and nurture all of our stakeholders. We invest in quarterly meetings because we believe that a culture which values shared social time strengthens the bonds between consultants and creates opportunities for deep dialogue, mutual support and co-consulting. New consultants are introduced during quarterlies and farewells are held for those who are leaving. Quarterlies span the distances that allow us to recruit the best consultants regardless of where they live.
During quarterly meetings we welcome and encourage open dialogue in an atmosphere of safe communication — not always easy, not always comfortable, but inevitably constructive and productive. We respect the value of open dialogue and deep sharing and at times may veer off a set agenda to ensure that all voices are heard when addressing concerns of business or practice.
Finally, our quarterly meetings demonstrate our commitment to a culture which is continuously evolving in support of a learning organization — not only in that we focus on personal and professional development, but in that these meetings provide an opportunity for feedback to FBCG management and ownership directed toward enriching the professional experience of every consultant and toward enhancing our expertise in service to our clients.