We had worked for this family for decades (and continue to do so). We knew their finances inside out. But, at this juncture, they were seeking guidance that reached beyond the scope of profit margins and portfolio values. It was about the future of the business and family relationships.
First, getting a firm, unfiltered grasp of the situation.
The patriarch in this scenario started a manufacturing business and made a major, growing-every-year success of it. Naturally, he and his family enjoyed the benefits of that success – from a beautiful lake house to investing in the college educations of grandchildren. The son had joined the company in a management role. The daughter was not part of daily operation of the company, but her husband was – and had proven to be a valuable asset. As the father advanced in age it became apparent there needed to be a transition plan, a succession roadmap, to assure the ongoing vitality of the company without damaging the trust between family members. Oh, one other thing, as this transition plan was being pondered, the daughter and the son-in-law divorced.
So much to consider. So much at stake.
Yes, there was more than a fair amount of disagreement going on at this juncture. And yes, there were some tense conversations. But everyone stayed at the table. The breakthrough came when all agreed the focus should be on two things. The health of the business today. And the ongoing soundness of the business for future generations – 30, 50, 70 years from now. With those marching orders, the first thing we did was create a family charter that clearly established their mission and values. Then we established a policy that set how and when a family member could join the company. That was followed by a communication plan for the business – making sure that, moving forward, the family would share the same messages from the same page. Finally, to everyone’s pleasure, a philanthropic plan was put into place so the family’s good fortune could be shared in a thoughtful, organized way.