Welcome back – Sam and his family had another successful meeting and are planning on scheduling them quarterly. The last meeting focused on the three circles of interaction within a family business (ownership, business, and family), life skills, and, of course, the team-building cooking class.
After the last meeting, Sam and Steve got together to chat about Sam’s experience and to design a framework for future meetings. Based on the success of the first two meetings, it was agreed that the agenda structure worked well, so:
- start with a SamCo business conversation;
- followed by a softer learning opportunity; and
- wrap up with a team building activity.
It was also agreed that an off-site location was a comfortable and, more importantly, neutral environment.
As a further step, Steve helped Sam come up with a variety of agenda items to choose from. Steve’s list is by no means exhaustive, but gives Sam some ideas that he can expand on as the business and family grows.
Future business conversations
By now Sam’s family has a general understanding of the business. Sam wants to expose them to all aspects of SamCo from operations to accounting. Topics of conversation could include:
- What are the various SamCo divisions and who are the primary customers
- Who manages the divisions
- On a high level, who reports to who and the KPI’s (key performance indicators) they are measured against
- Often family businesses create an advisory board to provide non-binding strategic advice to management. Is this something that would add value to SamCo and who should be on the board (note that outsiders can give a great perspective)
- What does the corporate structure look like – Sam’s accountant could go thru an org. chart
- Future corporate structuring to involve the family
- Sam’s tax advisor could discuss the pro’s and con’s of an Estate Freeze and how the active and passive family members could benefit thru different classes of shares
- Further discussion about the 3 circles of interaction expanding on where the family is today and which circles they wish to evolve into
- SamCo requires competent staff. If family is to be involved, what are the minimum educational requirements – ranging from vocational to professional?
- What is the family’s view of philanthropy? Is this a personal matter or is there enough consensus for this to be a SamCo legacy goal?
- Sam views life skills as invaluable. Over time, they could introduce various speakers to speak on lifestyle issues, financial, and Sam’s pet peeve, home maintenance
Team building activity
The possibilities for team building activities are endless and could even be combined with a learning opportunity. Sam has already taken a ride on a zip line and prepared an objectionable meal. Next time he wants to test out their driving skills at a go-cart track. Done right, these activities “build a team and keep the team together”.
So where does this all take us?
We started this 4 part series with a focus on family meetings. Sam’s and the family’s goal in having these meetings was to get a better understanding of how they fit into SamCo on a fully transparent basis. What is SamCo’s business, whether they want to be active or passive in SamCo, what do they need to do and learn to achieve this goal – these are all questions that the family should have an understanding of. With this all in mind, Sam can start to be the architect of SamCo’s succession plan.
In our business, we have unfortunately seen parents in their 60’s having an absolutely incorrect view of what their 30 to 40 year old children’s level of interest in the family business is. Often, the answer is “none” as they already have their own exciting careers. Parents are left asking themselves “so why did I invest so much of myself over the last 30 years building this business” leaving their only succession plan to be a third party sale or liquidation. Transparent meetings and succession planning could answer a lot of questions and hopefully avoid a great deal of disappointment.
Our estate planning posts consider estate planning issues at a high level. Before you commence any form of estate planning, please consult with tax and legal advisors.