The other day we got a call from Sam (owner of SamCo, a wholesaler of electrical supplies) asking about family meetings – something he read about in a succession planning article. He mentioned that his three kids were getting to the age where they were asking questions about the business. Sam’s thinking was that that they should understand SamCo’s business and how they fit in. Sam wanted to get our thoughts on the idea and how to go about doing it. Read on…
A good idea?
Yes, and here’s what we told Sam:
- All three kids may not work for SamCo. It could be a question of not enough senior positions to the kids not being able to work together. Think of the discussions when the oldest son works in sales and younger sister is president.
- While the kids enjoy the benefits of SamCo, they may want independent careers. Knowing the potential role they could play in SamCo allows the kids to think about their future. Their career choices may shock Sam.
- Often, kids assume they have a genetic right to work in SamCo. Sam may think differently. He may want sell SamCo at some point or put professional management in place. If the kids want to work at SamCo, Sam may have educational and other criteria they need to meet. Good for the kids to know early on.
- Who benefits from SamCo? Do only children working in the business enjoy profits or does everyone benefit?
- A lack of understanding about a family business and the role kids can play or not play can often result in long lasting family conflict. Not everyone is going to agree, but if everyone understands early on, then the right business and career choices result.
So after hearing our pitch, Sam wanted to go ahead with the first (of hopefully many) family meeting and asked how we could help.
Over the next three CVTrustCo posts we will provide insight on how Sam could hold family meetings. Our coming posts will provide guidance on:
- Helping Sam build an agenda that keeps everyone focused and on-topic. Also, where to hold the meeting and who should attend – maybe Sam’s dining room table is a bad idea.
- A business discussion. Sam’s kids are in their late teens and early twenties and may have an appreciation for business issues and financial information. Younger children likely don’t have the same sophistication, or maybe Sam may not want to disclose at this time. “Wow – we’re loaded!” or “is this all you make?” comments may not be constructive.
- A family discussion. How do the kids fit into SamCo, if at all. What are Sam’s plans for SamCo? A clear and frank discussion will demystify a lot of assumptions.
We suggested to Sam that he speak with Steve Ivacko CPA, CMA, TEP, our new Senior Advisor, who is experienced in facilitating family meetings. An independent facilitator can make sure things stay on track.
Our next post will focus on structuring an agenda that will open up the lines of communication. Not all kids will agree on everything, but with the right information, they will be able to make informed career and life decisions. Working on the family farm isn’t what it used to be…
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.