Welcome back – feedback from the first family meeting was overwhelming!  After a successful off-site meeting, the family decided to continue with a similar theme for the next meeting.

To keep things progressing, Sam met with Steve (our Senior Advisor) to work through a list of questions and suggestions for the upcoming family meeting.  Together they agreed that the goals of the next family meeting will be two-fold:

  • Understanding how Sam’s children fit into SamCo, either as a family member, employee and/or shareholder – the soft stuff; and
  • Bringing in an outside speaker, Sam’s banker, to talk about financial planning – the hard stuff.


The Venn diagram of a family businesses

Steve told Sam that a lot of research has gone into understanding how a family interacts with a family business.  John Venn figured this out in 1880 with his Venn diagram when researching how “things” interact.  Using a Venn diagram based on three circles, ownership, business and family, Sam and his children can figure out how they each fit into one or more circles and how important it is to understand how their circle(s) overlap or interact with others.

SamCo’s Circles

3 Circles


Sam’s daughter, in corporate sales, fits into the business and family circle.  She works at SamCo but does not own any SamCo shares.  Her circle interaction may be work life balance.  Does she want to be in the ownership circle with the added responsibilities?

Sitting in all three circles, Sam deal’s with the overlap of all three.  Sam has to know everything about SamCo, the strengths and weaknesses of the family and understand how the family benefits from an ownership perspective.  Also, he is the one to resolve conflicts between owners, family and SamCo’s operations – the toughest job.

Steve made it clear that circles are not forever.  Over time a family member can move into different circles or add and subtract circles.  Today, Sam is in all three circles.  In 10 years he may only want to be in the ownership and family circles. A child in all three circles could be Sam’s successor.  An ownership and family circle child could be a passive shareholder with philanthropic interests.

Steve will facilitate a discussion about the circles.  Sam’s daughter will give her perspective about the circles she lives in, followed by their mother.  After some discussion all will comment on which circle(s) they currently sit in.  Steve will map this out and then facilitate a discussion about what circles they want to be in, say 5 years.

Sam thinks it will be fascinating to see how the discussion will migrate from primarily the family circle to include other circles.  Some may want to work in the business in an operational capacity and others may not.  Some may want the responsibility of ownership.  With this understanding and dialogue, Sam and his family can start to plan out how to get the family to where they need to be to meet their goals.

Bring in the Banker

Even if his children have no interest in getting involved in SamCo (staying solely in the family circle), Sam expects them all to be prepared to take on the challenges of life.  He has decided to use family meetings as an opportunity to also provide them with life skills that will enable them to lead independent and productive lives.  Getting them off the so called “payroll” is dear to Sam’s heart.

Sam has decided to bring in his private banker, Mary, to provide an overview of credit cards and credit card interest, mortgages, saving and investing.  Mary has offered to host a group meeting and also to meet with each of them separately to build a direct relationship where Mary can have private and frank discussions that Sam may not.

Team Building

For this family team building event, Sam chose a cooking school followed by eating their creations.  By the way, Sam is a terrible cook…


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.