Wealth of Wisdom Podcast Recap: Leading Successful Family Meetings

Lansberg Gersick Advisors’ (LGA) Dr. Katherine Grady and Dr. Wendy Ulaszek joined Tom McCullough, The Chairman and CEO of Northwood Family Office and The UHNW Institute’s Investing and Wealth Management Domain Chair, on a recent episode of the Wealth of Wisdom podcast series to provide insight on leading successful family meetings.” Grady and Ulaszek discuss best practices of balancing the needs of the family and business.

Understanding the needs of the family while balancing the needs of the business/ownership is critical to enterprise continuity. Family meetings should provide a forum for family voices to be heard, allowing for complex questions to be addressed with buy-in and input from stakeholders throughout the family. These meetings can help to determine how business culture can align with owner values, as well as how the business strategy can align with the owner’s strategy, risk profile and so on. Identifying gaps in the family business is also essential.

The business leader, often a senior member of the family, needs ambidextrous leader skills to balance the needs of the family, as well as ownership. Sibling work and involving partners/spouses is also essential, particularly when involving family members from around the world.

The objective of family meetings is to bring together champions from various areas of the business to improve communication and bring in perspectives in the resolution and understanding of dilemmas facing the business. These discussions are not just about “soft” issues, but also include business concerns, such as how much to reinvest into the business, liquidity needs and what kind of leader is needed when. It is also essential to scope out the cast of characters within the family.

Family meetings are different from business meetings, and the speakers stress the importance of having more meetings, process time and forums in which the family can be heard. Ideologies, values, and geographical dispersion present challenges that need to be overcome, and implementing a simple tool, like a family meeting space, can help mitigate some of these issues. Formal business updates are also essential, but informal family bonding time is just as crucial.

McCullough suggests a set of 10 questions to help design family meetings, starting with the goals that the family is trying to achieve. A family council or owners’ council may be needed, and it is essential to understand each family and the variables affecting decision-making. It is also crucial to recognize that contingency planning is important for the success of the family business.

Family meetings can help create a more cohesive family and business unit by ensuring succession planning and promote continuity and success over time.

To listen to the entire podcast episode of Wealth of Wisdom, click here. Additionally, if you have any questions about how to lead successful family business meetings or joining The UHNW Institute, please do not hesitate to contact us.