Like any business, a family business strives to build the equity of the company. However, as a business family, shareholders have a second concern to build the emotional equity of the family. Whether the business of the family is large or small, multiple branches or simply a little start-up, it requires a commitment to strengthen family relationships and build family trust.
One way that works well to build relationships and trust is when the family divides its family meeting time between conducting business and having fun. Informal as well as organized fun activities build family harmony. Some families hold a family meeting at a special place like Disney World. These family trips may not occur every year, but they provide such positive experiences that they are a topic of happy conversation for years.
|The true legacy of any business family|
is not merely a stronger business,
but a stronger family as well.
Another way to build the emotional equity of the shareholders is to combine family time with business activity by holding an annual family retreat. I know of a family that brings everyone together at the family cabin each year. While the adults are in their meeting, the grandmother hires several summer camp counselors to do arts and crafts with the grandkids, who love the opportunity to get together with their cousins. Time is set aside where the grandparents share their history with their grandchildren. At one such meeting the grandparents began by showing photographs of themselves when they were younger and told stories about those years ago - how they met, dated, married, and managed. The grandchildren sat spellbound as they listened and asked questions. The entire experience with the grandparents was videotaped and made into a DVD for each of the families.
These are a few examples of how families build emotional equity. In previous articles I have mentioned other examples, such as involving adult children and grandchildren in service projects. In this way grandparents not only demonstrate family values of gratitude, but also bring the family together and create priceless memories. Given the complexities of all of our lives it is important for the younger shareholders to take an active role in creating family activities and not rely solely on the initiative of their parents.
Business families have the extra challenge to build their family's emotional equity and not neglect it in the day-to-day demands of running the business. For business families it is not easy to separate work life from home life because the family is the business. As a result, the family needs to consciously discuss and share family values, family heritage, and involve the entire family in service and philanthropy work.
As shareholders discuss their roles in creating the future of their business family, the conversation will inevitably move to stewardship and legacy. While it is important for the younger shareholders to draw from their parents' energy for connecting the siblings and cousins, an equal amount of energy to build the emotional equity of the family needs to come from the younger generation of shareholders. The true legacy of any business family is not merely a stronger business, but a stronger family as well.
Building the shareholder legacy of family harmony is a gift to the future, and not only for the family - research indicates it is a significant gift, one that shows up in the profits of the business. At your next family meeting include a discussion of the ways to strengthen your family's emotional equity. I know you will not regret it.