How does a family with more than 1000 cousins and over 700 family shareholders keep thriving 100 years into their family enterprise?

My wonderful friend Ruth Steverlynck recently sent me the link to this video of Mr. Antoine Mayaud, of Association Familiale Mulliez (AFM), talking about his family enterprise. I will post it without much comment, other than that it articulates perfectly the dilemma that each generation faces -- between going it alone and throwing in together. Other highlights include his two horses, one furrow discussion, his discussion of love, the focus on maximizing freedom for each…

What does planning for a family's 100-year future mean in the context of climate change? How can business families talk about the threat of a changing climate?

The central assumption in most family enterprise books, workshops, and advice is that a business family should work to sustain its financial and human capital for multiple generations. The "great families," we are told, think in 100-year time frames and lay plans to survive seven generations or more. "Keeping it in the family" often means propagating financial assets and handing them down to further the family's interests over a long period of time. The

last few decades have seen massive concentration of wealth into the hands of a relatively few such families, and a massive explosion of consultants and advisors (myself included) offering to help them plan for an extended, multigenerational family legacy. Family offices, private trust companies, family foundations, and perpetual trusts are all designed to preserve a family's control of its human and financial capital for many generations. And ... in October, 2018, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel…

What is a family learning curriculum? How should it be structured? And how can it address human capital, learning capital, social capital, legacy capital, and financial capital?

Many multigenerational enterprising families have learning goals: to bring younger family members up to speed on the workings of the family business or financial assets; to create family cohesion around a vision or sense of purpose; to educate beneficiaries about the workings of trusts, family partnerships, a private trust company, or other legal structures; to bring family members into the family's philanthropic efforts; and so on. These goals may be more or less articulated, but they are often evident in the way a family sets their agenda for family meetings and other learning events. My focus in this post is on how those goals should inform a family's long-term learning plan. As a long-time educator, I am used to the notion of a curriculum--a sequence of courses that together lead a student through a deepening understanding of an area of study. To become expert at something, you don't just begin with an advanced course in the subject (e.g., Econ 300). Instead, you begin at the beginning, learning introductory material first and then building on that…

This post explains a simple exercise to add some fun, connectivity, and information exchange to a family gathering

I recently facilitated a family meeting and included an experience that turned out great: family "Ignite" talks. If you aren't familiar with Ignite-style talks, some quick background may be helpful. Ignite began in Seattle in 2006. It has become an international phenomenon, with Ignite talks in Paris, New York, Tunisia, Helsinki, and over 400 other locations around the world. The format is simple: each presenter has 5 minutes and 20 slides to talk about any topic, issue, or story they wish. The slides are auto-advancing (one every 15 seconds), so there is no slowing down and no

extending one's time. In many cities that host Ignite events, the evening will be spent bouncing between topics such as Rhythm, Why You Should Care About Your Local Government, 1000 Days with Whales, Emoji Are Broken, or The Art and Science of Beatbox. Unlike Ted talks, which are often much longer than 5 minutes and follow many different formats, Ignite talks are short, punchy, and generally focus on just one topic or main message. There are many web sites with guidance on how to give a great Ignite talk. The general theme is keep it simple, don't use too much text on your…

Why should a twenty-something family member care about family meetings, family education, and family governance?

Over the years, I have heard many family office professionals, advisors, coaches, and others who work with wealthy families bemoan the lack of participation or engagement by family members. These complaints take many forms: "They won't respond to emails", "they aren't really active in planning the family retreat", "we can't get them to engage in family governance." These concerns are often directed at younger, 20- and 30-something family members, who may be even less connected than their parents. Recently I asked a 20-something for topics for her family's annual meeting. (I'll call her Cheryl here, just for convenience.) The first thing she came up with--not sarcastically, but entirely seriously--was: why should I (or we) care? Something in the sincerity in Cheryl's tone stopped me in my tracks. It was as if I were hearing this question for the first time. Perhaps it was that she asked it so genuinely, with just a tinge of resignation or sadness, as if to say "I'd really like to care about these family issues, but I'm not sure how, or why, or in what way it would matter to me. What am I supposed to care about? What, ultimately, are you all asking of…