February 14, 2020
The Benefits of Holding Regular Family Meetings
We previously looked at the family constitution and its importance to your family. You might have already drafted yours, and that’s amazing if you have.
On the other hand, you might be a little stuck, just like Jim, our successful business owner and avid runner. When he met up with Dave again for a run, he shared how overwhelmed he was
Dave reminded Jim that creating his Family Constitution was a process and not an event. He also reminded Jim that he was good at being the “resident big thinker” of the family. After all, he’d led a successful family dinner meeting to create a Family Mission Statement.
Family Meetings Don’t Need to Be Highly Structured
That’s when Dave introduced Jim to the idea of Family Meetings (click here to read this back story) or (here to read the complete backstory). Dave explained that Jim and his family could draft their Family Constitution through a series of meetings, rather than abiding by a strict procedure. The latter might work in a boardroom, but not so much in a family setting.
Family meetings are important because the whole family comes together and can discuss a wide range of topics and make decisions. One of the most important things, though, is for everyone to feel safe to express their views.
Dave explained that Family Meetings don’t have to be all about serious matters. Organizing them around an event or a celebration is a great option. Or they could be used as a time to get away for the whole family. Combining family with fun and frank conversations seemed to be a highly effective approach.
How Often Should You Hold Family Meetings
Then Jim wondered about the frequency of these meetings and who should lead them. Dave explained that it’s best for family meetings to take place at least once a year.
These meetings are meant to be a time when the family reviews their high-level strategy, and not to analyze operational issues. He did say that if important decisions must be made, a Family Meeting could be called at any time.
In terms of leading and organizing the meeting, Dave suggested that Jim could involve other members of the family too. Some people enjoy planning and arranging the meetings because they get to choose the location, fun activities, and more. It also helps family members who aren’t part of the business feel more involved.
Dave did say that Jim should definitely have a hand in setting the agenda. However, he also explained that Jim should consider developing a process whereby other family members could contribute to the agenda.
He went on to say that the objective of Family Meetings is to foster trust and understanding, and ensure effective communication. For this reason, some families opt to have a neutral third party lead the meeting.
Another option Dave offered Jim was to have different family members leading different meetings. That way, everyone would get a chance to better understand how to provide fruitful contribution to a meeting.
Who Should Attend Family Meetings?
When Jim asked if all the family should be in attendance, and not just those working in the business, Dave agreed. He did point out, though, that everyone didn’t have to stay for parts of the meeting that they didn’t feel required their presence.
Having all the family there is a great opportunity for them to better understand what the family business does and doesn’t do for them. Dave also told Jim that the spouses of the family members working in the business should also be present. Not only could they offer some great ideas, but they’d get a better idea of what their spouse dealt with.
Dave then went on to provide Jim with an example of a Family Meeting Agenda he’d recently seen. It was divided into four large sections, namely Family Business, Family Relations, Family Development, and Family Fun.
After Dave shared more details about each category, Jim was impressed. Dave, however, explained that the family in question had achieved everything over a number of years. They didn’t get it right the first time or put everything in place overnight. It took time and effort.
Jim decided he would talk to his wife. They had both been trying to help their children better understand and appreciate what the family and the family business meant to them.
Despite working in the company, Jim didn’t feel his kids really understood the amazing opportunity they had. A Family Meeting would be the perfect opportunity for them to learn and to hear how others felt.
Dave advised Jim to hold another informal family meeting, a format that had already proven to work, to discuss the idea of Family Meetings and the Family Constitution.
Family Meetings are a great way to build trust, ensure effective communication, and make sure everyone is on the same page. It’s also a good way for the younger members of the family to learn leadership skills and become more financially literate.