LUTZ BUSINESS INSIGHTS
family meetings + strengthening the bonds that bind
lisa strutzel, family office services director
We’ve all heard the saying, “The key to a good relationship is communication.” This is especially true for families who want to perpetuate their wealth and values over multiple generations. Research has shown that most successful families hold some form of family meeting. Family meetings accomplish multiple purposes, being used to foster communication, engagement, education, and facilitate decision-making.
The breakdown of communication and trust within the family is the leading cause of the failure of families to successfully transfer their wealth beyond the third generation. Communication is a reciprocal arrangement, requiring a balance of listening and talking. A well run family meeting provides a non-threatening environment for the exchange of different perspectives. It is a forum for senior family members to reinforce values and share stories about the family’s heritage and legacy, and it allows the younger family members to talk about their dreams and receive encouragement and guidance. This healthy information exchange strengthens familial bonds and reinforces the value of the individual as an integral part of the family unit.
Family meetings should be engaging to provide motivation for people to attend. They should be treated like special events, held at desirable locations away from the family home or business that are comfortable and free of distractions. Family business consultants Craig Aronoff and John Ward recommend a balance of fun, family development and family business for the meeting format.[i] A successful family meeting should be well planned with a clear agenda, accomplishing the intended goals through both business and recreation.
Family development is an essential element of every family meeting. Family meetings are an excellent way to instruct the younger generation on the family legacy, financial basics, and philanthropy. Outside experts can be hired to educate the family on specific topics, and family members can offer instruction on their areas of expertise. Prior to each meeting, thought should be placed on identifying the family’s current educational needs and creating an educational plan that fosters multi-generational learning.
Family meetings provide the medium for creating family governance, the structure and processes families use to guide their family enterprise. Good governance practices result in the creation of family policies that lay the ground rules for decision-making. Many wealthy families have a family business that binds them together or have common business interests. Family meetings are a good opportunity to disseminate information about joint ventures and to make shared decisions in a collaborative manner. Using the family meeting to facilitate decision-making in a safe environment can prevent unnecessary conflict and strengthen family cohesion.
Successful family meetings create memorable experiences, facilitating in-depth communication between generations. By providing a conducive environment for value sharing, education and decision-making, they assist with family growth and development over time. Family meetings act as a bonding agent for families, strengthening and preserving a family’s legacy for generations to come.
[i] Aronoff, C. and Ward, J. (2011, January). Family Meetings: How to Build a Stronger Family and a Stronger Business.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
LISA STRUTZEL, CPA, CAP® + FAMILY OFFICE SERVICES DIRECTOR
Lisa Strutzel is the Family Office Services Director at Lutz with over 14 years of past experience as a family office executive. She is responsible for assisting high-net-worth clients manage their family enterprise.
AREAS OF FOCUS
- Family Office Services
- Financial Reporting
- Philanthropy and Legacy Planning
- High-Net-Worth Families
AFFILIATIONS AND CREDENTIALS
- Certified Public Accountant
- Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy, CAP®
- Purposeful Planning Institute, Member
- Nebraska Society of CPAs, Member
- BBA, Iowa State University, Ames, IA
- The Hope Center for Kids, Board President, Past Treasurer
- CAP Advisory Board Member
- Resilience Skills: What You Need When the Going Gets Tough
- Family Businesses + How to Operate Like the Pros
- Eyes Wide Open + Mitigating Risk
- Financial Fitness for the New Year
- Family Philanthropy + Creating a Shared Legacy
- Family Governance + Not an Act
- Family Meetings + Strengthening the Bonds That Bind
- What is a Family Office?
- Engaging the Next Generation With the Family Foundation
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