What Dr. Kirby Rosplock Has to Say About Family Business, Women and Wealth

I met Dr. Kirby Rosplock at the Transitions West Conference in San Francisco a couple of years ago, when she joined me and another colleague in a very interesting conversation about family companies. She was humble, open, easy going and the way she talked about family business, and especially about women in family business, showed her passion and commitment to making a difference for them.

This is no surprise when you learn that Dr. Rosplock is also a 4th generation member and owner of a 130+ year old family business (www.BabcockLumber.com), a board member at the company and a co-trustee on her family’s foundation.

Her experiences in her own traditionally male-oriented family company filled her with an immense curiosity about how other people, especially women, experience their involvement in the family business world. This led Dr. Rosplock to write her dissertation paper: “Women’s Interest, Attitudes and Involvement with their Wealth” and she subsequently dedicated part of her successful career as a writer, researcher and lecturer to women’s empowerment around wealth.

In the following interview, Dr. Rosplock shares with us what is behind her passion for helping women, what interesting findings she has discovered in her research and details of her new project, which involves writing a handbook on the family office for Wiley & Sons.


About Transitions West Conference and Changed Lives

I just got back from the Transitions West conference at Marina del Rey, which was organized by The Family Business Magazine and Stetson University’s Family Enterprise center. This is a conference “created for family companies by family companies!” and, once again, we enjoyed some great, honest presentations by some outstanding family business members, non-family executives and family business experts.

Among my favorites were the opening keynote by Jim Ethier, Chairman of the Board of the Bush Brothers & Company, during which he described the experiences his family company had as they built their family governance. Also, the panel of non-family executives made up of James B. Wood, Senior Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer of The Clemens Family Corporation, Robert J. Underbrink, President/CEO of King Ranch, Inc., David Yale, President, Just Born, Inc. and Ross Born, Co-CEO of Just Born, Inc., where I realized how difficult it is to find the right non-family CEO and the time and effort involved in the process; and the panel about how family councils foster engagement among family members, where Ashley Levi, Board Member at H.G. Hill Company, and Meghan Juday, Family Council Chair and Director at IDEAL INDUSTRIES, shared their experiences about how useful their families council has been for them. And finally the presentation from Mark Peters, CEO of Butterball Farms Inc., who underlined the risks involved in not having succession planning in place. Thanks to all for sharing their experiences and being so inspiring!

This was my second year at the conference and I was happy to see that many families came back and brought along quite a few more family members. I would say that the number of participants doubled from last year. Congratulations to the organizers!

I also meet Peter Begalla, Adjunct Professor and Program Manager at Stetson University’s Family Enterprise program, who I interviewed last year about the unique Family Enterprise program that Stetson University offers (Read interview here http://wp.me/p1tGmG-2n) and Professor Greg McCann, founder and Director of Stetson University’s Family Enterprise Center. I was interested in gaining the perspective of one of its students and when I meet Emily Dudley, senior at the Stetson University’s Family Enterprise program and second-generation partial owner of Dudley’s Auction Inc., at the Transitions West conference, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to interview her.

Please check what Emily has to say about how Stetson University’s Family Enterprise program has “changed her life.”

Written by Carmen Lence, Executive Coach at NextGen Consulting & Coaching LLC. Contact Carmen  at carmen@nextgenfamilybusiness.com

How to Avoid “From Shirtsleeves to Shirtsleeves in Three Generations.” James E. Hughes Jr. Provides the Answer at the FFI Northern California Event

James E. Hughes Jr.

The FFI NCAL Chapter Formation Team recently hosted the second event of a series that is aimed at raising awareness of the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter for the Family Firm Institute. Thanks to the efforts of Susan Ott and Henry Kaiser, who did a fantastic job of organizing the event, we all enjoyed a great learning and networking experience.

This time we had the opportunity to learn from Mr. James E. Hughes, who has more than forty years of experience working with family businesses. Mr. Hughes is also the author of the well-known family business books: “Family Wealth—Keeping it in the Family” and “Family: The Compact Among Generations.”

Mr. Hughes’ views on the issues related to passing wealth to the next generation and the impact that this can have on their lives did take me by surprise. Usually, the next generation are often perceived as being responsible for taking over a well-run family business and running it into the ground; they are also frequently considered to be entitled, dependant and spoilt. Mr. Hughes’ presentation focused more on the root of the problem and looked, in an entirely different light, at some of the issues that impact next generation family members.

During the presentation, all participants were asked to draw a very simple galaxy where one planet represented the “Donor” and was divided into two main areas: the “Land of Mindful Donor” and the “Land of Thoughtless Transfer.”  From this planet a meteor was ejected towards the “Planet Recipient.”  The question that he encouraged us all to ask as we drew the diagram was: “What is in your meteor?”

Mr. Hughes described how Planet Recipient is happily going about its business until the meteor is launched from Planet Donor, travels into its atmosphere and pretty much changes everything in a blink of an eye. If the meteor comes from the Land of Thoughtless Transfer, which in his opinion happens most of the time as the result of the donor feeling guilty about something and following his or her own agenda, the recipient runs the risk of becoming dependent and entitled.

What can the recipient do when the meteor suddenly lands on his/her planet? They have to adapt as quickly as possible, integrating this new alien body into their lives. Mr. Hughes presented the following simple formula:

Adaptation + Resilience = Integration

Adaptation – Resilience = Disintegration

The main element that the recipient needs to survive and thrive once the meteor hits his/her planet, is resilience and the quality of the recipient’s resilience is all that matters. The recipient has already built this resilience by educating himself/herself on who they really are, knowing what they want in life, developing a purpose for themselves and being their own person.

Mr. Hughes argues that the meteor should always comes from the Land of Mindful Donor, in that it should be launched by a donor who carefully thinks about the impact that the transfer is going to have on the recipient’s life. A Mindful Donor is a donor that considers how to enhance the life of the recipient, thinks about his or her intention and invests time developing the recipient as a human being. According to Mr. Hughes, it is crucial that donors make every effort to help the recipient to learn about his/her learning style, vocation and personality, and truly discover the deepest root of who he/she really is. This will ensure that the recipients are prepared for a fulfilled life, with or without the meteor and its content.

What about you? Do you think that this is the best way to end the “from shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations” cycle?

Written by Carmen Lence, Coach and consultant at www.nextgenfamilybusiness.com

Dennis Jaffe on How to “Make it Happen” for the Next Generation Owners of Family Business

For 40 years, Dennis has helped families manage the personal and organizational issues that lead to successful and fulfilling transfer of businesses, wealth, values, commitments and legacies between generations. He is professor of Organizational Systems and Psychology at Saybrook University in San Francisco. Dennis received his BA in Philosophy, MA in Management and Ph.D. in Sociology from Yale University.

As both an organizational consultant and clinical psychologist, he is one of the architects of the emerging field of family enterprise consulting. As a founding member of the Family Firm Institute, he has presented at many of their annual conferences, served on their board, written frequently for their journal Family Business Review, and was awarded the Richard Beckhard Award for contributions to practice.

In this interview, Dennis Jaffe share his experience in helping next generation members of family business to create a future for themselves and the keys to succeed at succession.

How Educational And Networking Events Can Improve Your Family Business.

Click on the picture above to learn the highlights of last Friday’s presentation by Peter M. Johnson on family business governance at the Institute for Family Business at University of the Pacific in Stockton, California.

Peter M. Johnson, Director of the Institute for Family Business at University of the Pacific in Stockton,  shares in this interview the value for Family Business to join networking and educational programs, like the ones offered by the Institution he leads, to learn what to do when you don’t know what to do in your family business. Ready to learn and mingle?

How does the Institute for Family Business support family businesses?

With all of our family business, wherever they are we support them through several different ways. First, we offer about five (and as many as ten a year) different programs in different locations. These programs are offered to family members and non-family members who are key employees. With the idea that attending this program with key non-family members or their consultant, everybody is on the same page. They hear the same message and it is easier to start creating a strategy around what a group heard in a program. They will get information for an expert in the field who will speak about challenges as a current or former family business owner, consultant, or a panel.

The other benefit of the program is that it allows family to talk to each other.  One of the biggest challenges that I have seen over the years is that families always think they are alone. They think that they have unique challenges and that they are a messed up family and other family businesses are much more professional than they are. So, it is an opportunity for families to get to know each other and learn from each other.

We also have a very large resource library of videos from previous programs, books, articles, consultant information, and a wide variety of family business resources that we can refer our members to.  For example if someone inquiries about non-family employee conversations, succession planning or would like a consultant, we have resources that we can refer them to.  We will also connect them with other members who for example may be thinking of starting an independent board of directors. They have not done it before, are not sure what the structure would look like, and want to know what the pros and cons are. They will want to know if there is another family who they can speak with that has been through this journey and can provide their experiences.

Is the Institute for Family Business at the University of the Pacific the only one of its kind in the Bay Area?


Why do you think that there are not more institutions supporting family business in the Bay Area?

That is a great question and I think that there are a couple of reasons for it. First, with some families they don’t realize that they are a family business. Some think of a family business as a mom and pop out of their home or small grocery store on the corner. They don’t really think of big family business like Levi-Strauss, Ford, or Wal-Mart. So a lot of families don’t think of themselves as a family business.

The second problem is that many families don’t want to admit that they need help. Generally, the family has a patriarch in charge and they tend to think they don’t need help and there are no issues. They are blinder to some of the problems and will gloss over the issues.

The third problem is that you have to know where to find family businesses. We know that 80% – 90% of businesses in the United States are family owned or controlled.  But getting people to recognize that they are a family business and promoting the concept to them is difficult. One thing that I hear people say when they come to our programs is that they didn’t realize that this was available. It is kind of tough because until a family is in crisis, like a succession issue, family members tend to gloss over the resources that might be available to them.

Do you think this type of organization is important for next generation family members of family businesses?

Yes and actually what we see is that Next Generation is more likely to call. They recognize that their family is having issues and the senior generation is blind to the challenges and want to know what they can do. The Next Generation largely sees the value in these programs and is more likely to speak up and say that they are a family business. They recognize that the family is a part of the business and that they are having challenges that go beyond the traditional business challenges.  It is critical, especially if the goal is for the Next Generation to take over, for them to develop their leadership skills.

Do you offer leadership development programs for the next generation?

We do. As a matter of fact our programs are not just for one generation, type of business, or industry.  We offer informational programs that go into different topics that can be related to any business.  So the next generation and senior generation both get something out of the programs.

What is your typical member profile?

There is a wide range. For example, we may have a winery that has 4 or 5 family members and 10 full-time employees.  We also have some that have 80 or 100 full-time employees. Almost all of our members are multi-generational and occasionally we will get some from the same generation. They tend to be two –generation with the parents in the business.

Educational and Networking events are a great opportunity not only to learn from the presenter but also from  other participants. What is your experience with this kind of events?


Written by Carmen Lence of NextGen Consulting and Coaching LLC. www.nextgenfamilybusiness.com

How Do You Eat an Elephant? Dr. Lee Hausner explains her six-step transition model for succession in family businesses at the FFI Northern California event.


Dr. Lee Hausner, Author of "Hats Off To You 2...Balancing Roles and Creating Success in Family Business Succession"

Last week the FFI NCAL Chapter Formation Team hosted the first event of a series that is aimed at raising awareness of the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter for the Family Firm Institute. Dennis Jaffe, Susan Ott, Henry Kaiser, Doug Kennedy, Leslie Simon, Timothy Swords, Louis Wellmeier, David Kelly and myself, Carmen Lence, are currently leading the efforts to create better networking and educational opportunities for family business professionals in the Bay Area.

The conference was a huge success and this was predominantly down to the efforts of Susan Ott and Henry Kaiser, who did a fantastic job of organizing the event. Thank you very much for your hard work!

It was also great to see Carmen Bianchi and Mary Gust at the event and the FFI NCAL Chapter Formation Team really appreciated the fact that they took time to attend and show their support for our work.

Thanks to the efforts of Susan and Henry, we were fortunate to gain the support of Dr. Lee Hausner, who was the first speaker of a series to come. She gave an inspiring insight into her succession planning model, the highlights of which I would like to share with you now.

Dr. Lee Hausner is an internationally recognized clinical psychologist, business consultant, author and family wealth adviser. During her presentation, she explained how to approach the daunting endeavor of eating the big elephant that is succession in family business. In her own words, the best approach is: “bite by bite.” To help us to tackle the huge meal ahead, she advises that we start by dividing the elephant into six parts before starting the “feast.”

The six-step transition model for succession in family business was first introduced in Dr. Hausner’s book “Hats Off To You 2…Balancing Roles and Creating Success in Family Business Succession.” It involves a multidisciplinary approach to succession planning in which the founder and the family are involved throughout the process of succession implementation. The first and second steps, focus on founder and family but their involvement in the process continues as it goes through the next steps of dealing with the business, management, ownership and estate transition phases.

Interestingly, in Dr. Hausner’s model, estate planning is the last step in the process, despite the fact that, in most family businesses, it is actually sometimes the first and only step they take with regards to succession planning. In her opinion this is a big mistake because it does not address the sustainability of the business or the family’s “health.”

In Dr. Hausner’s model, the first step involves the founder’s transition, in which it is essential to address any resistance to let go. When discussing this phase of succession planning, Dr. Hausner pointed out that the transfer of power should be a slow process, during which she advises founders extend their limits of authority gradually, expect mistakes and don’t hope or demand to have a clone as a successor.

The second step involves the family transition, in which she recommends family members put on a different “hat,” depending on the situation they are dealing with. For example, members may wish to wear one “hat” when they are conversing as father and son or dealing with a family issue, and a different “hat” when dealing with a business issue. She also stressed the importance of setting clear expectations and transparency to avoid suspicion and the opportunity for “physiological cancer” in the family.

When dealing with the next generation during succession planning, it is important to lay out clear responsibilities, avoid entitlement and promote achievement. Dr. Hausner also mentioned the value of supporting the next generation’s development through coaching and mentoring.

The following step involves business transition, and Dr. Hausner outlined the need for a strong board of directors with independent advisors that can provide objectivity and accountability during the transition process.

Following this, during the management transition step, the family should decide what their future role should be. Should they get involved in the management of the business or would they be better overseeing the business as owners?

The 5th step of Dr. Hausner’s model involves ownership and, in her presentation, she pointed out that “fair and equal are not the same.” This is something that is important to take into account when deciding who is going to own what of the company and family’s assets.

Finally, regarding estate planning, it is important to set clear expectations and aim for a lifetime transfer. Dr. Hausner also stressed the importance of involving the family in philanthropy and any educational opportunities that can be used to develop the younger next generation.

Succession planning is a big elephant to eat and digest, but with the right process, tools and guidance it may become the most rewarding “meal” you have ever had!

Bon appetit!

Written by Carmen Lence coach and consultant at www.nextgenfamilybusiness.com

Six-step transition model for succession in family business

Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? Next Generation Goes to Stetson University to Get Answers

Peter Begalla, Outreach Director of the Family Enterprise Center, Adjunct Professor at the School of Business Administration at Stetson University

Stetson University is the first school in the USA to offer a degree in Family Business. The program focuses on next-generation members of family businesses, and one of its goals is to encourage them to take ownership of their own lives and careers.

Peter Begalla is the Outreach Director of the Family Enterprise Center, Adjunct Professor at the School of Business Administration at Stetson University and an expert in next-generation leadership development. This is what he has to say about the next generation, leadership and making things happen for oneself.

What, in your experience, is the main problem that next generation members of family businesses face?

It tends to be credibility: within the family, within the enterprise, as well as marketability of their skills in either the family enterprise setting or out in the real world. So the idea is that because they have a family business they may not be as they have to be in their own right. They have to be recognized as credible and marketable themselves separate from their family so that their own identity can be established.

The program stresses the need for the next generation to be proactive and create their own future. How does the program support its students to help them to achieve that?

The introductory course kind of sets the tone for the whole program. It’s the one that’s the most intensive. The course is divided up into thirds. The first part of the course is a whole segment devoted to who you are: personality assessment, values assessment, and a discussion about what you know about yourself from a personality dynamic. What you believe about yourself.

The second section of the course is what is your family story. So there’s some gene gram work, some work on the family values, there’s an interview process in which the students ask their family members, their mom and dad, why did they choose the career that they did. What kind of family dynamics. What was important for them in terms of their business or their career choice. How has that affected the family. By doing that, the student works with the family to determine what kinds of messages have been important to the family, for a couple of generations. What their family story is and how it might impact the student.

There’s also some identification in that same time period as to what role they play in the family in terms of birth order and everybody’s influence to birth order.

And then the third component is what do you want to do. Now that you understand a little bit about who you are and what your script is, what do you want to do with this? Is it work within the family business? Is it work outside? How does your plan match up with reality? How does it match up with the reality of the family? How does it match up with you as a person? Are your values in line with what those plans are? Is your personality in line?

One more piece is that all three of those segments are then collected into what we call the Life Plan. It tends to be about 50 pages long. It’s designed for the student to essentially define success as they see it within the family business or outside. It basically changes how they view themselves and what they are going to do and how they are going to go about doing it in the world.

Do you have more students going to work in the family business or outside it after finishing the program?

It’s different for each person. I can’t say that the rule of thumb is that they all go back to their family businesses and I can’t say that they all bail out. It’s a fairly decent mix. However, it tends to lean more towards the student going outside the family business for a period of time. I can’t say we’ve done any research to support what I call “Gut Check.”

What would be your advice to those next generation members living in “golden cages,” meaning, working in the family business with a good job title, good salary but no real responsibility, accountability and lacking preparation to take over the leadership of the company. Living in fear about what is going to happen in the future when their parents are not around anymore.

First is to “know thyself”; know exactly what your skills are. Know what you have to bring to better the situation. That way you know where to start and you shop on your technical skills or on your soft skills. For example, if you’ve got an accounting issue, or if you’ve got a marketing issue or a financial issue, you can always ask for help. Although the responsibility in that situation is ultimately yours, know how much guidance you need in order to make the right decision, know your capacity, know your abilities and your strengths and weaknesses so that you can call for help when you do have to make the decision (because again, you’ve got the title, you’ve got the responsibility) but you have guidance.

The other thing we stress with the program is that getting unbiased feedback is advice that often leads to a profound change in the individual. The feedback is such that it just kind of says “hey this is what I see” kind of holding up a mirror “this is what I see you doing”; it allows the student to make some choices about a different behavior versus “hey, you know what you should do?” which nobody really likes. If somebody who is in a position of responsibility within an organization doesn’t have feedback then they are kind of looking in a vacuum.

What is the profile of your students? What kind of family companies do they come from?

We have a mix of students; some have family businesses and some do not. One of the ways in which we talk about the program is that if you don’t have a family business, you still benefit from it because 90% of businesses in America are family businesses. So you’re probably going to work in one. The other thing we do is stress an advisory track as well towards the end of the program. We train students on some basic advising type of skills working with companies.

So in terms of the students we have that have family businesses, it spans  a pretty wide range. I’ve had students with international holdings that are fairly vast where their families come from two generations deep in South America and in the Caribbean. Everything from real estate to restaurants, mining, aggregates, and land family grocery store holders here in the States. It spans from annual revenue exceeding 1 billion to the little mom and pop jewelry store worth half a million a year or even restaurants.

They have been working for the family company or it’s a bit of both?

They definitely have exposure to it. The ones who don’t have exposure to it the parents are in a business that tends to be more advising. For example like financial services, a dad owns financial services and  he has 2 or 3 guys working with him like an insurance business; the student doesn’t work in it. If it’s the construction business, the student has worked in it. If its manufacturing, the student has worked in it. If it’s a distributor of some sort, the students have worked in it.

Is this a unique program in the U.S. that you are managing?

I believe so, it’s one of two majors in the world, its basically the first major in the world. We think we have something that is very promising. We essentially are having a dialogue about family businesses that no one else is having with students at a time in which they are forming identities and forming a sense of where they want to go in the world. And we promise them, what my college Greg McCann says and why he founded the program the way he did, “Look, you get a discussion with your peers and your family for four years about who you are and where you want to go. If that’s within the family business that’s great, if not that’s great too. But essentially you get to write your own story versus just being pushed along by the family history and by the family’s script of the business.” Especially if it’s a large successful business, it can override the identity of someone who is trying to form and carve himself out a sense of self and where he wants to go.

In your experience, what are the main traits of successful next generation?

They tend to want truth and honesty. They tend to want everything to be exactly as it is and for everybody to know it and what’s going on. So there’s this level of transparency that I think is required personally as well as about the organization, and about the older generation and the next generation. And again, it is to “know thyself.” What your strengths and weakness are and to be ok with that to say, this is what I bring to the table, this is what I don’t bring to the table, and how are we going to make this work.

Any tips or words of advice for next generation members of family businesses?

No matter what you do, start now. Start thinking about who you are, what you are about, what you bring to the table, and how that’s viewed by your family. Also, how it’s viewed by non-family members within the business. Start the dialogue A) with yourself then B) with your family about what you bring to the table and what you want to do next. How you can contribute to the business.

So, next generation, what are you going to do to make things happen for you?

For more information about the Stetson University Family Enterprise Center, please click on: http://www.stetson.edu/business/family

Written by  Carmen Lence, MBA
NextGen Consulting & Coaching

Web: http://www.nextgenfamilybusiness.com
LIKE us on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/NextGenConsultingnCoaching

What did I learn about Next Generation at last week’s FFI conference?

From left ro right: Iñigo Susaeta, Borja Raventós, Neus Feliu, Alberto Gimeno and Carmen Lence

The Family Firm Institute is the world’s leading organization for family firm consultants and this year they celebrated their 25th anniversary by offering a conference that was focused on next generation issues. I really enjoyed the conference and felt that I was among friends. The FFI is a collective of people that work to help family businesses succeed over generations, and they are really passionate about it. I suspect that the main reason for such enthusiasm is related to the fact that many of them come from a family business themselves.

I started my journey through the conference by choosing a presentation that reflected on what have we learned about Family Business over the last 25 years. It was called “Persistent 5@25: Key Topics over 25 Tears Through Practitioner and Scholarly Eyes” and was delivered by Jane Hilburt-Davis and Pramodita Sharma. To me, the most interesting part of the presentation concerned the research that indicated that, 20 years from now, there is going to be more female family business leaders than male. That would mean a big jump: at the moment only 24% of Family Business have a female CEO. It was also comforting to learn that there is no concrete evidence in existence that proves that men are better business leaders than women.

The second presentation: “Surviving and Thriving in Narcissistic Family Businesses”, by Michael Madera and Steve Rosenbaum, included a short film that demonstrated the effects that a narcissistic personality can have over future generations. It was actually painful to watch how, despite all the suffering that the controlling personality of the founder had inflicted over his sons, his controlling behavior was something that the children sadly inherited. The 3rd generation approach to deal with their narcissistic parents was to limit their interactions with them in order to protect themselves from their damaging personalities. The advice from the presenters for people dealing with narcissistic personalities in the family business was to “Take responsibility and care of yourself; Establish clear boundaries; Understand the past, or be doomed to repeat it“ and finally, if the misery generated is intolerable, the best thing you can do is to get out of there!

During lunch, Steve Grossman, former President of Grossman Marketing Group, shared with us the secrets for keeping his family business in the family for four generations, and the secret to having a great successful life: “to have a happy life, you have to have a family, a career and give back to the community.” Great advice!

The next presenter I chose to see was Edouard Thijssen, a 5th generation member of the Belgian group Aliaxis. There are about 100 people in Edouard’s family but none of them work on a day to day basis in the family business.  Edouard felt the need to create something that would keep his big family close and in contact and, as no family member worked in the business, he was conscious of the need to keep the “family feeling” element of the family business. So he joined forces with Edouard Janssen, 6th Generation of Solvay, also from Belgium, and together they created TrustedFamily, an online secure platform where families can share information about their family members and their business issues. The company is now working with more than 50 families all over the world. The smallest families they serve have 10 members and their platform is customizable to their particular client’s needs.  Edouard is an inspiration for those Next Generation family business members that take the initiative and decide to create their own business. Well done!

“What’s so Different About Leadership in The Family Enterprise?” by Ivan Lansberg and Wendy R. Ulaszek, was my next choice. Mr. Lansberg explained how the old advice of “ treating your family as a family, and your business as a business…” had proven to be negative for FamilyBiz, as it denied them the use of their competitive advantage of having a family behind the business. In his experience, the most effective leaders for family businesses are the ones that “are able to build ambidextrous capacity, to balance polarizing needs of the family and the business.” One of the examples he cited concerned promoting “nepotism with excellence” which means to, “Invest in the development and mentoring of the next generation of leaders.” I couldn’t agree more.

The panel “Next Gen’s Status in Family Business: It’s Complicated” shared the experiences of John Morris, second generation member of Franklin Morris Associates, Alana Feld, second generation of Feld Entertainment, and Brett Levy, second generation of Riverside Properties, in working for their Family Business. Brett explained how the sudden health problems of his father threw him quite suddenly and unexpectedly into dealing with bigger responsibilities and how that experience made him, and the company, stronger. Alana described how she believes that working in the family business is a “lifestyle” and advised parents to offer their children the right position (avoiding putting then straight into big positions they may not be ready for) to prevent setting them up for failure.  John explained that when he decided to join the Family Business, his father gave him a letter that said “Dear father, I’m leaving the company, no questions asked, no answers needed”, he hopes that he’ll never have to sign it and give it back to his father. It was inspiring to see the passion each of these people had for their business and their willingness to work hard really shone through. With people like this, family business really does have a great future ahead!

The closing keynote by Andrew Lippman from MIT, was not only inspiring but entertaining. Mr. Lippman proved to be quite a showman and threw a few jokes into his presentation that helped all of us to keep focus after such a long day. I enjoyed his explanation about “the rate of change in society is a function of the age at which youth are introduced to the dominant technology of the time”, it made me think about my 3-year-old daughter playing with the iPad… and yes, it seems correct that nowadays the rate of change is at 3 years max…

I learned many things during the FFI conference, but my main take-out is that there is a next generation revolution taking place. Next generation members are, more than ever before, taking the initiative to prepare themselves to become the future leaders not only of their Family Business but of their own companies. Next Generation is not only the future, it is the present!

Should the Next Generation Be the One to Name the Elephant in the Room?

I'm going home to the place where I belong tututu ruuuruuuruuu tu tu tu tu...I'm going home!

Last Friday, I attended a workshop by Dennis Jaffe called “Facing and Resolving Issues That Prevent Your Family Business from Moving Forward.” It was held by The Institute for Family Business, part of the University of the Pacific, and all the attendees were family business members.

I’ve read several of Dennis Jaffe’s books, and I love his practical, easy-to-understand, you-can-do-it style. Of course, he ran his workshop the same way, and we all had to face our particular “elephant in the room”(which is an obvious problem that no one wants to discuss) and how we go about having such difficult conversations.

Incidentally, I shared my table with a couple of Next Generation members and our respective elephants seemed to be of the same breed. Their elephants’ most distinctive characteristics were that they had hearing problems, lived long lives, and went by the name of “Succession.”

Jaffe made a very good point at the beginning of his presentation: If you have a problem with someone, you cannot simply expect the other person to take the initiative to solve it. The other person may not see any problem . . . well, apart from some weird behavior that most of us tent to display when we feel frustrated.

So, who is responsible for becoming a change leader and making things happen? Probably you, the one being squeezed into the wall by the elephant!

I have already pushed away my elephant a few times using all the right steps. I described what the situation was in a respectful, calm manner; explained how it made me feel; and stated what I would like to see happen in the future. But, after Jaffe’s presentation, I realized that there are a few things that I could do better next time:

1-     Let the other person know in advance that I need to discuss “X” issue with him and set up an agenda for the meeting. This way, the important conversations won’t get lost between phone calls and things will not get tense because the other person was not prepared for it or cannot focus because there is something else on his or her mind.

2-     Instead of giving up when denial and resistance keeps coming up, I’ll use coaching skills to break through. I’ll rephrase what the other person said to make sure that is what he meant. Bottom-line: keep him on track; acknowledge his positive traits, points, and actions; manage myself; and block assumptions from popping into my mind.

3-     Finally, I have to set up realistic expectations. Change is a process that takes time to effect. One conversation may not do much, but it is a start. Next time I won’t feel disappointed if there is no immediately obvious change. Instead, I’ll pat myself on the back for trying and taking one more step to make things happen.

These elephants are imposing and a bit scary, but if you keep ignoring them, they will keep taking more and more of your space until you are so pressed against the wall that it will be impossible to move any more.

So, let’s take action and send those elephants back where they belong: the jungle!

Written by Carmen Lence of NextGen Consulting & Coaching www.nextgenfamilybusiness.com