I was deeply saddened last week when I heard of the sudden loss of the patriarch of a fifth-generation family business I have the honor to coach. At the same time, it warmed my heart to know I got to help create a venue for the patriarch to mentor and teach the grandchildren over the past three summers at the family business retreats.
One of the most important yet unpredictable variables in family business planning is knowing just when the founder will pass on. Most families don’t want to deal with the reality of someday losing the patriarch and they never get around to bringing everyone together to both learn some of the pearls of life wisdom and celebrate the patriarch’s family business success.
We encourage families to think of the annual family business retreat like the major league baseball player’s ritual of spring training. It’s an annual event that is designed to bring everyone together to work on the fundamental skills needed to win championships.
Like spring training, family business retreats have a structured approach specifically designed to help the team build certain fundamental skills through practice and repetition. It’s really exciting when the family starts to participate in its third and fourth retreat and their communication and teamwork skills blossom to create new levels of conversation and next generation planning.
Patriarchs are usually really good at launching and building family businesses, but they’re not as good at learning how to teach, mentor and address the inherent family business conflict that usually accompanies having a larger extended family.
A really well-designed family retreat will incorporate the following types of topics:
- identifying and understanding different personality types on the team
- family business communication skill building
- discussing family vision and values
- learning how to deal with conflict
- creating both personal and professional development goals
- best practices for managing a family business
I’m fortunate to have some typewritten memos from my grandfather to the employees of our family business where he outlines his business philosophies, life philosophies and what he considered to be business best practices.
I would have loved to have had an opportunity to be on a weekend retreat with him with some facilitated help to discuss how to become a high performing business professional and person. I’m sorry my client lost a great patriarch last week but I’m pleased to know the memory of his teachings will live on in the minds of his family and in the notes from the family retreat.
You never know how long the patriarch could be around to participate in these types of venues. My experience tells me there will be a fair amount of reluctance on the patriarch’s part but a retreat that is well-designed and gives the patriarch the right venue to teach will provide an incredibly memorable and important moment in family history that will have an impact on the next generation for years to come.
Listen to Coach Pete as he shares his playbook on How to Hold a Great Family Meeting