In February 2015 I got a call from Ron, my client in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He wanted to let me know that his father, David, had passed away unexpectedly the night before.
David’s health hadn’t been great but his passing was still a shock to the family. He was 75 and luckily had pretty much already turned the day-to-day operations of the family’s retail furniture business to his three sons. He still went the store most days and enjoyed having lunch with some of the long-term employees.
Unexpected Events Can Suddenly Impact Your Family Business
The sudden loss of a patriarch can be one of the unexpected events that can cause a significant shifting of family relationships and dynamics. All the more reason to do lots of work with your family vision, values, etc. while the patriarch is still here, alive and healthy.
Luckily for this family, a leader in next-gen saw the need for family retreats and had reached out to me four years before David’s passing.
Annual Retreats Prepare Families During Good Times
Coming into the second annual family retreat I reached out to David and told him I was going to facilitate one session with him during the education portion of the retreat. He was hesitant and said he wasn’t that great at giving formal lectures. He said he was better in one-on-one settings with his sons and the grandkids when the opportunity presented itself.
I told him, “I hear you, AND it’s my job to get as much of your wisdom out of your head and into the next-gen as quickly as possible. There’s no better setting than these family retreats. Trust me… just follow my lead… you are going to do great and the family will love it!”
Saturday morning arrived and I did a bit of an informal talk with David. I asked him to expound on his philosophy of business and what it took to be successful. He, of course, ate it up and it turned into a great session about the qualities it takes to create long-term success. I was able to facilitate a great back-and-forth with the grandkids (17-27 years old) as well as getting the parents and in-laws engaged in the conversation. It was a great session!
Documenting Family Meetings Can Serve as Important Guides for the Future
As a part of our process, I captured the notes from the session and distributed them to the entire family so they would always have David’s philosophy close by.
So, receiving the call that David had passed away was difficult to hear, but knowing I had helped facilitate that mentoring session as part of the family business coaching and development process warmed my heart.
Coach’s Insight – Make it priority to have these kinds of conversations while everyone is here and healthy. Be courageous with your patriarchs, matriarchs and the entire family about getting together and having these invaluable moments. Don’t wait until it is too late!
Pete Walsh is a demanding, courageous and playful Master Certified Coach in Phoenix, Arizona. He is the founder of Peak Workout Business Coaching and the Family Business Performance Center. Check out Coach Pete’s free tools: the Family Business Landmine Detection Map and the Family Business Survival Kit. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.