Voices from the Field: Navigating Landmines in Support of Your Business, Family, and Community
By Lauren Tracy, Family Governance Specialist
I come from a family business that has developed a philanthropic spirit. I have come across many family businesses that recognize the many blessings that they have received and want to find a way to give back in a meaningful and impactful way.
I am part of a 3rd Generation family business that was founded in a small town in Illinois and has grown to provide over 5,000 jobs to employees and families across the country. We have been in business since 1960 and continue to innovate and grow. I am the 2nd eldest of 46 family members in the 3rd Generation with 8 of us currently employed in the business. The 2nd Generation still operates the business at the highest management level of Chairman, CEO and President.
While we have had a long history of success, it hasn’t been without “bumps in the road” or family disagreement. It seems that there are always questions and concerns popping up relative to family employment, ownership, succession, communication, community engagement, and the list goes on. While far from perfect, we have found ways to proactively prepare for these types of natural family turmoil and have made it a goal of ours to remain a successful family business for generations to come that also gives back to our community.
However, this doesn’t happen without a lot of focused effort!
Along the way, we’ve found it critical to proactively address 3 potential landmines so that our business, family, and community can continue to thrive.
Landmine #1: Guiding Principles
Establish a list of values in priority order that will drive all future decisions. For our family, we focus on the Family first, then the Family Business, and lastly our desire to have Family Members in the Business. This creates a clear direction when making tough decisions that impact the family, the business and community.
Landmine #2: Inclusion & Communication
Create a formal structure and process for communicating with all family members. Everyone likes to be heard and to feel like their opinions are being considered. Whether it is a “save the date” for the next family get together or an important initiative that involves creating a Family Council or Family Governance Structure, it is important to make all family members feel like their voice is being heard.
Landmine #3 – Develop Relationships
Have FUN! The best part about having a family business involves the tight knit relationships that are developed between family members, both inside and outside the business. Enjoy the process of working together to establish family policies, plan family meetings, or give back to your community.
What do you think? How does this compare to your experiences in managing a family business? We’d love to learn about your experiences and how you’ve overcome these (or other!) landmines. If you’re struggling, we’d love to have a conversation and explore how we can help.
Footnote: Lauren Tracy has a personal passion to further the engagement of small, medium and large family businesses that are either participating in philanthropy or exploring the opportunity to give back. She’s personally experienced the value of proactive planning around family councils, and finds deep joy in equipping other families to do the same.