Position Open: Chief Collaboration Officer

With the external world quickly evolving, when technology is rapidly changing, markets and information moving at a faster pace, how does a family enterprise ensure its business model is on track to keep up with these changes but is also positioned for sustainable growth?  Looking outside the trusted circle of family experts and advisors for fresh perspective and creative advice can often be enlightening and meaningful but a daunting task.

What questions should family stakeholders ask themselves as they think through the challenges of what their business will need as they shift their mindset from being reactive to proactive to meet their changing environment?  Where and at what point, does the silo approach of advice-getting and giving get pulled together to direct a cohesive family strategic plan? 

Sometimes one of the bigger tasks in assisting a family is not only creating or facilitating plotting out a road map for the future but helping to figure out the appropriate ways in which the family might deal with multiple advisors in achieving that roadmap.  It can be a big task to lead the advisors in a team approach that is coordinated, cooperative, and collaborative and assists the family enterprise to manage the tension that ambiguity and complexity produce.

The modern day and future enterprising family needs a modern day approach from its advisors that is less expert driven, more multidisciplinary and executes collaborative, cooperative and teamwork behavior – enter the Chief Collaboration Officer.  

Some tips for becoming a successful CCO:

  1. Park your ego at the door. Creative solutions require that no one person owns the process. Great ideas come from putting great minds together.
  2. Invest in creating something new by contributing to a shared goal rather than purely supporting your singular goal. Self-interest is never attractive and it is a sure way of derailing the creative process.
  3. Be a student of the other advisor’s expertise and motivation. Without understanding the outcome each advisor wants, there will be no way to come to a balanced perspective.
  4. Take on the mindset of a true collaborator. Today’s family enterprise needs many layers of talented people to assist in navigating a rapidly changing world.
  5. As parents, top executives and the older next generation, think of yourself as a role model. Often the best learning comes from experience and observation of how others navigate relationships and problem solving.

For more insight and family case study you may access the full article here: Chief Collaboration Officer

Evolving in Changing Times

Family enterprises have long been considered a foundation of the American economy. Many of the most notable family names in our history are connected to long-term family businesses and philanthropies (Ford, DuPont, Rockefeller, Forbes and Johnson). And, the more recent entrepreneurial efforts of Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have led to growing wealth for those founders and their families, as well as for those who’ve invested in or worked with them.

But, the world isn’t the same as when these historical families grew their businesses into enterprises. The same characteristics that positively defined family enterprise are being challenged. To deal with the rapid changes in the global economy and information flow, family enterprises need to adjust their thinking and plan more broadly for their futures. Sustainability no longer seems to imply homeostasis, keeping the legacy as is or remaining as before.

Rather than thinking of sustainability as continuing what is, it’s increasingly important to think of it as a process of adapting to and evolving with change so that family resources are preserved or, perhaps, enhanced. To achieve such goals, the family needs to have some best practices in place before larger evolutionary changes are necessary.

  • Having a mission, vision and strategic plan for the family provides a roadmap for such decision-making
  • Holding meetings of the family and shareholders at least annually
  • Conducting a review of the overall family economic growth policies, answering such questions as:
    • How long should we continue in our current line(s) of business?
    • What would an exit look like for one or all of us?
    • What are the markers we’ll need to use to determine continuation in our endeavors?
    • What ways can we expand our portfolio of options that will be interesting and rewarding?

Building a stronger foundation as a family to gather as a unit to talk about the challenges they may currently be facing or are likely to face is paramount in order to have the kind of personal connections and understanding of one another that permits these types of discussions. These kinds of connections are built over time with a commitment of resources and effort.

Familial connections also provide process, structure and ease in informing family and shareholders and the format for making rapid decisions. Family members are up-to-date on the status of the company and the other family holdings and can feel connected to the decisions facing them. Those who’ll be living with the decisions should participate in making them. They can feel confident that the path forward toward progress is clear, achievable and sustainable.

For more on best practices to promote family sustainability, click here to read the full article.

Accelerated Change and Sustainability

Rather than thinking of sustainability as continuing what is, it is important to think of it as adapting and evolving to change so that the family resources are preserved and perhaps even expanded. With the increased rate of change inherent in rapid information flow and economic fluidity, it is not only jobs, which are increasingly of short tenure but also complete industries that are either experiencing the same or changing greatly.  Combine this with the fact that we are a matured culture with mature industries that struggle to keep market share, and one is left with a combination that is a real challenge for families.

It is usually the transition to a cousins group for which a new lens or viewpoint becomes important to the family’s ability to sustain itself.  The family must shift from defining itself as a family who has a business to one, which seeks to develop a portfolio of assets.  While it is important to reinvest in the family’s business, it is also important that the lens shift include the deliberate, systematic and objective examination of the use of resources.  Then, if necessary, the family can go about building other assets, which hopefully will evolve from or fit the passions of the next generation.

On a practical level, this means that families must review with their boards the current state of their industry and their place in it.  They must actively spend time visioning their future in terms of their economy.  It is also important to utilize strategic planning methods, such as scenario planning, to simulate the alternative realities they envision.  Too many families are continuing to put money into their businesses without considering the alternative ways to effectively divert and use their financial and human resources.

The importance of grit and hard work

There has been a lot written on grit recently and the importance of working hard as being a key trait showing a person’s likelihood of success. Paul Tough’s book on How Children Succeed (http://www.paultough.com/the-books/how-children-succeed/) has gotten a lot of press where he discusses grit as a measurement of how determined and hard-working one is to achieve their goals. Some schools and centers of learning are thinking about curriculum to teach and instill such values to the younger generation as crucial to learning, development and future success. Developing this quality in families of wealth is especially important as opportunities to demonstrate fortitude are sometimes less available.

For example, in families of wealth, taking care of chores and needing to earn money are often not of necessity for the younger generation. Hired help cleans rooms, makes beds and puts away clothes with the intention of doing their job to be helpful and “keep a nice home”. The lesson that chores offer is the importance of responsibility and commitment to get a job done. If a youngster has the opportunity to earn extra money, rather than being given it, then working hard to earn something is the take-away.

Paid first jobs are sometimes passed up because a more interesting internship might be more in line with the young adult’s passion and income is not a survival need. Although an opportunity, what must be weighed against it is the reward or lesson that come from the fruits of one’s labor. Likewise, giving a cell phone to a youngster is now part of the culture, yet having to work/earn an iPhone is way to instill the value of working for something that you want.

It is important that the next generation not be inadvertently robbed of the opportunity to develop and demonstrate grit to her/himself and others. Hard work and perseverance are traits that are essential for success throughout life. In families of wealth it is often necessary to be intentional about creating situations for the next generation so they don’t miss out on the vital lessons hard work can teach.




Next Generation Education: Creativity gets blessed

Next Generation Education: Creativity gets blessed

“….creativity—the ability to spot problems and devise smart solutions—is being recast as a prized and teachable skill.”

“…content knowledge evolves at lightning speed, educators are talking more and more about ‘process skills,’ strategies to reframe challenges and extrapolate and transform information, and to accept and deal with ambiguity.”

These are just two of the many gems to digest from the Feb. 5 NY Times article, Learning to Think Outside the Box: Creativity Becomes an Academic Discipline by Laura Pappano (http://nyti.ms/1bqNnod).  One provocative idea that I found particularly interesting is the notion that creativity is not based on magic but rather can be learned, and is in fact critical to surviving in the ever-changing world in which we live.

The sustainability of a family enterprise may depend upon just this type of competency to adequately deal with the management of a complex shared economy with many different stakeholders. While there seem to be abundant financial models for preserving or growing wealth, models that work to address human behavior and building good citizens of a wealthy family enterprise seem to be more elusive.  Ultra high net worth families have complex challenges that will demand creative solutions, and given that no two of them are alike, time and effort spent developing the creative muscle in the next generation will be just as important as developing financial knowledge.

Just as a family might decide to set quantifiable performance goals for financial assets, might they also do the same for building creativity in the family’s human capital?  After all, if an I.B.M. survey of 1500 executives in 33 industries (2010) cite “creativity” as the most critical factor to success, then maybe it is time to rethink what capabilities are really needed by the next generation to be successful and what is needed by the older generation to support the development of this critical skill.


Is Family Wealth a Blessing or a Curse?

A colleague sent me a link to an article by Thayer Willis in Forbes in April titled, “Why Family Wealth is a Curse.”  It was a general warning of how too much wealth might lead to a “less meaningful life” but I found that Thayer’s story offered little guidance of how families could improve the situation. When Willis wrote her follow-up post last month in Forbes, “Why Family Wealth is a Blessing,” I was glad that readers got a more balanced perspective.

My biggest take-away from Willis’ most recent article was that she mentioned some “ways” that families can use their wealth to create “choices”.  She also inferred that without families of wealth being deliberate about setting aside time to work together and communicate, that families won’t achieve as much. At Relative Solutions, we have been thinking and writing about this for a long time.  Our framework has addressed the need for families to be deliberate, and we have outlined four central elements.  Learn more about our Family Wealth Sustainability Toolkit, which guides families to think about just how much they want to sustain all their family capital; social, intellectual and financial.


Family Stories, Leadership, and Family Sustainability

An article in the New York Times, by Bruce Feiler, discussed the various types of family stories and their importance to the development of children.  We all know that family wealth sustainability depends upon the human capital of the family and that at its very core human capital is dependent upon the development of self-esteem.

But our society has not always had clarity about how to best promote the development of feeling good about one’s self, about feeling competent and capable.  What we find more and more is what Mr. Feiler reports in his article – that family stories especially ones which demonstrate the ups and downs of life, of how family members managed difficult challenges and came out standing are ones which promote the resilience of the younger generation who hear them.   Resilience is important to developing the ability to risk, to meet challenges, to make mistakes and to develop leadership skills.  It is a very basic building block of self-esteem.  If one cannot take risks and be willing to make mistakes and trust that you can survive, then it is difficult to build capability and a sense of competence.

But sharing stories is also important to feeling a connection to what went before you- to a sense of continuity as well as a sense of a core belief in the family and its principles. It passes culture and defines a family sense of purpose and vision.  Further, the very act of sharing stories increases communication between the generations.  And what is more important than that?  Every family event is story making and telling the stories of those events provides a verbal history which continues to build and provide connection and growth for all who participate in their making or hearing the tales. Keep them coming-

Ownership Succession and Sibling Rivalry

It’s a familiar story that we have seen all too often in our work with families. A senior owner of a family business passes on ownership to the next generation siblings who prior to the death of the parent have no idea of how the ownership will be divided. At the death of the parent the sibling’s different views of what is fair becomes clear and in their dismay and hurt resort to litigation with each other to resolve their sibling rivalry. The parent’s gift thus becomes a gift horse that often tears families apart.

I recently stumbled across a Los Angeles Times obituary of Robert Zildjian who was an heir to the Zildjian cymbal dynasty. In the article, the Times recounts the story of how Zildjian cymbals passed from father to oldest son since its founding in 1623. Avedis Zildjian brought the company to America in the 1920’s and when Avedis died in 1979, he left the company to his two sons in a break with tradition. He gave a controlling interest to Armand who was the oldest (presumably out of their tradition of primogeniture), however Robert was running most of the business. After a legal battle they split the business and Robert formed Sabian, a successful competitor cymbal maker.  The article did not comment on the brother’s relationship after the split, but we can imagine what litigation does to a family relationship.

In our experience working with families that share assets we have heard many similar stories that tear families apart. We have learned there is a better way and encourage our clients to include those impacted by their decisions when making them. When parents include the next generation in estate planning and there is a chance to discuss expectations, it can ensure a more smooth transition in the place of sibling discord and litigation.

Today’s Multi-Generational Partnerships

My guest post on Greater Good, Arabella Advisors’ Blog, called Multi-Generational Partnerships Can Make Lasting Impact touches on the subject of today’s multi-generational partnerships and their efforts to work together to achieve their philanthropic mission. The intersection of Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y is creating, and will continue to create, rich opportunities in the future.

Each generation has a unique voice. Together, they can be complementary and synergistic, and can make a significant impact. You can read my entire article here.