04/9/17

A Sense Of Gratitude By Any Means

One of my more important life exercises is a nightly examination of my day, starting with recognition of what I am grateful for–both large and small. So when “Want to Give Like a Rockefeller? Be Rich in Gratitude” appeared on April 1st in the New York Times Personal Business Column, it resonated personally.

The article is a brief history of the life, values and accomplishments of David Rockefeller, who died March 20, 2017 at the age of 101. It reads as a success story in the transmission of family values, high ideals and deeply felt attitudes: responsibility, humility, generosity, pride in the family legacy and one of the most important— a sense of gratitude.

“Among the values David passed down to his children was his profound gratitude,” said Lukas Haynes, executive director of the David Rockefeller Fund. “He expressed gratitude for what he inherited from his father and grandfather and his opportunity to carry it forward.”[1]

Of course few families have the wealth of the Rockefellers. But wealth is not a prerequisite for gratitude. For myself, I am grateful each day to be sharing of my unique abilities in ways that matters to others –and for the opportunities to carry this forward.

Defined as a “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.”[2] It is an attitude that can be cultivated. Recognizing and developing a sense of gratitude for what you have in your life day to day has been shown to have a positive impact on your relationships, your health and even on your brain. According to Dr. Emiliana Simon-Thomas, science director of the Greater Good Science Center:

“In studies, after eight weeks of practice, brain scans of individuals who practice gratitude have stronger brain structure for social cognition and empathy, as well as the part of the brain that processes reward.”[3]

Clearly their inherited sense of gratitude has been a significant factor in the success, longevity and vitality of the heirs of David Rockefeller, and therefore may be seen as an attitude worth emulating for family businesses along the way to their own future.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/31/your-money/david-rockefeller-philanthropy.html
[1] http://www.businessinsider.com/why-extremely-successful-people-swear-by-this-5-minute-daily-habit-2015-11
[1] Ibid.

04/1/17

Why You Want Gravity in Your Family Business

Many decades have passed since Isaac Newton set forth his law of universal gravitation that states, in part, that every mass attracts every other mass in the universe, and since Albert Einstein published his theory of general relativity revealing a view of gravity where mass influences the dynamic shape of space-time.

But gravity isn’t only about physics anymore–it’s a key element in the long-term success of family enterprises.

Perhaps first used by Claudio Fernández-Aráoz, Senior Adviser for the global executive search firm, Egon Zehnder, the term “family gravity” describes what makes successful family businesses different from non-family businesses. According to Fernández-Aráoz, while family firms need the same operational governance structures as non-family enterprises, they also must nurture what makes them special as family enterprises.

Different than leadership, to have “family gravity” means there is at least one and as many as three family members who are—like the sun at the center of our solar system—at the center of the family organization. “These people personify the corporate identity and align differing interests around clearly defined values and a common vision… And they have strong personalities that draw talented people into their orbits and keep them there.”1  This central group focuses on a long view of the future “on the next generation, not the next quarter.”2

Like the gravity of physics, this center of “family gravity” has properties that attract—in this case the ingredients for success—and the weight to influence shape and form—in this case the dynamics and legacy of the family and the business as they travel into their future.
 
For a conversation about the gravity in your family enterprise contact me by email at rickraymond@thefamilybusinessleader.com. To talk please call: 212-777-0083.

1 Fernández-Aráoz, C.F., Iqbal, S., Jörg Ritter, J. Leadership Lessons from Great Family Businesses. Harvard Business review. Available at https://hbr.org/2015/04/leadership-lessons-from-great-family-businesses

2 Ibid.

03/24/17

Accident and Intention

A young family business—first or second generation—in which the family’s next generation have begun to find their places, has reached a point where two possible paths to becoming a multi-generational enterprise emerge. The incumbent generation can either let things play out willy-nilly—without any plan as to what the business may look like in the future—and perhaps, quite by accident, become multigenerational. Or they can begin with intention.

Intention sets the stage and gets the wheels turning. The thinking starts with what’s possible for the family and the business under future generations.

Starting with intention the current leadership can set their sights on a long-term vision: wealth creation across generations, and a legacy. With this in mind they can then draw upon centuries of knowledge and documented experiences from those families that have created successful multigenerational family enterprises.

To pave a surer path to multi-generational success, start with intention.

03/18/17

Family Businesses Got Edge

A range of factors inherent to family businesses give them “the edge,” a natural set of competitive advantages over non-family business. Included among these:

  • Values embedded over generations
  • Generations of accumulated knowledge of their business and the industry in which the operate
  • Agility within rapidly changing markets derived from interaction of family, management, and ownership
  • Desire to protect the family name and reputation translating into high product/service quality and higher returns on investment
  • Next-generation ingenuity helping the family business maintain touch with emerging technology and the youth market
  • Concentrated ownership structure leading to higher overall corporate productivity
  • Longer-term commitments that stabilize investments in people and innovation

A first-generation family business that recognizes these advantages up front is better positioned to develop a far-seeing vision and empower the business’ growth into a multi-generational enterprise.

03/10/17

Impact Stewardship and Family Business

I recently saw Perpetual Revolution: The Image and Social Change at the International Center of Photography in New York City. Included among the works on exhibit, a riveting video entitled “3 Seconds.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iQYiRwNd7ug

“3 Seconds” begins by stating the age of the earth—4.5 billion years; time since the appearance of our species, homo sapiens—140,000 years. Then, conceptually condensing the earth’s lifespan into the space of one day, 24 hours, the video goes on to reveal that on that scale mankind arrived on the scene in the last 3 seconds of the day—3 seconds before midnight. With excruciating clarity the video presents images of the impact mankind has had on our world’s environment in just those 3 seconds… and asks: “what of the 4th second?”

What will be the impact of our stewardship in the next second, and the next?

In the condensed timescale the video suggests, the entire history of family business—the oldest form of business—has taken place in the blink an eye. Where will it go from here?

Stewardship, a concept readily understood in environmental issues, is also one of my favorite family business concepts. Simply stated: “My role as head of the family business is to receive it from my predecessor, care for it, nourish and grow it, and pass it on to the next generation in better condition than when I received it.”

This is a valuable consideration, as most family business don’t survive past their 3rd generation. What does the future hold for the 4th generation in your family enterprise?

03/2/17

Success—An Inspired View

In her bestseller, Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder[1], Arianna Huffington makes an impassioned and compelling case for the need to redefine success in today’s world through well-being, wisdom, wonder and giving.

Is this family business?

 

[1] Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder, Ariana Huffington, 2014, 2015. Harmony Books, Crown Publishing Group/Penguin Random House, LLC, New York

02/25/17

Benchmarks for Family Enterprise Survival

In September, 2012, Dennis T. Jaffe, Ph.D., of Saybrook University and Jane Flanagan, of Family Office Exchange published Best Practices of Successful, Global, Multi-Generational Family Enterprises. Responding to the lack of solid research into strategies that support long-established family enterprises, they undertook an academic-level study with the goal of benchmarking best practices for multi-generational longevity.

Their research confirmed what has long been known among family-business advisors about best practices of family-enterprise governance, family relationships and development of next generation members:

Nurture the Family
Steward the Family Enterprises
Cultivate Human Capital for the Next Generation

Jaffe and Flanagan found that successful family enterprises strive for a balance among the three. If problems arise in any of these areas, the family does not see itself as successful.

In upcoming blog articles I will expand on each of these best practices areas, and finally discuss the importance of balance among them.

02/18/17

Star Trek Ideals and Family Business

It’s a well-known fact that since its first airing in 1966, the Star Trek series has inspired generations of young people to become scientists. YouTube abounds with videos of astrophysicists; theoretical physicists; astronomers; cosmologists; giving lectures, taking part in conferences, presenting their latest findings. And in video after video, the scientists invoke their debt to Star Trek.

Star Trek’s optimistic view of the future continues to bring young people into careers where they see themselves helping to make that future a reality. In a way, the Star Trek world might be seen as a global business owned and operated by and for the family of mankind, one with diversity, innovation, communication, cooperation and courage.

The Star Trek world has similarities to well-established multi-generational family businesses. It has a far-seeing vision. It has a mission, and it has uplifting values. It encourages innovation—often the very lifeline for survival. Among long-lived family businesses can be found perhaps, some of the ideals that Star Trek showcases; a zest for exploration, flexibility, loyalty, job placement by virtue of inborn talents and acquired skills, mutual respect, integrity in leadership.

Could this kind of view, and these types of ideals, inspire your family’s young people to seek their place and their careers within your family business? What kind future do they see? Is it one they can wish to help realize?

02/11/17

Saved The Business—The Only Problem Is…

We all know the story of the surgeon reporting the operation went well; the only problem—the patient died.

Some thirty years ago family businesses became a subject of investigations, and advisors rushed to help them. Their initial thinking: because it is inherent in the nature of family-owned enterprises that leadership is by family members, the businesses lacked the necessary acumen and skills to be successful. Consequently, they focused on establishing procedures, protocols and practices that helped the businesses prosper. The only problem—the family died.

Since then emphasis on helping family businesses has shifted focus—and importantly so—onto family needs and goals, with expertise coming from a wide range of areas including psychology, family counseling, family systems, estate planning, mediation, conflict management, career development, substance abuse, wealth management and leadership development.

My own experience though, in providing life support for early-generation family businesses and their families, has revealed that many need to learn the importance of professionalizing the business and understand how to implement professionalization if they want to be successful across generations.

Professionalization is the process of moving a business from an owner-centric to a management-centric entity—one in which the business operates from established processes rather than requiring its leadership to provide daily supervision. Achieving this goal allows leadership to focus on the necessary entrepreneurial roles of business development, client cultivation and long-term planning for both the family and the business.

02/3/17

Listening to Chopin

An entrepreneurial client recently mentioned one of his favorite Ted Talks: The Transformative Power of Classical Music, by presenter Ben Zander. By way of various piano renditions of a piece by Chopin, Zander illustrates several aspects of understanding classical music that I found extremely relevant to family business success. https://www.ted.com/talks/benjamin_zander_on_music_and_passion

Ben Zander is conductor and music director of the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra. I had known him through his book, national best seller, The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life. In it he describes his leadership style as a conductor as one of embracing possibilities. He has subsequently taught workshops on his approach to leadership in corporate settings.

Several ideas from his Ted Talk came through to me as having critical relevance to family business:

  • No one is tone deaf; rather, perhaps, they have not learned how to hear the music. The capacity of family members to be instrumental in business success may be overlooked even by themselves. Look for signs of it in their conduct of everyday life.
  • An important characteristic of a leader is not doubting for one moment the capacity of people to realize whatever it is that the leader is dreaming.
  • The job of a leader is to make the players powerful, and this awakens possibilities of creativity and expression. Making other family members powerful awakens possibilities in them that will benefit the family.
  • Placing similar emphasis on every note in your business will distract you from your view of the big picture.
  • Expecting a perfect performance does not allow for the creativity and spontaneity that produce a resilient and viable next generation.

All of these ideas point to ways of embracing possibilities within your family business. They speak of a leadership style of openness and confidence in the family, the business vision, and in success for generations to come.