12/25/16

The Longest Night

The Longest Night

The sun is disappearing… we must bring it back.

Throughout parts of the globe where the seasons change people have been observing the winter solstice for millennia—imploring the sunlight to return and celebrating its readiness to do so.

I find myself writing this blog on the evening of December 21st—the winter solstice—the longest night of the year. Images of families come to mind—the elders and the young ones.

On winter solstices past, members of the Iroquois Nations went to sleep early to invite “the dreaming” where visions would instruct their lives for the following year.Iroquois Nations

The darkness of this night, open to interpretation, inspired many different traditions and rituals. Ancient Mongolians entered a mystical tent that represented the world, where their shaman undertook a spiritual journey to the North Star to clean their souls of sins. In ancient Rome the people honored the God Saturn with the weeklong feast of Saturnalia. With the return of the light many cultures celebrated the rebirth of a God, and from these traditions the holiday of Christmas was derived.

Modern astronomy has revealed that the sun does not disappear…that the cycle of the seasons is due to the earth’s axial tilt. But the psychology and emotional impact associated with the winter solstice has not changed. We shrink from the darkness, the winter cold, and gather our families and communities to call back the light and warmth. 

As citizens of the earth, cycles and our responses to them are built into our DNA. Everything about our lives is cyclical, and that applies to family businesses no less than individuals. To them as well comes an inevitable time of change; a time that calls for the transition of leadership to the next generation, and the next. Here too, such a transition is open to interpretation. How will the family see this change? As an end, and frightening? As a beginning, and hopeful?

A family business, guided by the light and warmth of its incumbent leadership may struggle with their vision as that light wanes. And just as the sun when it dips below the horizon is not really gone, the wisdom and perspective of the founding generations continues to influence future ones.

Light endures.

04/29/16

Reality Is Bigger

Last week I attended the annual conference of Attorneys for Family Held Enterprises (AFHE). While there, I had the opportunity to hear speakers from a range of professional disciplines: family business advisors, financial planners, psychologists and attorneys.

I was particularly impressed by the clarity of the presentation entitled Engaged Ownership. More Effective Governance for Multi-Generational Family Businesses’ given by Amelia Renkert-Thomas, former CEO of Ironrock Inc., her family’s 5th generation manufacturing business and founding partner of Renkert Thomas Consulting LLC.

In her presentation Ms. Renkert outlines commonly held assumptions about family business and counters them with realities. Here are selected bullet points taken from her slides:

Assumptions

  • Making money is the primary objective
  • Succession is about who will run the company
  • Shareholders are primarily interested in dividends
  • Continuity is the preferred outcome

Reality

  • There is more at stake than money
  • Succession is about preparing for multiple roles
  • Shareholders are primarily interested in shared purpose and vision
  • Continuity of core capital, not necessarily the business

All of these points are ‘tip-of-the-iceberg’ statements, the results of study, thought and experience. They invite investigation, discussion and action. What are your thoughts?