Fostering Stewardship

There’s a great saying; “The family that plays together, stays together.” We believe that family members spending time together helps create those integral intergenerational bonds and furthers the right type of communication.
A structure for family meetings and communication fosters stewardship. It allows the upcoming generation to learn about the history of the business, the highs and lows and what it took for previous generations to bring the business to where it is today. When family meetings or gatherings are part of the culture of the family early on, the younger generation grows up knowing they have a forum in which to address everything with respect to the family enterprise.
Family meetings are more important as the family expands. Siblings who grow up in the same household hopefully learn to appreciate, respect and trust one another, but often the relationship between cousins is not as close. Spending more time with cousins creates a greater level of trust and respect for differences in style and personality.  And don’t forget in-laws and differing families of origin.
How do you create these opportunities to bond? For some it may be regular family get-togethers; for others, it could be a family-only website for sharing news, or family reunions and travel. Some create a video or write a book which chronicles the family and business history. But don’t leave these gatherings to chance; make them a purposeful exercise in togetherness and sharing in which everyone has a place, and a voice. Including the younger generation as active participants will help to instill a sense of stewardship early on, and help to strengthen the bonds of affection and loyalty
Among the goals you set for these family gatherings, consider including these:

1. Align on objectives.
2. Acknowledge the value of the family name.
3. Create a Code of Conduct.
4. Play together, laugh together, plan together, contribute together. Have a “dress rehearsal” to talk about end of life issues and desires. It’s easier when initiated by the older generation, so don’t wait for the kids to bring it up.
5. Involve the younger generation in philanthropic decisions.
6. Find ways to engage and empower the younger generation in making decisions together.
7. Use family meetings as a forum for open dialogue to address challenges and disagreements.
One of our favorite quotes is from our friend Fredda Herz Brown, in her book, Reweaving the Family Tapestry: “Stories are the fabric from which the family is woven.” Family gatherings are the forum and family stories set the stage and are the foundation upon which both the family and the business are built.




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