What Would a Family Meeting Do for My Family?

When most of us think of family meetings, we think of sitting around the dinner table discussing the BBQ at Uncle Bob’s house next Saturday. The ultra rich, however, have a different definition of and use for family meetings.


Those blessed with inherited wealth or successful businesses may use a multi generational family meeting structure to get updates on their finances and investments from their accountants or investment advisors.

Wealthy families who have been successful in maintaining their wealth from generation to generation have probably discovered a wider and more important use for family meetings.

Dr. James Grubman notes, in the Caliper Papers, Spring 2007 volume: “Family meetings are one of the most important tools a family of wealth can use to preserve and perpetuate a healthy legacy. They are the method by which the family can develop, grow and maintain itself across time.”

Imagine, if you will, calling your grown children, their teenagers and school age children together with your spouse and your Mother. Would you be comfortable discussing your wealth goals, your hopes and wishes, your experiences in the world of finance and business – even your financial situation? Would they be interested in hearing about it and sharing their own values and goals?

Take it from one who has tried, these conversations don’t come easy, so why would you want to initiate ongoing inter-generational family meetings?

What would a family meeting do for your family?

Here are a few things that a family meeting could allow your family to do:

  • Educate the younger family members in basic finance and family traditions.
  • Share news, accomplishments and decision making responsibilities.
  • Pass the torch from the older to the younger generation to ensure the family mission and values survive.
  • Introduce family members to your professional team of accountant, lawyer, financial advisor and etc (or you to theirs!).
  • Build bonds across the 3rd generation, when family ties typically begin to dissipate.
  • Share resources and strengths with each other.
  • Provide an opportunity for ongoing mentor-ship by you of your adult children.
  • Establishing and continuing periodic family meetings builds a framework which helps the inevitable transition that happens when a business is sold, or control passes to the next generation or the elder in the family passes on.

How could family meetings benefit our family?

If the meetings are successful, the outcomes are significant.  For example you could obtain:

  • Passage of legacy traditions, values and goals from one generation to the next.
  • Clearer understanding of the families financial situation so that transition at time of loss is easier.
  • Consistent education for the children on family and personal financial items.
  • Enhanced ability to make difficult decisions and have discussions due to the bonds built during prior family meetings.
  • Development of future family leaders by providing opportunities for watching and participating in the interplay between the grandparents, parents, children and grandchildren.
  • Establishment of family organizations to move your family forward for the next 100 years.

But, family meetings can hold peril if not handled correctly. Instead of a beneficial outcome, family tension and discord could increase. Careful preparation, good communication skills, setting of ground rules for the meeting and clear goals for each session will significantly aid in making your family meeting a success and a treat for each attending member.

In future articles, I will explore success stories, share information on how to prepare the family for the idea of meetings and how to prepare for the actual meeting.

Sources include:

“Conducting Successful Family Business Transition Meetings” in the “Building for the Successful Transition of Your Agricultural Business” Fact Sheet Series by Chris Zoller – Ohio State University Extension Educator, Tuscarawas County September, 2007

“Family Meetings” by Kristin Zolten, M.A. & Nicholas Long, Ph.D., Department of Pediatrics, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences ©1997, 2006 as posted on www.parenting-ed.org

“Should We Have a Family Meeting?” The Calibre Papers, Spring 2007 Volumne One

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