Awkward! Family Meeting Retreats.

“I want you to arrange a meeting with the heads of the five families”

The Godfather

We pulled up to the clandestine location for the secret, covert meeting. We made sure to cover our tracks and not let anyone know we were gathering. The subject matter was confidential and extremely sensitive. This was how our first family meeting retreat went down.

I’ll give our family credit for trying something new. We are great at finding ways to look at the big picture. But our first family retreat was a little uncomfortable and a lot awkward. Uncomfortable can be good, because it means you’re changing and growing. Awkward is, well, just plain awkward.

Working “In” the Business vs Working “On” the Business

When your business is growing rapidly, you’re totally immersed in the day-to-day running of the business. Rarely do you have the ability to step aside and look at the big picture. You’ve heard it called working ‘in” the business vs working “on” the business.

Most family businesses are motivated to begin strategic planning because of a crisis or difficult situation. In our case, our business was facing increased competition and we needed to grow the business more rapidly to remain competitive.

  • We needed to formalize our planning and prepare a strategic plan.
  • We had to extract our plans from our heads and put it down on paper
  • For the first time we were formally discussing the direction of the business
  • We needed to get the family on the same page.
  • We were inviting more non-family members into decision making positions and committees and needed a plan that could be shared with them.

Up until this point we were riding a wave of success and the sales drove the business direction. We needed to flip this around and determine where we were most successful and effective and create a more deliberate path.

Some random thoughts about family meeting retreats: More…

Help! I’m Working For a Non-Family CEO in Our Family Business

“He pushed me beyond my comfort zone, but I liked it”

At first, we were concerned, that hiring an outside CEO would feel like a loss of control. But in a strange way, we almost felt a sense of relief. Relief that the family could tap into a resource that could support us in growing the business through fast growth.

An outside CEO can also help pull the company in the same direction. When family members lead the business they have autonomous power to manage their areas of responsibility. They set their own priorities, strategies, and methods of getting the tasks completed. This independence in the management structure often has family members working in silos with no clear lines of communication and direction. Each family member is setting their own priorities in a vacuum and hoping they align with the overall direction of the business. It usually works well, but there is an opportunity to make it even better when there is a comprehensive plan in place.  More…