I spoke with the head of a Family Office last week and asked him what had made the family successful. He pointed to the transition that occurred when they started to think of themselves as a family enterprise, instead of just a wealthy family. They reflected on what had led to the success of the family business – “why did employees go in every day giving the company their very best”? The family concluded that “the employees were part of something bigger than themselves, which gave them an esprit de corps, an opportunity to grow and succeed”.
And it dawned on them that they should develop the same mindset for their family. Otherwise, they knew the day would come when “the family would see what they have as just a pile of money and fail”.
I’ve met many successful business leaders in my career, and I’ve always been curious to understand how they have been able to accomplish so much. So I would inquire about their business and I learned that they all had a clear vision that they could easily articulate. I would ask how they developed this vision for their business and inevitably would hear about the team that shaped it. And then, excited to be speaking with such forward thinkers, I would ask about their family vision… only to hear the room turn quiet. Some would share that they had strong views on the topic, but would typically confess that they hadn’t discussed it with anyone else in their family.
That’s one of the conundrums which drew me to this industry. Why is having a vision so important for a business and not for a family, which is an even more intricate and complex asset? And why shouldn’t all family members participate in the development of this vision, the way company executives do?
Every family needs a shared vision for their future together, a common purpose. This became increasingly clear to me after hearing so many parents complain that they just couldn’t get their children to engage with the family wealth. I came to realize that they failed to understand that no one will willingly embark on this family journey without a clear destination in mind. It takes shared goals, some would say a shared dream, to bring families together, to make the bumps in the road tolerable and the responsibilities that come with wealth worth the effort.
Successful families recognize that they have created significant wealth. But they don’t stop there. They ask themselves: what are we planning to do with it and where is it going to take us as a family?
They identify new goals and opportunities that they can pursue together, reinvent themselves, and become the new engine for family success. That’s why I'm so passionate about this topic and invite you to listen to our Hawthorn Institute for Family Success webinar on “What is a family vision and why do you need one?” .
Joline Godfrey is CEO, The Unexpected Table, and author of "Raising Financially Fit Kids". She is part of the Hawthorn Institute for Family Success℠, which is dedicated to preparing families for their wealth. In this capacity, Joline develops and delivers a series of products and services for nurturing financially mindful children and thriving families.