Annual Retreats Crucial to Healthy Family Business
A family that plays together stays together is an old adage for a reason: it’s proved itself to be true. And this adage is particularly appropriate when planning a family business retreat.
An annual retreat is an excellent place to discuss and act on issues that occur when a family is in business together. But devoting part of that retreat to play is key. It’s the fun piece binds the family together and builds trust so when there is conflict, issues can be solved.
Fun could include activities such as volleyball, golf, hiking, playing games and talent shows. Fun also means setting aside time for people to share what is going on in their lives outside of the family business. This is especially true for family business which include multiple generations spread across a vast geographic area.
Here are some other key things to consider when setting up a family business retreat:
Involve relatives who may not have stock in the business but who are stakeholders, such as spouses and older children. When you bring them into the discussion and explain why you are doing something, it can be beneficial on a many levels. For instance, spouses may better understand why you need to work extra hours or you can learn how to take cash out of family stock to pay for a child’s education. It’s helpful for everyone to understand what their roles are and what the business policies are.
Meet first to set up ground rules.
If the business is relatively young, have an initial meeting to set up ground rules for retreats (for instance, what we say here stays here). Talk about who might be a facilitator. Discuss the expenses and location.
Set an agenda.
Family meetings (typically annually) should include three elements: education, information and fun. The education piece is learning something new - for instance team building or negotiation skills. The information section could be about business financials and industry trends; mentoring the next generation; policies; prenuptial agreements; what to do when a family member ends up with a terrible financial issue; or what the requirements are for coming to work at the business. For younger family members, the information could be about the history of the business, to give them a sense of legacy, pride and brand.
Name a retreat facilitator.
This person will make sure dialogue stays on track, that the retreat is productive and create a safe environment where all ideas are heard. I recommend that you start with someone outside of the family who will make certain that all members of the family are involved in the event. Eventually, there may be a family member who shows the inclination and ability to take over this work at future retreats.
Don’t do strategic planning at a family meeting.
The retreat is a place to educate and create trust, it’s not a time to do strategic planning.
Follow the retreat with a survey.
During the survey, ask people for feedback on specific sections of the retreat, as well as the location, as well as suggestions for discussions at the next retreat.