Quick Bits: Family Board

This is Got Family and I am Carey Berger. As you know we tell stories from the crossroads of business and family. We tell each of these stories from one of three points of view, or hopefully all three if we have time. That is personal, financial and structural. We’re going to talk about the personal side of one piece of this and I’m going to call it the family board for lack of a better word. Alright, here’s the idea if I had the ability to predict everything that was going to happen and I can write it all down I could have this wonderful magical document that would tell us all the answers going forward. I would also have a unicorn I could ride on rainbows because unfortunately it doesn’t work that way. Truth of the matter is no matter how hard we work, no matter how smart we are, no matter how great our advisors are, we cannot predict the future and know exactly what’s going to happen. That’s the problem. But when you try to utilize paper as your way of communicating the decisions. Don’t let paper make the decision. I suggest instead that you identify who or whom will be making that decision. He or she will be making that decision. They will be making a decision in this circumstance and here’s how that works. that’s where one tool becomes really valuable and it’s really simple because you’re probably already doing it. It’s called the family board. Yeah, you may go back to Brady Bunch and think of family meetings or whatever you want to think of. But here’s the idea; let’s have a moment, let’s have a setting which we say this is a business meeting for our family and we’re going to have discussions or we will decide these different decisions. Right? It’s just that informal, it does not require fancy documents, it does not have to have all sorts other details although sometimes more details are good and you will know that in no time. But nonetheless, just keep it simple for now. Can I go ahead and create a family board that will understand what our family goals are and carry those forward beyond any one of our passing? Because here’s the idea, for most of us we think of ourselves as the family board. I’m the father, I’m the mother, I make the decisions for my family or for my wealth and I’m going to carry it on that way. Great! No problem. But when you’re not available anymore who’s living inside that temple that is yours? No one. You’re not there. So how do we get that figured out? Well everybody starts trying to guess what you would have done but you’re not really there and they’re just now starting from a dead stop. How about this? Create a board that’s five people. All of your children, yourself or maybe an outsider even. And you work through these important decisions together and they see how you think and they see where you would make this decision versus that decision and they learn and they influence and change your mind as well. Ultimately as a group you become your own mind and that group has its own way of thinking and when one person passes, the rest of them still continue. Thus, when they refill that spot with another human being that group mind is strengthened that much more and continues and you maintain that continuity of thought and influence and ideals for generation after generation after generation. If you’ve got an asset that has the potential to last beyond a single generation, I desperately encourage a family board. If you’ve got a family that you would like to have a common connection even if it’s not just around money that we want to continue beyond the current generation, look at the family board. If you’re going to do it though, here’s the key; have specific times and treat it as business. In fact, I encourage you to make a small payment to each of the members the board. This is your board service fee and we have meetings and their scheduled. The other advantage is when we get to those nonfamily board meetings in settings like Thanksgiving dinner and someone raises a question which is a business kind of question, what happens and what’s that. Guess what? You say that is so important we will talk about the next board meeting. When is that set? Let’s get that scheduled and we’ll talk about it then. Put it on the agenda and treat it like a business and I think you’ll find it gives freedom to the family time because the business time is taken care of in a setting that is predictable and segmented away from Thanksgiving dinner. This is Got Family and I am Carey Berger.