Most of us have heard the saying ‘it takes a village to raise a child’. This is apparently (if you believe Wiki) based on an African proverb whereby an entire community must interact with children for those children to experience and grow in a safe and healthy environment.
This certainly applies in the family office world.
Let’s start by looking at what constitutes a village? It is a community; such a community would include:
- Leaders and workers
- The young and the old
- Teachers and students
- Farmers, trades people, professionals, soldiers, and priests
- Individuals, couples, small and large family groups
- Friends and not so much
- Visitors and travellers
- People who plan to stay and some who can’t wait to leave
- Those in need of care and those who provide it
- People of faith and those without
- The good, the bad and the reformed
- Small houses and castles, a prison and even a wall or a moat
In simple terms people at all stages and from all walks of life.
So how does this apply to a family office and family continuity I hear you ask.
A multi-generation family may include
- A patriarch and matriarch
- Siblings (and rivalries)
- Husband and wives (and exes of both)
- Blended families, steps, and halves
- Members of each generation spanning diverse age groups
- Alpha personalities, those a little less concerned, the odd black sheep and a rebel or two
This is a diverse group of people all with their own belief’s, opinions and backgrounds. All with their own ambitions wants and needs. Effectively its own community.
Generational transition is not just about the wealth flowing (or not) through a will. It is the transfer of values, heritage, knowledge, beliefs, and yes, wealth, across multiple generations.
It is not a single event, it should be considered a long-term project that can span, years, decades or even generations.
It is also not the responsibility of a single person, whether they be a family member or trusted advisor. It will involve family members, accountants, bankers, lawyers, wealth managers and may even include counsellors, psychologists, mediators, and educators (hopefully no need for the soldiers or the prison).
It is a project that should be developed, planned, managed, and measured against milestones. It should also have feedback and evolve to the needs of the family over time.
This all looks and smells like a community wanting to experience and grow in a safe and healthy environment over time. In essence, a village.
So, what is the point of my missive this time around? To put it simply, when considering generational transition, remember you are part of and have the resources of a village. If you are the one considering the journey, you are likely a leader, as such you also have a responsibility to your village.