The Virtual World Of Family Businesses

Family meetings have traditionally been low-tech/high-touch environments where family members would come together in conference rooms or inspiring spaces and where devices were encouraged to be checked at the door. Covid-19 has, at least temporarily, changed all that.

Video conferencing has reshaped the way people connect for some time. There are countless communities and social networks that have been interacting with one another virtually for years now, and many more have joined them through the current crisis.

Whether it be for reasons of self-isolation or during “normal” times, when it’s not possible or feasible to travel to be together across the country or across town, physical distance no longer needs to forsake social togetherness.  Business owning families have a need for open, honest and timely communication. This is true in good times and even more important during times of crisis, where there is uncertainty about the way forward.

There are many ways to use virtual meetings that go beyond a check-in and update meeting. Here are a few applications and ideas that have been particularly successful.

OWNERSHIP ALIGNMENT AND OWNERSHIP TRANSITION MEETINGS

Ownership alignment and collective clarity on goals with respect to growth, risk, profit and liquidity is extremely important to stakeholder decision-making. Facilitating many virtual meetings focused on creating ownership alignment have seen sibling and cousin teams find common ground and agreement where they would have not thought possible before the crisis.

Biweekly virtual meetings can be particularly effective for this purpose. This cadence and frequency can provide the right blend of focus and forward momentum.

CONFLICT RESOLUTION

Where there are serious divisions between family members and family businesses, crisis management has created motivation to resolve conflict in order to create united leadership and greater unity among family branches. If there is need to resolve conflict virtually, it is strongly recommended that virtual meetings be professionally facilitated. An experienced facilitator can create safety for participants and make certain all voices are equally heard – an essential element for all virtual meetings, and particularly important when the meeting is established to resolve differences.

ONGOING EDUCATION & COACHING

Virtual meetings are also an excellent way to facilitate ongoing education to sharpen leadership skills and prepare the rising generation for new roles and increased responsibility. For example, learning to read financial statements so new owners can understand and contribute to decision-making about shifts in strategies like going from a growth strategy to a cash flow preservations strategy – and possibly lowering or suspending dividends.

In conclusion, virtual meetings do not have to be perfect to be effective. The platforms are quite user friendly, nonetheless, there is a bit of a learning curve to make them work well. The key thing to remember is that communication is critical to family businesses and during this pandemic being proactive in communicating while we are dealing with physical isolation is more important than ever.

( All Statistical information presented in this blog has been obtained from an extract of an article from the Family Business Consulting Group based in Chicago) Follow us on our Facebook page and Family Business Office website at www.familybusiness.org.mt

At the Family Business Office we can offer you assistance in dealing with family business succession planning issues through incentives supporting advisory and mediation services. Contact us today on [email protected].