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Conference Notes: Taking the NxG to the Next Level

The FBC recently partnered with the Family Business Network-North America on its first conference of 2014: Taking the NxG to the Next Level: Key Strategies for Next- and NowGen. Over the course of two days, attendees delved deep into the challenges that arise between Next and NowGen family members. Keynote speakers and FBC members shared stories and gave participants a range of key strategies to take back home to their family business.

Opening Keynote: Leveraging Family Values

FBC Member Mike McKee (G3), President and CEO of McKee Foods Corp. discussed how family members from the founding generation held true to their values and how those values continue to permeate the family and business.

  • When creating family values, avoid choosing values that sound good. Instead, choose values that are real. Real values are ones you can leverage.
  • Promote a culture of shared interests within your family business rather than a culture of self-interests. Shared interests bring employees, shareholders and management together and help build a strong culture.
  • Tap into to the power of oral storytelling. Family businesses are full of stories. Seek them out. Ask family members. Ask employees. Collect these stories and share them – a powerful tool when trying to engage the NxG.

NowGen Breakout Session: Parenting Children of Wealth

Dr. Ed Monte and I partnered up to discuss the myths, facts and assumptions that surround children of wealth (and their parents).

  • Absence of information leads to a distorted sense of reality. Talk to children about wealth. Conversations can begin as early as age 5 and should continue into adulthood.
  • Parents must model good behavior around wealth. Teach children the value of privilege. Teach them to be cooperative, not oppressive. And teach them that self-value doesn’t come from wealth but from who they are: their skills, talents, and behavior.
  • Truth: children of wealth are driven to contribute to the world in extraordinary ways.

NextGen Breakout Session: Fostering Entrepreneurship in the NxG

FBC Members Renee Storie (G4) and Gina Bolger (G4) of Home Run Inn and Persway, talked about the development of their new business idea and what it took to move it from concept to implementation.

  • When presenting new ideas to family members, do your homework. Be thorough and create a detailed plan.
  • Anticipate. Be as prepared as possible to answer all stakeholder questions about shared ownership, timelines, talent allocation, reporting, etc.
  • Prepare to hear criticism. Nothing is perfect as a first draft. Listen to stakeholders and make adjustments as needed.

Bridging the Generation Gap

Scott Zimmer and Hannah Ubl from BridgeWorks Generations gave an in-depth look at the various generations (Traditionalist, Baby Boomer, GenX and Millennial) and how work habits, communication style and personality are all directly linked to cultural and historical landmarks that occur during our formative years. Below are some tips Scott and Hannah shared about engaging each generation.

  • Traditionalists have a tendency to set aside their own needs for the greater good and have a strong desire to leave behind a lasting legacy. Ask them to share stories. Storytelling is a great way to preserve family history and can be used as a powerful tool when engaging later generations
  • Baby Boomers are excellent mentors but sometimes have difficulty delegating. Younger generations should make an effort to reach out to them and help them simplify.
  • GenXers are independent and entrepreneurial, but often approach new ideas with skepticism. When collaborating with GenXers, come prepared and give honest, unfiltered communication.
  • Millennials are looking for a career that matches their personal passions. 75% of them believe they can make a difference in the world. Help them connect the dots: they need to know how they matter, both within the business and within the world.

Generations Speak

Anne Smart (FBC Membership Director) and I divided attendees into two camps, NxG and NowGen, and facilitated a breakout group discussion. Click the link here to see what each group came up with.

Finding Your Place as a Leader

To kick-off day conference day 2, I spoke to participants about leadership. Families need leaders in all aspects of their businesses. How do you engage your NxG so they can find their space in the family business?

  • Help the NxG find their sweet spot: that overlap between their interests, their capabilities and the needs in this world that are bigger than them. How can NxGs connect their sweet spot to the family business?
  • Be careful not to limit the scope of leadership to only the CEO.  Family businesses have lots of different leadership opportunities as owners, managers, board members and family leaders.
  • Feedback is important. Avoid feedback that is sugar coated, fear based or harsh. Instead, provide accurate feedback and remember: tell people what they are doing well, rather than only focusing on mistakes and areas of improvement.

NextGen Breakout Session: Stepping into Leadership

Mike Hamra (G2), President and CEO of Hamra Enterprises, gave a candid account of his journey to CEO and how his relationship with his father transformed over time: from conflict to acceptance.

  • Learn to accept family members for who they are and who they are not.
  • Acceptance sometimes happens over time. With acceptance comes more authentic conversations.
  • Have self-reflection. Where and when do you get in your own way? What are your blindspots? Do these blindspots create misperceptions about other family members?

NowGen Breakout Session: Developing the Next Generation

Margaret-Jean Mannix (G4), Chairwoman at Loram 99, discussed how her family business shapes thoughtful NxG leaders though education and hands-on learning.

  • Experiential learning and group exploration are important tools for NxG engagement in the family business.
  • NxG members whose development process happens together, as a group, form strong bonds and credibility.
  • In order to facilitate effective communication in meetings and between generations, set ground rules that everyone agrees upon and follows.

Closing Keynote: Finding a Healthy Balance

Marc de Kuyper (G11), President of Royal Dutch Distillers, gave attendees a detailed chronology of his career path as a NxG member, including a candid account of his mistakes and personal struggles while attempting to find his place within his family business.  Some advice to NxG family members:

  • Make sure your family knows about your goals and expectations.  Ask for advice on how to achieve these goals. That said, make sure you understand what the family/business expects of you. If you don’t know, ask.
  • Ask family members what they feel you need in order to develop leadership skills. This reveals perceptions you may not have realized existed. Find a mentor within you family and learn from them.
  • Only accept feasible goals. This ensures success. Check to see if all levels of management understand (and hopefully support) your mission/goals. If you ever feel you are limited, let your stakeholders know.

NowGens: What is your family doing to prepare your NextGens for leadership and responsible ownership? Was there anything missing from your preparation that you’re doing now?

NextGens: What is your family doing to help prepare you for leadership and responsible ownership that is working? What NextGen development is missing?

  • By John Neretlis on 6.13.2014 at 10:39 am

    First time attending with this fabulous group. Found the topics and presentations informative and relevant. The members were open and honest and really willing to share their experiences. Strongly recommended, especially for the next gen.

  • By ekuhnkrueger on 6.18.2014 at 9:42 am

    Glad to hear, John. I hope you were able to bring back some key insights to your family that you’ll be able to implement soon.

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