Family businesses are unique in that family dynamics are at play. Same goes for family business meetings – by their nature, they do not run the same as non-family business meetings, but with the right tools from a business coach, they can run far better than expected!

When you run a family business, family meetings are a critical part of the business’ success. After all, it’s important to have everybody on the same page. Misalignment in goals and intentions leads to disharmony and the glue that binds the business together starts to deteriorate, which is the opposite of what the owners are shooting for. Successful family meetings can solve that.

Family meetings serve a number of purposes, with unification being one of them. They are also essential for exploring, teaching, sharing values, conveying expectations, and of course, resolving family conflicts. Like any means to an end, they can be productive or they can be counterproductive, even destructive, but when properly ran, they can be magic.

Families Have a ‘Different Language’

It’s no secret that family meetings can involve a lot of finger pointing, and even shouting matches. That’s because families have their own language. There are certain words that can elicit strong emotional reactions from family members that an outsider couldn’t begin to comprehend. Therefore, before conducting a family meeting, the organizer should aim to help the family members become and continue to be comfortable with each other throughout the meeting.

Family members have a lot of history with each other. Maybe Dad is angry with his eldest son for dropping out of Wharton. Or, perhaps one daughter feels like she’s played second fiddle because her parents like her younger sister better. Each family has “something” and raw emotions can be triggered during family meetings. As such, to successfully conduct a family meeting, one must carefully and skillfully cultivate their interpersonal skills.

If emotions do end up being expressed, the meeting organizer must understand that an explosive emotional release isn’t the best strategy for dealing with conflict. While emotions do need to be expressed, the facilitator must have the patience and skill to assist the individual in clearly expressing his or her emotions while getting everyone else to listen.

To ensure a successful family meeting, stick to the following guidelines:

  • Do not hold a family meeting until you know the outcome. Of course, you can’t entirely predict the future, but you can have some control over the outcome of the meeting. Our advice is to meet with each of the individuals alone prior to the meeting so you know their conflicts, underlying emotions, key issues and agendas beforethe meeting.
  • When you hold the meeting, be clear about your purpose. If you’re not sure what that is, think about what you want to accomplish before scheduling the meeting. Ask yourself, “If I could be very happy about the outcome of the meeting, what would have to happen for me to feel that way?”
  • Family meetings are traditionally a part of an ongoing process; they don’t usually accomplish all of one’s goals. At your first family meeting, set small, attainable goals, and after those are attained, schedule a follow-up meeting.
  • Schedule all of your family meetings for a fixed period of time. Create an agenda and stick to it. Also, hold meetings in a comfortable, neutral location that is away from the office and family demands.
  • Always have someone take notes.
  • Understand that not everyone has to be unanimous to pursue a single course of action. Meaning, not everyone has to see things the same way for the best course of action to be agreed upon. It is a family business, not a jury.
  • For the meeting to be productive and valuable, the attendees must have trust and positive intentions. One way to establish trust is to have the first meeting about giving everyone the opportunity to have a voice and be heard.

This advice may seem simple and straightforward, but don’t underestimate its power. Structure brings incredible value to family businesses, which our coaches have witnessed time and again with successful family enterprises. While this structure originates from the meeting’s organizer, it takes discipline to adhere to the guidelines. But with the help of a coach, it can be made a lot easier. To learn how AdviCoach can help your family business reach its full potential, contact us today!