Articles and

Working Papers

As a service to business families and their advisors, I want to share some of the writing I have done. Most articles focus on key ideas and offer practical tools that can help you make a difference in whatever role you have in relation to a family and its various enterprises. I welcome your feedback and comments.

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Family Meetings

Talking it Through

A guide to conducting effective multi-generational family meetings about business and wealth.

A Handbook For Conducting Effective Multigenerational Family Meetings About Business and Wealth

This Handbook offers more detail and concrete suggestions for setting up and conducting family meetings about money, wealth, and family business.

Family Conflict: Keep Out of the Ring

Family conflict can spiral out of control and before you know it there are legal advisors involved benefiting neither family nor business. Dennis Jaffe explains the alternative ways of resolving conflict before it reaches to the boxing ring stage.

Family Meetings That Work

Family meetings that work: Conducting Successful Discussions About Money and Other Sensitive Subjects.

Family Code of Conduct: Getting Everyone Together to Listen, Learn and Grow

A family is a delicate edifice, with a natural tendency to fragment, split and move in different directions over generations. New people enter as spouses and children, with their own interests, preferences and life styles. But when a family shares ownership and oversight, and dependence, on shared investments, they challenge this tide.

    Governance and Succession

    The Journey Towards Governance for a Family Enterprise: Aligning Multiple Values and Priorities to Develop Family Capital

    In addition to legal, financial and business advice, advisors are increasingly asked to help the family create policies about personal relationships, conflict and differences in an increasing pool of relatives, aligning goals and values, learning to work together as a cross-generational family team, and making fair and effective decisions that serve the long-term interests of the family.

    Succeeding Against All Odds: Lessons Learned from 100-Year Business Families

    Very few family businesses survive across generations to become 100-year family enterprises. I’m involved in an ongoing research project that’s gathering the collective wisdom of inter-generational families who’ve sustained shared family values and identity, along with partnership over successful business and financial ventures over three or more generations.

    We the People, to Form a More Perfect Union

    Who needs a family constitution? The future harmony of your family and continuity of your business may well depend on going to the trouble of writing one.

    Six Dimensions of Wealth: Leaving the Fullest Value of Your Wealth to Your Heirs

    This article explores six forms of wealth that families can pass on to their heirs: spiritual, financial, human, family, structural and societal capital. It defines the practices that add value to each dimension and how financial planners can help family members add to their pool of family capital.

    From Child to Citizen of the Family Enterprise: The Five Act Family Drama of Next Generation Development

    After achieving success creating a valuable family business, the wealth creating generation of a family often turns its attention to the next generation. They don’t want their assets spent excessively or frivolously by their children. Rather, they want their children to become responsible young adults who are ready, willing and able to take control of the family’s assets.

    United We Stand - Transition to Third Generation in Family Business

    The grandchildren of entrepreneurs must pull together to overcome the governance and succession issues that cause nearly ninety percent of family businesses to fail by the third generation.

    Guiding Governance: Clarifying the Practice of Family Enterprise Governance

    A wealthy family cannot function truly as a democracy since certain family members may need to be responsible for some decisions as owners, fiduciaries or elders. Yet there are serious long-term risks in one person holding all the reins of power. Finding the best middle-ground for decision making in the family requires setting up healthy mechanisms to balance the twin goals of inclusiveness and leadership.

    Succession Begins on the First Day of Work

    By using the ‘four phases of succession’ a family business owner can pinpoint precisely where the business is and then smoothen the transition to the next generation. But the key is to take painstaking care during the early phases.

      Cross Cultural Families

      Family Wealth Report Interview: How Global Families Negotiate Change Across Generations

      An interview by family office consultant Joe Reilly, with Jim Grubman and Dennis Jaffe, authors of Cross Cultures: How Global Families Negotiate Change Across Generations, about their explorations of different wealth cultures and why Western ways of thinking will often not work with newer global wealth.

      From Traditional to Blended Culture: How Family Enterprises Manage Transitions Across Generations

      Every business family has a unique character. Yet, each family business springs forth from a cultural tradition that expresses the values, thinking, and behaviours of its homeland.

        Next Generation

        Secrets of Responsible Parenting

        Each family has made the best possible financial preparations for the future, setting up trusts that will make all family members very wealthy for at least two generations. But in each case the financial preparations were not matched by any systematic attempts to prepare the next generation for the presence of so much wealth. The parents want their children’s lives to be enriched by their inheritances, but they also want their children to make their own livings and not become dependent on or impaired by the family wealth.

        Preparing Your Rising Generation to Sustain Family Wealth

        After a family business has been successful and the family has accumulated wealth, what happens next? The answer has less to do with the business climate and more to do with the preparation and commitment of the young family members who must take their places as leaders and overseers of the family’s wealth.

        Unleashing the Potential of the Millennial Generation in the Family Enterprise

        With their ear buds and smart phones, young millennials are omnipresent; constantly in touch with the world and each other, sharing information and experiences, and adopting new technology at a fast pace. Also known as members of the elusive Generation Y, they think with the hearts, overflow with ideas, are ready to change and innovate, want to get things done and overcome the deficiencies of the past generation.

        Introducing the Next Generation Family Champion

        Timo Recker is a 29-year-old third generation family member of a successful German meat production company. While the business is successful and growing, he knows that meat production is costly to the food chain, and, more people can be fed if they eat fewer meat products. He wanted to do something that leveraged the skills within his family, which also help create a sustainable future.

          Wealth and Identity

          The Five Challenges for Wealth Inheritors to Develop a Positive Wealth Identity

          Inheriting wealth is supposed to be a wonderful and stress-free life opportunity. However, as financial professionals, we experience many short-sighted or self-defeating ways that our clients who have or expect to inherit substantial wealth respond to their fortunes.

          The Money Identity and Preferences Inventory: A Tool for Assessing a Client’s Relationship to Wealth

          Stephen Goldbart, Dennis Jaffe and Joan DiFuria introduce the Money Identity and Preferences Inventory and explain how this tool can assist your clients who have inherited or expect to inherit significant resources in understanding how money may be affecting their lives.

          From Entitlement to Stewardship: How a Prosperous Family Can Prepare the Next Generation

          Each generation wants the next one to develop a healthy relationship to money, where it can be appreciated but not depended upon for self-worth. While parents want to develop responsible and caring children, the actions they take to make that happen may be irrelevant or actually produce the opposite result.

          Riding the Shirtsleeves: Deconstructing a Foundational Family Business Myth

          “Shirtsleeves” refers to a very real danger. But by starting with scare tactics, what sort of responses do we trigger in family leaders? The myth proposes that family fortunes dissipate over generations, further suggesting that the failure lies with the heirs.

          Acquirers and Inheritors Dilemma: Discovering Life Purpose in the Presence of Wealth

          This article looks at the experience of the very wealthy family, particularly its members’ growth and development in relating to their wealth and its role in their lives.

            Advising Families

            Best Practices for Multigenerational Family Enterprise

            This inventory offers your family a “snapshot” to discover how much you engage in practices identified as important to sustaining your family across generations, and using your family wealth to make a difference in people’s lives.

            Client Relationships and Family Dynamics: Competencies and Services Necessary for Truly Integrated Wealth Management

            One of the most critical decisions a family can make is whom to entrust with the financial resources needed for current and future generations. This choice is not entirely a rational financial decision. It is also about who can best take care of the family in a personal sense.

            Core Techniques for Effective Client Interviewing and Communication

            Effective communication between client and advisor is fundamental to the financial advising process. Good communication skills are assumed to be employed by advisors, but in practice these skills have seldom been defined explicitly and are often absent in advisors’ repertoire of client relationship techniques.

            Are Your Clients the Huxtables or the Sopranos?: Assessing Family Complexity in Wealth Management

            Accurate upfront assessment of client families can influence many important factors: allocation of resources, choice of relationship manager to assign, likely profitability, stresses on your advisors and administrative staff, and the impact on other accounts due to time spent on high-maintenance clients.

            From Family Therapist to Family Business Consultant

            There are some important insights for a therapist from my adventures in family business. I think family business consulting represents one example of how therapists might react to changes and frustrations in their own practices by moving into a wider world, and finding new arenas to apply their learning.

              Family Business

              Culture Clash - Managing Cultural Difference in Global Business Families

              Most successful business families operate in more than one cultural environment. Modern companies may have headquarters in London, factories in China, warehouses in Brazil, and markets on four continents. Family owners may have multiple residences and educate their children in far-away schools.

              Dutiful Sons: How to Succeed as Heir to a Great Entrepreneur

              The challenges facing a second generation business heir seem to lie in several areas—coming to terms with dad, gaining real competence in a world that tends to defer to you, developing legitimacy in your own right, and developing a sense of stewardship over the family’s assets. The second generation heir is a leader, but not of the entrepreneurial sort that most founders are. Heirs come from a different world—they did not have to make it on their own, and they have to navigate an internal family and business world that is already populated with a diverse and colorful cast. They fail if they don’t develop skills, sensitivity and identity to balance the existing demands with their own contribution.

              Paternalism or Fraternalism?

              All parents want to protect their children, sometimes from themselves. Even parents who trust their children may still worry that they need to protect them from unscrupulous operators outside (or even inside) the family. And many parents fear that if they give their children free rein with their gifts, each child will go his or her own way, losing any sense of togetherness or family legacy.

              Personal Resilience As a Response to Trauma: Recovery or Transformation?

              In the 80’s I published two studies, which introduced themes that had similar conclusions. In the first, I looked at the literature on trauma— abuse, war, serious illness, job loss, loss and other deep tragedies and noted that a small group of survivors used the trauma as an opportunity to derive important life lessons, leading to a new focus and even development of new positive skills that led them in new directions in their lives.

              Strategic Philanthropy: Changing the World

              Philanthropy is changing, and for the better. With billionaires setting a new standard in how their wealth can positively impact other, the world is set to become a better place. Sam Davis III and Dennis Jaffe discuss the thinking behind strategic philanthropy.

              Teaching Family Business in Dubai

              I have just finished teaching a course in family business in Dubai, a business oasis of 3 million people, a city-state with daringly designed high rises and bustling commerce on the Arabian Gulf. For four days, this open and eager group of 75 mostly middle-eastern young men and women, an even balance gender wise, engaged in vigorous exchange. Each of them wrote a personal account of their family businesses, and their stories gave me a window into the challenges of a poor and tradition-bound culture struggling forward to enter a global, technical commercial world. In a single generation the world of the Middle East has been transformed, even as it grapples with unrest and violence.

              Augmenting the Family Talent Pool Becoming an Enterprising Family

              A family business can grow much faster than the family talent pool of executives needed to lead it. At some point in time, a family must begin to recruit talent outside the family. But working for a family business can present special challenges for non-family executives, and for the family. Not all families are clear about the benefits they can derive from engaging non-family executives, and not all executives are interested in working in family businesses.

              The Anatomy of Trust

              Trust is a name for the glue that makes people want to invest in a relationship. We feel a shared purpose and are willing to depend on each other. If the other participant of the relationship is an organization, we feel ready to do what the organization needs, and do it willingly. We are willing not just to offer our presence but also to share our inner thoughts about how the relationship or group is working.

              The Burdens of Wealth

              A family may fear that their children will use up their inheritance. The best insurance that the money is used wisely is to take steps to make sure that each heir develops passion, values and responsibility so they can lead a fulfilled adulthood and continue the wealth into future generations.

              Lessons from 19th Century Wealth Creators

              The US is facing a generational crossroads as trillions of dollars in new wealth generated at the end of the century is being passed down to the next generation. The elders who have created this wealth are beginning to confront the question of legacy: what will be the impact of all this wealth on society, and on their families?

              Sibling Rivalry and the Quest for an Easy Transition to Leadership

              Passing the baton of leadership to the next generation is often fraught with problems. Dennis Jaffe outlines the hurdles faced by two sets of siblings and describes how they achieved harmony in their relationships, as well as ensuring success for their businesses.

              Resolving Family Feuds

              One of the deadliest natural disasters that can befall a family business is a family feud. Tied together by blood and business, siblings or parents and children can find their connection boiling over into destructive conflict. While family conflict is healthy and inevitable, when it becomes a feud, the degree of hurt and anger makes resolution very difficult.

              The Disruptive In-Law

              Many a family feud is born following the arrival of a spouse into the family fold. It doesn’t have to be this way, says Dennis Jaffe. An in-law can bring with them a fresh perspective and a new set of skills that could boost the balance sheet.

              The Decider: Exploring Effective Group Action

              Looking at the gridlock in Congress, and the failing leadership of our president, I have been reflecting on the relationship between decisions and results. Is it hard to think about the wisdom of the hive when we see Congress’ ineffectiveness. Their group process also has aspects of dysfunction groupthink, indiscriminate blaming and avoiding of responsibility. It is a case study of what not to do, but a model that we are saddled with. It leads me to recall my experience of other groups where people talk endlessly, but find it hard to actually get something done. Saying something in a group seems to be therapeutic, and people have a sense that if they say something moral or right, then they have acted, and they relax. That is what Congress seems like this week.

              Responding to Client Confidences

              As an advisor you have worked hard to develop your client’s trust. As a result of this growing trust, your client will share something troubling and personal about his or her family relationships. You will hear something like: “We don’t talk to our daughter and her husband.” “My son is not capable of running the business.” “My son/daughter has let me down.” “I don’t trust my youngest daughter to manage her money.” “I don’t feel comfortable with her fiancé.” “I can’t tell him that his performance at work is not up to standards.” You sense many uncomfortable feelings behind the statement. The implicit question is “What should I do about this?” and the answer feels like it is a bit beyond your expertise and comfort level.

              The Five Generational Transformations of Successful Family Enterprise

              Only a small number of family fortunes survive more than a single generation. I have interviewed more than 70 global families who have thrived over three or more generations. These businesses have experienced significant transitions over generations. None of these business families are what they were in the first generation. From one family they are now group of related families; more than half have sold or diversified beyond their legacy business.

              Family Business as a Model for Sustainability and Social Responsibility

              Our study has interviewed family owners of nearly 50 large family enterprises, many of them lasting more than a century so far, who have passed their values and legacy across several generations. They have seen a shift in the past two generations from paternalistic leaders, who ran the business for the family members, to greater engagement and participation by increasing numbers of family owners who are creating an active community of family owners who use the family wealth and enterprise to express shared values and fulfill obligations to current and future generations and communities. They have moved from paternalistic management to a more democratic, engaged and participatory form.

                Leadership and Organizational Change

                After the Term Sheet: How Venture Boards Affect the Success and Failure of Technology Companies

                This white paper discusses the proper corporate governance role a Board should play in a start-up venture capital-backed organization. It is a best practices document designed to facilitate trust between CEOs and venture Board Members while keeping clear the unique and valuable role each plays in the life of a start-up. Venture capitalists’ (“VCs”) wide experiences, social network, mentoring and other resources are of at least as much value as their capital in nurturing new ventures.We believe that the quality of the interpersonal relationships between VCs, other Board Members and upper management is the key to enterprise success.

                Letting Go & Moving On

                Family leaders can hamper pro g ress and deter successors from taking over the ru n n i n g of the company. Dennis Jaffe summarises why it is important to keep a good work-life balance and the need for leaders to be aware of when the time is right to transfer power.

                Opinion, Decision and Experience: The Lost Connection

                Visiting Vietnam was a disquieting experience on many levels. It has been part of my emotional vocabulary since my college years, the center of so many arguments and social issues. I knew what we should be doing there, and what we should not, as there were always others who had deep emotional commitments to the opposite viewpoint. But until I went there those ideas were just that, concepts, not at all rooted in experience; something to think about but not something with concrete reality.

                Leaders as Gatekeepers and Boundary Spanners

                The nature of leadership competencies is evolving because the context and challenges facing leaders in organizations today are shifting, as are the demands and speed of necessary change.

                Knowledge Before Power – Handing Over the Firm

                When handing over a business to the next generation it is difficult to know exactly what to teach your successor and what information to leave behind. Dennis Jaffe explains how the knowledge you have accumulated over the years is the most valuable thing of all.

                It's Good to Talk

                While the business leader should be alert to threats arising in the external business landscape, more often the decline of a family business takes root from within. In my work with business leaders I have found that their confidence, success and power to govern the family and its resources can lead to some bad habits in communication that can actually set this decline in motion.

                Getting Over Happiness: A Contrarian’s Meditation

                An emerging field of research informs us about relative “levels” of happiness reported in various countries. I learned that Finns are the happiest people in the world, except perhaps for the citizens of Bhutan, who regularly report their Gross National Happiness Index. I assume that the residents of tropical paradises are also happy. But I really have no idea whether or not I am happy. I am not often sad and depressed, but other than that, the idea of increasing my level of happiness has no reality for me. My response to a happiness poll is to click on “Don’t Know”.

                Framing the Conversation: The Power of Initiative

                In organizations and even families, as attempts are made to resolve issues, too often the interaction hardens rather than eases the process. In conversations I see, the first step is often for people to look into themselves and define what they want, assuming that inner reflection will lead to an authenticity and willingness to learn and question. But the focus on inner experience first initially adds more volume to their moral or political beliefs, making them less open to hearing the other.

                Business is Personal: Family Business Offers an Alternative

                At the most recent summit of the Family Business Network, groups of young people and business‐attired elders swarmed the lobby of the Singapore Ritz Carlton, in one of the most inspiring and unique gatherings I have ever experienced. In total, some 700 family business owners from more than 40 countries, and a range of sectors from manufacturing to clean tech, attended – some representing centuries‐old firms.

                Building a Culture of Innovation: Report from the Field

                The Global Forum on the Culture of Innovation, sponsored by the Aspen Institute and the Urban Land Institute, transformed a ballroom in San Diego into a nexus of ideas, exchange and of course thoughtful networking. I was delighted to be invited and came with no preconceptions, and that was probably the best way to prepare.

                Leadership Development: Learning to Take Charge

                There comes a time in a family business when control has to be passed down to the next generation. But how do you prepare them to lead? Fran Lotery and Dennis Jaffe explore how families can help their offspring in this regard.

                Creating Spirit in the Workplace

                I have worked for more than 30 years to help workplaces become more human, and to utilize not just the bodies, but the minds and yes, even the hearts, of their employees. While many people feel instinctively that it is “right” for workplaces to respect their employees, there is dispute about whether there are business reasons to do this, and how one should go about building these bonds in an organization that does so less than it could. In this article I will outline the major areas where there seems to be justification for practices that increase the “spirit” of the workplace.

                Creating Effective Management Teams

                Many business sages proclaim that there is only room for one person at the top. Yet, many family businesses have experimented with various forms of team leadership, sometimes with impressive results: in the US, the husband-wife co-CEOs Herbert and Marion Sandler successfully run World Savings; brothers and co-CEOs Tim and Richard Smucker have helped The JM Smucker Company reach the century mark; and the department store Nordstrom is presently being led by three brothers and a brother-in-law.

                Emotional Self‐Awareness and Empowerment: A CEO as a Spiritual Guide

                With the fading of other types of hero, today we look to the CEO as a guide not just in business, but also in other areas of life. Why should we do this? While there are many varieties of corporate leader, their ability to mobilize a group of people with a sense of meaning and purpose, to harness and align human energy, and their ability to make a concrete difference in an important area of life, gives them credibility to speak to us.

                Test Designing the Organizations that Work

                We entered an organizational design process that involved trial and error, testing and questioning assumptions, trying new things, and willingness to admit that we were not getting the results that we wanted or expected. This was an organizational learning cycle, and was necessary because as an organization, we had a clear mission, but not a clear idea of how to go from knowing to doing.

                You Can Only Steer a Ship With a Dashboard

                Any organization is a large group of individuals, organized to achieve a task. There are many moving pieces, and many ways to see the essential task. The real challenge is how each individual can know where to put their time and energy to create the optimal synergy to achieve the organization’s results?

                  Values

                  How to Link Personal Values with Team Values

                  Around tables in a large meeting room, the 200 top worldwide managers of the largest division of Levi Strauss were selecting their key personal values from a deck of 50 “values cards.” Each person arranged the cards according to his or her most important and least important values, and then placed his or her name card on the piles. Next, the whole group walked around the room looking at each array. People were amazed at the diversity of the values and at the range of values people selected as most important. They could begin to understand how the values lay behind each manager’s workstyle. Each table of participants then had a rich discussion on how their values led them to act the way they did at work.

                  Values: The Organization's Cultural Bedrock

                  Organizations appear to have two kinds of values—hard values about profitability and business success, and softer values about people and relationships. And when push comes to shove, the conventional wisdom is that the soft values are sacrificed to the harder ones.

                  Can the Values-First Company Survive?

                  Business today is no respecter of the past. Family companies have to renew values that are energizing and revise those that prevent them from competing.

                  Building Value on Values

                  It’s all very well jotting down a few vague words as a values statement, but the ultimate challenge is to make them real. Dennis Jaffe offers some helpful tips for business families who want their business to grow from a realistic, rather than an idealistic, set of core values.

                  The Values Wheel: Identifying, Aligning and Enacting Personal Values

                  One of the major distinguishing qualities of human beings is our ability to move beyond basic needs and organize our lives and communities around a complex set of higher principles which we call Values. But values are difficult to define and even more challenging to implement in our lives. How do we identify and organize our values and link our personal values with those of others to create successful shared enterprises?