Here’s a story about parents. It can be told in a dozen different ways. A hundred. More. The ideas are the same, even if the particulars will vary:
You’re in the middle of your career, a third-generation family business owner. The company has been successful so far, having weathered and even thrived through the inevitable ups and downs of the last few decades. You still work with various family members. You have long-time employees who you think of as family. You recognize much of the success and longevity of the business came from the hard work of your parents and grandparents. You believe you are partially or mostly responsible for accelerating the future growth of the company. At least one of your kids has shown some interest in being involved in the business for the long run. You occasionally get offers – mostly unserious, though a few have made you stop and think – but in your heart of hearts, you know you probably won’t ever sell out. You want to see if this company can make it to four generations, or six. You wonder if that’s likely or even possible. You hope so.
That recognition of passing the torch – from previous generations, through you, to future generations – is important to you. You know what you learned from watching your elders, practicing with them, taking on progressively bigger tasks. You want to honor those who have come before you, especially since some of those people still have ownership stakes and still work with you on a daily basis. You have intentionally provided opportunities for your kids to learn, to practice, to take on progressively bigger tasks. A few of them have taken to it. Others haven’t. It was the same with you and your siblings.
There may be some hard feelings with some of your siblings. You are determined that your kids will still like each other when they are much older, will spend time together even if you’re not around. You wonder if that’s likely or even possible. You hope so.
Keep the business in the family. Keep the family together. Other families have been able to do both of those things, surely. It would be nice if there were a formula or a pattern to follow. Maybe a twelve step program for forward-looking parents who happen to be business owners, who want their family to thrive – and not be torn apart – after you are gone.
There isn’t a formula.
There is no one right way, just as there is no one right way to run a business, or spend your money, or plan for retirement, or raise your children.
But throughout history, regardless of culture or time period, there have been those who have successfully maintained their unity as well as keeping the wealth within the family. This is not common; in fact it’s relatively rare. But studying those success stories shows that there are some common factors among the families that get it right over the long run. The four most important characteristics are
- Intention. The most successful multi-generational families are intentional about developing, encouraging, and passing on the values, history, and character of the generations that come before.
- Communication. Human beings have a massive desire to be heard and to be understood. Successful families foster open and effective communication between family members and between generations.
- Trust. In a successful family, all family members must have permission to assert themselves and to feel that they will be safe when doing so. All family members need to feel that what they can contribute will truly make a difference to the greater family.
- Purpose. Successful families have a well-defined common purpose – a forward-looking statement that articulates “this is who we are” and “this is what we do because of who we are”.
In short, the families that are most likely to successfully maintain their family unity and their family wealth are the ones that intentionally create a culture of communication and trust wrapped around a common family purpose.
Heritage planning is the name we use when referring to this intentional passing of values as well as valuables to the next generation. Heritage planning is preparing your heirs in advance to receive their inheritance. It’s critical here to define inheritance as encompassing your family stories, life lessons, community relationships, hopes and dreams. And also: money and assets, business interests, the farm or ranch.
The most successful families understand that imparting valuables without context, without also imparting important core values, has a high likelihood of ultimately causing breakdowns (or outright implosion) in future family generations. But a vibrant family culture of intergenerational communication, high trust, and a common purpose significantly increases the chance that heirs who receive money, assets, business interests, or the family farm or ranch will retain more positive family traits. Traits such as spending time together, having strong emotional ties, and exhibiting a willingness to work through problems.
The characteristics of a successful multigenerational family are not mysterious.
They can be applied in any family, though some families may have to do some significant work to achieve their desired outcomes. Ultimately, only you and your family can decide if it is worth it.
Many people have not thought about the correlation between money and values and inheritance and a shared family purpose and why knowing the family history can be so valuable. Our goal is to help you uncover what gaps your family faces, moving from where you are now to where you want your family be in the future. We want to help you define those gaps in plain English, and for you to see the value in your own life of filling those gaps. For some families, we can work with you to create a completely customized intentional process that is driven by your family towards your desired outcomes. For other families, our goal is to provide resources and encouragement that will empower you and your family to take an active role in bridging your gaps.
Heritage planning works best by interweaving itself with a proactive financial plan and a thoughtful, future-oriented estate plan. This is what BentOak Capital strives to do for you. We want to be a team that advocates for you and for your family, so that you can focus on what matters most.
Please remember to contact BentOak Capital (“BentOak”), in writing, if there are any changes in your personal/financial situation or investment objectives for the purpose of reviewing/evaluating/revising our previous recommendations and/or services, or if you want to impose, add, to modify any reasonable restrictions to our investment advisory services, or if you wish to direct that BentOak to effect any specific transactions for your account. A copy of our current written disclosure Brochure discussing our advisory services and fees continues to remain available upon request or at www.bentoakcapital.com.
This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax advice. We suggest that you discuss your specific tax issues with a qualified tax advisor.
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and may not be invested into directly.
Securities offered through LPL Financial, Member: FINRA/SIPC. Investment advice offered through BentOak Capital, a registered investment advisor and separate entity from LPL Financial.