Susan Schoenfeld — CEO of Wealth Legacy Advisors LLC, appeared on The Family Biz Show along with co-guest speaker Jane Bedall.
Susan is a public speaker and thought partner to families of wealth and their advisors, which is why her insights on ‘Facilitated Family Meetings’ were extremely valuable.
Read interesting excerpts of what Susan said below, or watch the video here.
“When I think about facilitated family meetings, I like to break it down into the traditional model of — who, what, when, where, why, and how. It really is a multifaceted conversation. I like to start with the ‘why’.
“Facilitated family meetings are important. It’s often not comfortable to discuss the family’s wealth, particularly if there’s a family business involved. The first generation creates the wealth, the second generation has watched their parents create the wealth but still have a sense of responsibility about it, they want to raise their children without the hardships. The third generation lacks that fire in the belly — they have grown up around too much wealth. That’s why it’s important to talk about wealth. To create, develop, and define what your family’s legacy is.
“The ‘what’ can be the family history, of how the wealth was created. It’s not the legal entities like the wills, trusts, and charitable foundation. Those memorialize the legacy plan but are not the family legacy statement itself.
“The ‘how’ — a professional facilitator eases the conversation across the generations. It keeps everyone out of that sandbox behavior of ‘mom or dad loved you better’. It keeps people more focused on what you are talking about today. I like to start with creating rules for the room like no eye-rolling, or sarcasm, or sly glances. The professional is important to make sure that everyone gets a chance to participate in the conversation, that no one person dominates. The black sheep of the family should get a voice and an opportunity to be heard. Family meetings are all about multi-directional communication.
“The deliverable is usually a family constitution or family by-laws or a mission statement. At the end of the day, the real deliverable is the process itself and the conversation.
“The ‘who’ participates is of course up to the members — typically they will say, children and grandchildren. But what I would like to say that the children’s spouses must be included because they are a part of the vision and mission of your family.
“The ‘when’. When do you do these meetings? It’s never too early and it’s never too late. When your kids are little you need to model your behavior because they are watching, you need to create age-appropriate teachable moments. At the end of the day some families like to meet quarterly, some prefer annually. The family who thinks they have won and done is really missing an opportunity to have a meaningful event the family can look forward to.”