Date posted: May 24, 2018

Family Meetings are an integral part of a Family’s Family Governance strategy and communication plan.  Given it is such an important area and one discussed by nearly every family or family business we speak with, why is there such a diversity of views as to whether they are successful or not?  The main questions raised by families about family meetings or family retreats are:

  • Who should attend family meetings and retreats?
  • How can we make sure everyone is heard?
  • Are spouses and children invited?
  • How to make family meetings and retreats effective and ensure engagement from all family members?
  • How often should we have them?
  • Where should we have them?
  • Who pays for family members to attend?
  • Should we have an independent facilitator?

EWM Group facilitated a webinar for Family Business Australia earlier this month titled “Family Meetings and Retreats – The Best and the Worst”.  We have outlined below the “top tips” that can help ensure your family meetings are successful and effective:

  1. Family Meetings/Retreats are one part of an overall Family Governance plan

    Ensure that your family have considered, implemented and have a process to review and update your family governance plan.  Such a plan should include your estate planning documents (Wills, Powers of Attorney, Letters of wishes etc) but also include a Family Constitution / Family Charter and its contents including family purpose, family education, roles and responsibilities of family members, voting processes, defining family, family councils, advisors and conflict resolution strategy to name just a few.

  2. Invite family members to contribute to the agenda and allow different family members to lead / facilitate discussions

    In advance of the meeting(s) an agenda should be sent out to all family members for feedback as well as seeking suggestions for other items or specific points that should be raised.

  3. Don’t try and do too much in one meeting
  4. Ensure there is a clear communication strategy to include all stakeholders

    We often see families undertake specific and separate meetings in order to engage the broader family group, including spouses, children, different generations, cousins and siblings.

  5. Ensure family meetings / retreats are held consistently

    The frequency of meetings and their level of formality will vary from family to family.  It will also vary whether it is a sibling meeting, cousins meeting, next gen meeting or family retreat. This may range from monthly, bi-monthly, to quarterly, six monthly or annually. However, it is important to ensure that all family members commit to the agreed plan and frequency of such meetings.  If change is required, then the family should discuss and agree on the change, then commit to the revised strategy.

  6. Appoint a chairperson for each meeting

    The Chairperson for each meeting is charged with ensuring the meeting flows, sticks to point, time and topic.  The Chairperson can also step in manage emotive and other discussions that can often lead to the meeting heading in a different direction.  The use of an independent facilitator can be helpful in these cases along with a clear and agreed code of conduct for meetings.

By Brad Scott,
Founder, EWM Group and The Institute for Family Wealth
FBA National Gold Sponsor 

About Brad Scott and EWM Group
EWM Group is the National Gold Sponsor of Family Business Australia and partner to its family business and adviser members in the areas of Family Office, Philanthropy, Wealth Management, Family Governance, Coaching and Education.

EWM Group specialises in working with successful individuals, families and family businesses in protecting their wealth and their families for the benefit of current and future generations.  This includes Family Office advice, Investment Governance, Strategy and Policy, Wealth Protection, Preparing the Next generation for the future roles and responsibilities, Philanthropy, Risk management, Specialist Asset Management and a range of administration, compliance and back of house services.

Brad Scott in an international speaker, founder of EWM Group and the Institute for Family Wealth.  Brad works with family’s and family businesses internationally as an independent adviser and consultant and helping families navigate these often emotive topics.