Blog

Jan 23 2018
Change takes a first step

Change Takes a First Step

By Sally Derstine, Managing Partner, Senior Family Business Advisor

Many of you know why I’ve been glowing the last two months. No, not “with child”. Rather, “with grandchild!” Yes, my husband and I have joined the magical, exhilarating Grandparents’ Club!

Words cannot describe the feeling of watching our own daughter and her husband tenderly cherish and care for their own baby. What comes to mind is when the Grinch’s heart grew until it burst out of his little green body.

Change takes first stepMy transition into my Grammy role has made me even more passionate and committed to guiding business families to intentionally grow family members who are caring, compassionate, competent, and contributing members of society — and perhaps the business — IF that is their calling and choice. 

When I started working with multi-generational families 26 years ago, I naturally most keenly understood the perspectives and heart of the Rising Generation. After all, that was my role and identity at that time. Typical Rising Gen questions include: Who am I becoming? What are my competencies, motivated abilities, personal mission? How will my life partner “fit” & have a voice? Can I work in the business with family? Do I want to work in the business with my sibs, parents, and cousins?

As I continued to walk alongside business families, I moved through my own life stages at home — raising children, navigating the teen years, learning how to let go as children leave home, shifting from parent to a peer relationship.

And now I’m a grandparent on a new journey and understand and can also keenly identify with the Senior or Leading Generation, who ask questions like: How do I best mentor the next generation at this stage? Can our children work in or steward the business together in a way that is healthy for them and the business? Do they have what it takes? Have we done a good job passing on our values and guiding principles?

This last question was addressed beautifully during a Family Council meeting I facilitated a few months ago. A grandmother was sharing with her children and grandchildren how her father founded the business. She and her husband then built on this business and created other businesses which family members and others are now leading. At one point she said, “I wanted to be a missionary but my Dad needed me to work in the business.” At this comment, one of her granddaughters piped up. “Grandma, you ARE a missionary! Look at all the missionaries you support financially as well as the employees, organizations, and people you contribute to!” It was a moving moment which brought three generations of aligned hearts and shared values together. A key reason their businesses are flourishing.

Take the First Step

Whether you are a new parent or grandparent, an emerging leader in a company, or planning for leadership or ownership transitions, it takes faith, planning, and coming together for delicate conversations. Celebrating Martin Luther King’s birthday last week reminded me of his words:

“Faith is taking the first step even though we don’t see the whole staircase.” 

Your family’s journey is different than any other family’s journey. Indeed, each member in your family even has a different staircase from the others.

Due to the complexity of these transitions, most families benefit from the objective guidance and experiences of family business advisors. Contact us if you would like to take your First Step — or Next Step — on your intergenerational journey. Take the time to assure healthy family relationships and business sustainability! We can help along the way.

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