Ask A FEA – Susan Brown on Silver Linings

Published: Jun 2, 2020

Susan Brown, CLU®, FEA, RRC®, CFP®, CIM®
Investment Advisor, HollisWealth®

Addressing the COVID-19 pandemic: How do you help your family clients to see the “silver linings” and celebrate accomplishments in times of crisis? What are you doing, providing and sharing with your clients to help them get back to work/open their business?

SUSAN: The crisis associated with COVID-19 is naturally filled with emotions and uncertainties. The best advice we can give our families during this crisis should be to stay positive and to continue looking to the future. The first step is to take a deep breath and look at the big picture. In other words, see the entire elephant and not just the foot. We should remind our families of the vision they set, and that true success is in the progress and growth along the way. It may take a bit of thought, but we should assure our families that there have been things to celebrate and personal growth over the past year.

Tools to Keep Business Families Moving Forward

Maintain a Growth Mindset:

We believe that continuing to build a growth mindset is an excellent way to start our meetings during this time. To do this, we help our families celebrate hard work and progress rather than the actual achievement of certain goals. How many of us have achieved our goals with perfection anyway? Focusing on perfection is guaranteed to limit growth and positivity. We, therefore, start our annual planning meetings by asking our families to dig deep and answer the following questions:

  • Thinking back to all the things you have done as a family over the past year, what gives you the most pride?
  • Looking back over this past year and the challenges you have faced, what has been your family’s biggest strength?
  • Name one thing you have learned over this past year that you can build on to get closer to where you want to be to your three-year vision?

Maintain Family Connections:

It is understandable that business viability and planning are both very important right now. However, this can leave less time at home with your own family and can even isolate some family members, leaving them uncertain of what this means for the family. We know that family enterprises are stronger when the families communicate well and work toward a shared vision and values. It is also important to keep in mind what your individual family wants and needs from the business. What are we doing this all for? If your family falls apart, have you really been successful? We recommend checking in with the family members in your household to ensure everyone’s feelings and uncertainties are acknowledged. We have developed a model for informal meetings for each nuclear business family household to keep the lines of communication open and to encourage teamwork as a family. The focus is different depending on where we are at in the crisis.

Pre-Crisis Stage (ideally at least one year prior to a crisis)

  • Have regular family meetings. These don’t have to be formal family meetings. This can be as simple as talking over Sunday dinner. Pick a different topic each week. You can use the Family Four™ Communication Model as a guide to the different categories from which to choose. Look at who is the main decision maker in each category and see where there is overlap. Ask your family members how they feel about their responsibilities. Delegation and assignment of roles and responsibilities is great; however, open and honest communication is still recommended. You may be surprised at the level of interest and input other family members may contribute using this model!
  • Consider switching up the roles. Try putting a different person in charge of a category. Let the children do the grocery shopping or have your spouse come to work with you in the business one day.
  • Work together on solving problems. If there are decisions to be made or small problems to solve, work together as a family. You can use our Fun Financial Workbook to identify issues in the Family Finances circle. At the end of the workbook, each family can choose a task to complete before next week.

Crisis Stage

  • Continue with family meetings but shift the focus. During this time, it is even more important to keep the conversations going. Having said that, be cognizant of the fact that there are likely a lot of underlying stress and emotions which have not surfaced.
  • Conversations should be light with a focus on letting each family member talk about what went well this week and what didn’t. Ask who needs help. Make an action plan and prioritize weekly. This is a time for solving immediate issues that will get you back on track to your long-term plan. Ask yourself, “What are the top three things I can do this week, to get closer to where we want to be?” Can you delegate to other family members? If you did the work in the pre-crisis stage, you may have identified some of the strengths, skills or interests of your family members that you can use during this time.
  • Manage your time. Ensure that you schedule time for work, planning and fun. Even if you can only afford to have one fun day per week, make sure you take it! This applies to all family members. It can really recharge your batteries and get you setup for the week ahead.

Post-Crisis Stage (up to one year after the crisis)

  • Have regular family meetings. Continue to pick from the Family Four but add to the conversation by highlighting what went well and what didn’t go well throughout the past crisis. Review how this event has impacted each family member or each category of the Family Four.
  • Build on strengths. Use this as an opportunity to recognize the efforts of each family member and possibly new skills obtained through the crisis. Perhaps this means getting more people involved in the business in areas where they can add value.
  • Revisit your values. If you can, it is ideal to agree on a list of guiding values that you will all live by going forward. There is no better time than when going through a crisis to reflect on some key themes that kept everyone going. This can help when the next crisis starts.

Both of these tools are focused on the family part of the family business system. They are specifically designed for each nuclear business family’s planning needs, but they do not replace the need for continuation of the greater family meetings at the enterprise level. We believe that each nuclear family within the system has their own unique needs and desires as a family. If your individual family has their own vision, goals, strengths and values, it can help bring clarity and strength to decisions that need to be made at the greater family enterprise level.

Therefore, these tools need to be used regularly in conjunction with continuity planning within the greater family enterprise system. According to the well known Three Circle Model, the family enterprise system is made up of the three distinct groups: the family, the business and the owners. Decisions made in each group have a ripple effect in all the other groups and cannot be made in isolation.

Disclaimer: This information has been prepared by Susan Brown who is an Investment Advisor for HollisWealth and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of HollisWealth. The information contained in this article comes from sources we believe reliable, but we cannot guarantee its accuracy or reliability. The opinions expressed are based on an analysis and interpretation dating from the date of publication and are subject to change without notice. Furthermore, they do not constitute an offer or solicitation to buy or sell any of the securities mentioned. The information contained herein may not apply to all types of investors. The Investment Advisor can open accounts only in the provinces in which they are registered.

HollisWealth is a division of Industrial Alliance Securities Inc., a member of the Canadian Investor Protection Fund and the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada. Insurance products provided through Hollis Insurance.

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