According to the U.S. Bureau of the Census, approximately 90% of American businesses are family-owned or controlled and 60% of all publicly traded companies in the U.S. retain some level of family control.

The family business model is unique because it incorporates three distinct and overlapping elements – the family, the ownership structure, and the business. The relationship is fluid and changes over time.

Based on our extensive work with high net worth families who run successful businesses, we've identified some common themes and issues that all owners, managers, and families face.

The following family owned workshop series address these key issues by using timely case studies, discussion and experiential activities. Each module is designed to provide you with the tools to manage a variety of important family business issues. You can select the entire series or create a customized series of relevant workshop sessions that best meet your specific needs from the following menu. Click individual sessions for descriptions.

Session 1: The Business Of Family-Owned Businesses

Family businesses have some advantages over other business entities because their focus is on the long term, their commitment is to quality (which is often associated with the family name), and there is a measure of care and concern for employees. But family businesses also face a unique set of challenges stemming from the overlap of family, ownership, and business issues. This session explores in detail the unique, interdependent attributes of the family business model including the various stages of ownership, family development, and the business life cycle that affect family relationships and business performance.  Participants you will have the opportunity to use their personal experience and background in discussion activities and the analysis of a family owned business case study.

Session 2: Stewardship: The Role Of Governance In Family Businesses

Governance is largely defined by the fiduciary responsibility of the board to represent the shareholder's interest and performance of management – it is an integral part of good stewardship in any business. Family business is unique in that there are often different needs for the family and shareholders - which require a distinction between business governance and business management. Governance is designed to protect the long-term interests of the family and shareholders by maintaining a healthy, ongoing business as well as welfare and harmony in the family.  This implies an interdependent relationship between the family, shareholders, and board of directors. 

The board of directors, the family council, and the shareholders' assembly are the basic governance structures in the family business model.  Each has a distinct set of rights, responsibilities, and privileges that define their respective roles.  This session will examine the family’s current governance structure and explore the essential considerations around forming, operating, and evaluating the type of structure that best suits the needs of family, business, and shareholder groups.

Session 3: Successful Parenting: Raising Children In The Family Business

All parents at one time or another struggle with how to best teach their children values about money.  Raising children in an age of affluence and instilling responsible behaviors is a challenge for parents across a wide range of incomes.  However, in a successful family business, especially in the second generation and beyond, affluence will likely be associated with high net worth.  Parents raising children in this environment are tasked with two interdependent roles.  First, as stewards for the business a key concern is long term sustainability.  Second, as parents the goal is to raise happy, responsible children and create a strong family unit.  With these two roles come the task of providing the knowledge and tools children need to develop healthy, attitudes and behaviors towards wealth and the perquisites it affords them throughout their lives.  Most important is for parents to develop a consistent, ongoing, comfortable dialogue with their children about the family business and money.

The goal of this session is to provide participants with the knowledge and tools to begin to help their children develop those healthy, responsible attitudes and behaviors around managing money.   In addition, this session will provide parents with some simple, age appropriate ways to share this information with their children.

Session 4: Growing Up In A Successful Family Business

Both formal and informal family activities are a wonderful platform for teaching young people about the business and about the business of wealth management.  The following three sessions provide active learning opportunities for children from high net worth families to explore together the values associated with money and success in the context of the family business.  Children and young adults in the three groups will participate in a series of fun, instructive, and age-appropriate activities and discussions.  This series is especially effective when used in conjunction with the previous session for parents (Session 3).

Even at a young age children have questions about money and status.  Especially as they reach school age they begin to compare themselves and what they have to those around them.  This session will address some of the most common questions that children in this age group have about money, savings, and philanthropy.  A variety of hands-on activities customized specifically for the children are used to facilitate participation, discussion, and learning.

At this age children are becoming more autonomous, exploring who they are, and beginning to frame their role in the family business.  This session will use the fundamentals of entrepreneurship to promote their basic understanding of and skills around money management, business concepts, and financial literacy.  Here they are encouraged to frame their dreams, and current interests into future moneymaking and career options. A variety of methods including customized discussion, experiential activities, and case studies are used throughout the session to enhance their confidence, creativity, self -esteem, and self-reliance.

By the time children become young adults they generally have experienced what it means to be part of a family business.  While this understanding may be unique to each child in a family, the most common question for young adults is, “Am I going to join the business?”  This session provides your children with tools that can help them make this decision. A variety of experiential activities customized specifically for this age group will be used to facilitate open discussion and learning.

Session 5: Assessing And Developing Management Skills For Family Members

Just as a leader has a defined skill set, effective managers also possess a comprehensive set of business skills. Oftentimes family members functioning in management roles in a family business learn “on-the-job” without the benefit of formal management training.  While their experience is invaluable, as a business grows and becomes more successful, managing the day-to-day operation becomes increasingly complex.  This session identifies the basic management competencies that individual in management roles will need to perform at their highest potential.  Session participants will assess their personal skill levels with the intention of identifying the appropriate training or other developmental activities that will help increase effective performance in the business.  Individuals will complete the session with a personalized learning development plan and are encouraged to attend one or more of the additional short courses that have designed around each of the following essential management skills:

  • Goal Setting
  • Strategic Planning
  • Hiring and Managing Talent
  • Delegating
  • Time Management
  • Coaching
  • Crisis Management

Session 6: Continuity And Strategy In Family Owned Business

A successful “Family-Controlled Business” is a joint effort by the owner(s), family members, and the management team to create and implement strategy, structure, and governance that can ensure continuity for the family and the business.  In order for this to occur there must be a clearly communicated vision that results in an explicit plan of action.  This session explores three key activities that should be addressed as part of the planning process: (1) crafting a common vision for the business; (2) creating continuity plans that specify how the family will structure ownership of the enterprise, govern and/or manage it, and distribute the benefits of ownership among family members; and (3) outlining and implementing a strategic plan that builds a clear market and financial position and meets the company’s human and financial resource requirements.  This session provides the setting for a family to begin a guided discussion around planning considerations and some tools that can streamline the planning process and result in more effective outcomes.

Session 7: Succession Planning And Transition

Succession Planning is the single most important activity necessary to ensure the future of a family business.  Yet less than 60 % of all family-owned enterprises have plans in place.  This session raises some of the key issues and implications around succession planning for your family and provides a clear approach to succession management and authority in the family using SDL’s proprietary tool – the Success Print™.

Session 8: Developing Family Talent In The Family-Owned Business

Creating, building, and sustaining a family business is a fundamental American dream.  However, while continuity is a shared value in most family-owned businesses it remains a key challenge. Because only 33% of family businesses make it past the first generation, 15% past the second, and only 3% past the third it is essential that families identify and encourage their children’s interest and participation from an early age.  If it is your intention to keep the business in the family’s hands there are steps you can take to attract future generations.  This session provides a methodology and structure that make this possible for families.

Session 9: Sibling Partnerships: Can They Work In Your Business?

There is a growing trend in family-owned businesses – especially those in the second generation and beyond – toward establishing an Office of the Chairman (also called Office of the President, and business leadership team, etc.).  While this is a relatively new concept, this structure reflects the broader world of corporate thinking favoring collaboration and the team approach to leadership in business.  This structure offers owners some unique opportunities for managing the business; yet, there are a variety of considerations in adopting this management model - most importantly, how decisions will be made.  In addition, the size of the company, the organization's culture and values, the complexity of the business, the timing and length of the change, and the relationships between family members are just a few of the considerations involved in this type of change.  This session uses case studies and guided discussion to explore the benefits, structures, and best practices of this model and provides some guidelines for owners looking to re-structure their leadership in the near future.

Session 10: Balancing Family And The Family Business

Each generation in the family business faces unique challenges in creating balance between the family and the business.  This session explores family development, the various types of ownership, and business life cycle to help family members determine a strategy for maintaining equilibrium across systems.  Activities, discussions, and tools are customized for each participating family.  This is an excellent opportunity for generational participation.

Session 11: Power And Influence In The Family Business

In their earliest stages power and control in a family business is typically centralized in the hands of one owner.  It isn’t until circumstances necessitate distribution of power that the model changes.  This session explores power and influence in family businesses at various stages in the family, owner, and business life cycles and the implications for each system as the distribution changes over time.  Guided discussion, case studies, and experiential learning will be used to facilitate participation.  This session is an excellent opportunity for generational participation.

Session 12: Putting Things Right: Using The Tool Of Reconciliation


Session 13: Using Celebration To Create Synergy In The Family Business

While most families celebrate events like birthdays, weddings, holidays, etc. they do not take the time to share the milestones and key business events that also impact them.  Sharing individual experience and understanding important events, successes, and accomplishments through celebration is a powerful tool for families.  It provides the opportunity for them to strengthen their commitment to the family, the business, and the future. This session is customized for each client and provides the knowledge and examples to assist families in creating and facilitating their own unique celebratory events.

Session 14: Leadership Development

Democratic and collaborative leadership styles are particularly relevant to the world of family business.  As desirable as this shift may be, it can be challenging to facilitate cultural change in organizations steeped in traditional patterns of leadership and management practice.  This is especially true in the early days of the business where an owner-controlled style is more prevalent.  However, those leaders who develop their own leadership strengths will be better equipped to facilitate a broader range of leadership practices throughout the business.  This session helps owners/managers to identify current talent in their organizations and understand the steps involved in leadership development planning.

Session 15: Succession Planning And Candidate Development – The Success Print™

Arguably, the success of a company is most attributable to the qualities of leadership of the Owner – his/her personality and leadership characteristics, attributes, knowledge, skills and abilities. The Success PrintTM provides a rational roadmap for a succession strategy. The tool generates data to identify personality attributes, communication preferences, and skills that are strengths; to identify those skills that through training or coaching will see measurable improvement and those skills that may require a “work-around”. This information is used to focus individual coaching and development.  The process may also be used to compare bench strength of potential successors for an open position.

Session 16: Conflict Management In The Family Business

Organizations that communicate well have the best chance for success.  This is especially true for family businesses.  Increased communication can clarify expectations, build trust, and help create shared vision and values between owners, family members, managers, and other key stakeholders.

In our experience with families there are often recurrent, negative relationship behaviors between siblings that own and manage a business together.  Some of those behaviors are sourced in:

  • Anger and resentment due to unmet expectations
  • Assumptions about intent
  • Accusations and anger arising from those assumptions about intent
  • Failure to inquire about the accuracy of the assumptions
  • A need to hold onto the validity of one’s own emotional reaction and subsequent accusations

The importance of recognizing and managing the resulting conflict in family owned businesses cannot be underestimated.  The objectives for this session include:

  • Introducing the participants to the characteristics of a good relationship
  • Providing a model of communication styles
  • Building trust
  • Exploring the communication styles used by various stakeholders
  • Outlining common barriers to communication
  • Providing strategies for managing conflict situations and reaching agreement

Session 17: Team Building: Values And The Family Code Of Conduct

As businesses grow and change there is a need to professionalize or formalize structures, systems, procedures, and practices.  This may be especially relevant for family businesses.  One of the key documents that should be created by the family is a Code of Conduct.  This is a written set of norms or standards outlining how siblings treat each other and handle conflict in the family and the business.  Families begin this process by creating ground rules for communication and searching for common beliefs and values around their behaviors.  Generally, participants explicitly agree and commit in writing how they will:

  • Make decisions
  • Resolve conflicts
  • Treat each other
  • Deal with press and the public
  • Conduct business affairs openly and ethically
  • Relate to each other

Creating a Code of Conduct can:

  • Support the success of sibling partnerships
  • Position the company for growth
  • Codify the norms and standards for the family
  • Provide an objective framework for decision-making and planning
  • Provide a metric for authority and accountability
  • Separate family issues from business issues

Session 18: Group Dynamics And Problem Solving

The ability to identify problems, examine alternatives, and decide on a course of action is essential both in a professional and a personal setting.  Moreover, in a family owned business understanding the patterns of stakeholder interaction and how they govern members’ decision-making behaviors are equally useful.  Relationships between generations, siblings, spouses, in-laws, and even family and non-family employees can give insight into how information is utilized to make decisions.  Using guided discussion and experiential activities participants will experience the advantages of using a problem solving model for framing and discussion important issues.

Session 19: Custom Sessions

All family-owned businesses have common experiences.  Yet given the distinctive footprint of each family enterprise, there are business/family issues that can present challenges to even the savviest organizations.  The custom session is designed to create an objective forum for families and managers to identify and analyze problems/issues unique to them using a case study format and guided discussion.