Managing Both the Family and the Business at the Same Time
Listen to BFF Co-Chair Philippe de Gaspé Beaubien describe how he raised his awareness of family business dynamics and the various risks affecting both the family and the business. When developing a business, it is essential to consider its effects on the family as well as how the family fits into the larger picture. In a family business, it is important to start succession planning early, as well as continually integrate the rising generation.
I do not have the solutions for everybody, I have to talk about what I went through. When I first started, starting my business it was an entrepreneurial business we were really growing, I did not think we were a family business at all, never thought about that. “I am an entrepreneur and I am building my business.” And I just never had any thought about that. Until I had to go on a long trip with my wife and we never traveled together on the same plane. Because we said if, you know, we are in the beginning, if both of us go what is going to happen with the children, so we made a deal with ourselves, we would never be on the same plane. We had to go to a meeting in Hawaii, and I said to my wife, “Do you think we can cheat a little bit to spend some of that time together on a plane because we have not seen each other much?” So we decided to break our rule. And my most trusted advisor said, “Do you realize that if that plane goes down the children will not have enough money having sold the business then, to pay for your estate duties?” So we ended up taking some insurance on our lives so the kids would have enough money to pay for the estate duty. That was my moment to realize that I had better start thinking about the issues of families, “family-ing” as we say.
How do you manage to balance both the family and the business? I do not know how other people do I but I took the time in the growing up years of my children which were establishing the base, to try and learn to do parenting in a decent way. Parenting is the most important of our responsibilities but one for which we have received the least amount of training for, other than the example of maybe our parents. The time to give to the children so that they have those values is in the early years. I made it a point to drive home from the business so I could have dinner with them at 5:30, mind you I was not ready for dinner at 5:30, I was not ready to sit down, I wanted to have a drink, I wanted to relax, I wanted to take my time so, but I went back so we could have dinner together, then I would go back to the office.
So I say to everybody take a little bit of time to think about the family foundation because if you are like I am you probably would like to have your children succeed you in that business, you would like to get them share in the ownership of that business that you have built. You have got to start getting them to think about that dimension and one day when they get those shares they will become owners. And they will have a whole new set of responsibilities as owners of those businesses, because if you do not train them all they want is “Give me more dividends, I just want more money from what that business can do. I will not look at the responsibilities that I have to be an owner, I just want the privileges that comes with it.” And that is not a long lasting, good foundation, so try and spend the little bit of time on the family side and you will never regret that.