The Three Lenses: The Family Business, The Family in Family Business, and The Business in Family Business
I have really enjoyed learning about the various frameworks developed to analyze family businesses. I am currently in a position where I have the option to work at my family business, to potentially have a board seat, or to walk away from the business. My family business was started my grandfather and great grandfather, my father is currently the CEO and he is interested in getting me involved or looking at other management options if I’m not interested. The “Analyzing Family Business Cases: Tools and Techniques” article resonated with me in how I frame the decision of whether to enter my family business, how I think about the conversations I’ll need to have around the topic and how I think about my family’s management of its investments from other businesses. The framework of thinking about family business through three lenses, (1) The Family Business, (2) The Family in Family Business and (3) The Business in Family Business seems to me to be a particularly powerful in framing the various decisions and potential problems inherent in having a family business and family wealth to manage from that business (and potentially others).
I’d like to dive into the Family Business view in this reflection. The three circle model provides a powerful tool for understanding the various options available in a family business setting and how to frame the conversations. I enjoyed how Michelle Ho showed her own version of the three-circle model for her business. It showed her as part of the company and her family definitively outside of the company. From her talk, she seems to have minimal drama on the family side and I speculate that the clear assignment within these 3 circles helps keep both the business and the family running somewhat smoothly with minimal additional drama.
The Family Axes framework, which includes the three circles but with additional information on the stage of each circle, for my case seems to be specifically applicable to the family investments and wealth more so than the business. For my own family situation, there is much less uncertainty around the business then there is around other family investments and how they are managed. By utilizing this framework and placing stakeholders in their desired and future position it helps me think about what conversations to have with which stakeholders to move forwards and build a unified vision.
In a similar vein, the governance 3-circle model structure outlined in the paper has helped me set up regular meetings within my family (first one occurred last weekend). We have set up regular family meetings, with meeting minutes, a centralized place to store documents, and regular agenda with to do items for members of the family in thinking about how to handle the family investments and other matters related to family business(es). My family has a history of running things in a way where there is limited governance, and the family is not tied down to process. By breaking out governance for owners, management, and family it inspired me to create governance around our own family investment decision making.