Raising Wealthy Children

I recently heard about an entrepreneurial woman who started a business that now employs her husband and over 100 employees. The business has been enormously successful. The couple has two young children and all is well–except that they are starting to worry about a problem they never thought they’d have: raising wealthy children.

You may have heard about affluenza, a made up name for a so-called “illness” that wealthy people are particularly susceptible to catching. It’s characterized by over-spending, feeling and acting entitled to things most people have to earn, and disrespect for rules in a variety of settings and situations. A simpler name for it might be “spoiled”.

Raising wealthy kids does have its own unique set of challenges. From my work with women in family businesses, some who are quite wealthy, I’ve realized that the issue is as much about the values parents set as it is about money. Many family business owners have a strong work ethic, contribute time to their communities, and are committed to philanthropy. They set limits on their own spending and frequently express gratitude for what they have. Their values-and they way they live them out-are as important a “currency” they give to their children as their wealth.

What values were you raised with-and did they affect your relationship with money? If you have children, what values do you hope to instill? How will you do that? I think these are questions worth considering.

If you have experiences and insights you’d be willing to share, please email me at amy@daughtersincharge.com.

 

 

 

Here are some references you may find helpful:

Inherited Wealth: Opportunities and Dilemmas

Acquirers’ and Inheritors’ Dilemma: Discovering Life Purpose and Building Personal Identity in the Presence of Wealth

Children of Paradise: Successful Parenting for Prosperous Families

Line of Sight

Have you heard the phrase “line of sight”? In business settings, it refers to the extent to which employees can point directly to how their work contributes to the success of the business—and “see” the way their efforts, large and small, have a clear link to business success. The idea is that employees who can see their line of sight feel more engaged, more motivated, and more committed.

In my work with women in family businesses, I’ve noticed that my clients often focus on the relationships within their business. They talk about conflicts among employees, among family members, and between both groups–and frequently about feeling caught in the middle.   But there’s one thing I rarely hear: how their work leads to meaningful business outcomes.

It’s not that my clients don’t have an impact on their family business-that’s always clear to me. But sometimes I wonder if it’s clear to them. And I wonder if they give themselves enough credit for the important roles they play in assuring that their business achieves its strategic and revenue goals.

So why is this important to you? Make sure that you are clear about your role and the impact it has. Create a visual-a map, a diagram-so you can really see the link between your behavior and business results. You will see how and when you make your most important impact. And you may also appreciate how your efforts to unravel conflicts can free up time and energy…or, perhaps, those that are simply not worth your time.

Coping with loss… is it too soon?

Are you coping with a loss in your life? Is someone you work with? By the time we’re in the workforce, most of us have experienced grief in some way, but rarely does the loss of a loved one or a significant trauma in our lives become a topic we’re comfortable discussing at work. In their new book, Option B, Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant explore ways we can all help each other cope with the losses in our lives.

Last night I had the opportunity to hear Sheryl and Adam talk about their book, which focuses on how Sheryl is learning to cope with her husband’s death a few years ago. You probably heard about it, since Sheryl is the COO of Facebook and Adam is a well-known psychologist and author. They are good friends and thoughtful, sensitive, and often funny speakers. The audience was riveted. I certainly was.

Perhaps the most surprising learning for me occurred when Sheryl talked about the loss of confidence she experienced at work. The idea that Sheryl Sandberg felt she could no longer do her job well stunned me. Sheryl Sandberg-the woman who wrote Lean In– lacking confidence?

I’m starting to wonder if both men and women feel a bit “de-skilled” when they are in the midst of managing a loss or an unwanted change. Most people I’ve worked with put on a brave face and throw themselves back into work, and I’ve assumed they felt better back in a routine. Until I heard Sheryl talk about her own feelings, it never occurred to me that losing confidence might be something they struggled with, or that “getting back in the saddle” too soon might not be such a great idea-for the person and for the organization.

Sheryl is in a position to influence Facebook to rethink its policies and management practices related to supporting employees who are dealing with upsetting events in their lives. As a daughter in a family business, you probably are too. Read Option B, and think about it. By reviewing and raising questions about how your business supports employees through difficult times, you might be making one of your most valuable contributions.

Summer Memories

I often think of summer as a time of making memories. Travel, camping, even the excitement of a first summer job…all of these experiences are opportunities for creating great moments and memories that can last a lifetime.

In my work with family businesses, I’ve heard about a variety of summer experiences. Some families vacation as a large group, with grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, siblings, and cousins all in one place. Other families make sure that summer provides a real (and often vital) escape from the family members they work with every day. And if you’re lucky enough to own or to share an inherited family cottage, that place can provide a sense of continuity and connection that spans generations.

What memories will you make for yourself this summer? Between working in your family’s business, and for some of you, figuring out summer schedules for other family members, you may not even be thinking about what kind of experiences you can create for yourself.

 

Here are some ideas to consider:

If you’re single, don’t fall into the trap of promising to be available to the business while other family members are away and ignoring your own vacation-it’s just as important. Summers can be a time of real adventure for you. I was single for a long time and when I finally realized I could plan a trip just for myself -to a dude ranch in Montana-and it was life-changing.

If you’re planning a vacation for a partner, spouse, or family, don’t forget to plan for yourself. Women often get so absorbed in making sure that everyone else has a good time that they literally forget that it’s their vacation, too. You don’t have to do it all. Create a day or two just for you, and make it memorable.

If you and your family share a summer home or cottage, and particularly if has belonged to your family for generations, you are probably familiar with the conflicts that can arise as different family groups negotiate their time there and assure that the property is well-maintained. Treating the family cottage as a family business is important-just try to do that work throughout the year so that you all enjoy the summers. There’s even been a book written about this, called Saving the Family Cottage (http://a.co/dASKTm7).

If your family is large, with many siblings working in the business and kids who will one day take over, set some boundaries if you can. Talking about business on vacation may not be relaxing. On the other hand, it may be important. Consider encouraging everyone to set aside one or two mornings to talk about the business and its future, and to answer questions from family members who don’t work in the business-or hope to one day. This can be an easy way to do some long range planning for the future.

Ask Amy: I’m underutilized and see no succession plan

Dear Amy,

Last week I read your response to Vicky about her struggle to figure out her role. I feel a lot like Vicky, though my situation is very different from hers.

Here’s my challenge. My dad and his two sisters have created a very successful global business in the financial services industry. They hired a non-family executive about 15 years ago, and they are very dependent on him and trust him to run the business.

My two cousins and I all have professional degrees and we each decided to work in the business after years of experience working in other places. I am an attorney, one cousin is a CPA, and the other has an MBA. We are ALL dealing with role issues!

We all feel underutilized, bored, frustrated, and shut out of major business decisions.

Our parents are in their 60’s, and we don’t see any plan for succession. Also, the non-family executive holds very tightly to the reins. So it’s very hard for my cousins and me to feel like we are adding any value. You are probably thinking that it’s because we’re all women… but my two cousins are men and they feel just like I do!

Lindsay

Amy KatzDear Lindsay,

You and your cousins are the next generation-and in many families, the transition to the next generation can be challenging.  As you describe it, you and your cousins are well-educated, experienced, and likely very capable of taking on further responsibilities.  

Perhaps this is a situation where you and your cousins can ask to talk together with your dad and your aunts about your shared interest in becoming a valuable and productive team that can sustain the success and legacy of the business. Present yourselves as a team. If you can, lay out the roles each of you would like to take on in the future, and the kinds of projects and experiences that you would like to take on right now. So many people don’t realize that succession planning is not a decision-it’s a process. That may not be something your dad and your aunts fully understand. After all, they probably never experienced it themselves….and/or they may have avoided thinking about it (many founders do).

To repeat: present yourselves as team. Your dad and your aunts have obviously been a great team-emphasize that, and tell them that you want to learn how they managed to build the business together.  

I think it’s important for you and your cousins to be positive and persuasive-clear about your collective credentials, your commitment, etc., and also about your concern that without a thoughtful succession plan the business could be at risk.  Remember to convey respect for the senior leader. There needs to be a plan for his transition as well, whether or not you decide to hire someone for his position.

Thanks for writing. Figuring out your role is SO important-for you and for your business.

amy-sig

P.S. – You’re right …I DID think you and your cousins were all women! The term most people are using now is “nextgen”…a recognition that both sons AND daughters are becoming leaders in the family’s business.

Ask Amy: What if I’m not treated fairly at work because I’m female?

Dear Amy,

My biggest challenge about being a woman, daughter and sister in a family business is that my younger sister and I are not equal partners on the management team.  We’re required to get approval for almost everything we do, while the men in the business (both family members and non-family) have the autonomy to make most decisions without consulting anyone. As an example, I’m required to get approval before negotiating terms with a customer, while the men negotiate with customers all the time without consulting anyone.  I had more authority and autonomy when I worked in the automobile industry.

– Jenna

Amy Katz Dear Jenna,

Your last sentence tells me something important.  You have had the experience of making decisions and feeling a sense of authority in another setting.  I know it is enormously difficult to “go backwards” and to experience the pull of a family system that constrains you.  Resisting that pull is particularly tough for women who have worked in other places or have advanced degrees and return to the family business only to find themselves in a fight to gain respect and credibility.

It sounds like the men in your business feel some threat or competition with you and your sister that started early in their lives. If your dad is in charge, he may never expected you (or any other woman) to have a leadership role in the business.  Your brothers and perhaps other male employees were probably raised with this belief as well.

There’s a lot we could focus on with your question-how to “play the game”, the unfairness of it all, etc.  But I would rather offer a more hopeful note.  Because more and more women are becoming entrepreneurs and business owners, you and your sister will likely have some advantage eventually, even if your family’s business is in a male-dominated industry. Now is the time to develop relationships with women whose businesses may one day do business with yours.  So while you’re not enjoying full authority right now, you can be cultivating relationships with other women in your community and industry-and men as well-who value the contributions that women can make.  In fact, they may insist on negotiating only with companies that share their commitment to supporting women.

You and your sister are the pioneers in your family’s business, even if the men don’t realize it.  You have the potential to open the door to the changes that are happening in our society as more women take charge.  Family businesses can be insular and isolating. Get outside the business as often as you can.  Your ability to connect with both men and women in other businesses will have positive effects on your well-being, your sister’s…and ultimately on the business itself.

Keep in touch, Jenna. I’m sure that other daughters will want to know how you resolve this particular challenge.

All the best,

amy-sig

 

 

 

Jenna’s situation may be one that you’ve experienced, too. Let me know how you would respond to her situation. I’ll be happy to pass your ideas along.