Eight years ago in mid-year 2014, the largest family business conference was held by Harvard Business School, Cambridge, Boston, in Asia. Most of our neighbouring countries’ biggest families and more than 85% of top Indian businesses gathered for a five-day family governance summit.
The finest practitioners and lead authorities had come to deliver what they have submitted their life to. The finest was delivering for the finest of receivers too. The receivers were a group of family members with their proud multigenerational members on the tables, poised and eloquently listening to all they were supposed to absorb.
After the super intense five days with numerous cocktail conversations and early morning wellness walks with other families, finally, just before the departure of the congregation after five days, the lead conductor of the program asked a farewell question: “What do you all families have one issue that remains unaddressed, and you believe it is primordially deal-breaker for the family businesses?”
Out of the 100-plus people, almost 85% raised hands, and in chorus, almost they said – Communication
Now, what happened post this moment is phenomenal, and silence of a graveyard, one could say. Reason – Everyone thought that communication must not be the sorely widespread pain that every family fears and wishes to have some way to address in a systematic and structured way. They thought that it was only them, perhaps.
Still, they found it is by large all Asian and mainly Indian families who, together in that room, easily exceed their cumulative income above USD 200 billion. On average, they are all at the 3rd generation at the most.
Communication is the most difficult thing and at the same time a blessing if taken seriously scientifically. What does it say to you? Does this resonate in your home ground?
Families who have invested in institutionalisation approaches such as a family constitution via family governance suggest strongly that having these systems and mechanisms require serious communication infrastructure, communication systems & protocols and much more.
They vouch that having invested in a communication backbone is not only wise but the only way a family enterprise can thrive upon a skilfully designed constitution & governance of a family enterprise.
What characterises an effective communication infrastructure and system?
A family enterprise functions on the backbone of a structured communication that is proactive, strategic, emotionally balanced, tuned to the culture & DNA of the family yet objective to the collective mission of the family.
A few pointers below guide you for getting you to familiarise with structured communication, be it in a large UHNW/HNW family or a business:
- It must be a dedicated communication centre administering the essential family-wide communications or business-wide communications to all stakeholders, external & internal
- It must be designed as per the constitutional design of a family enterprise and its governance design, and if it’s a business, then it must be designed as per the business core identity-led philosophies and stakeholder engagement model
- It must not be seen as a cost but a solid investment. Period.
- It is inherently designed to strengthen relationships on the grounds of transparency, structured involvement, systematic participation, and integrity to inclusive interests of all
- It is a strategic advantage engine, and its mileage is much beyond the horizons of generations
- The communication centre understands deeply where the promise of vision is taking and hence what objectives it must help family members fulfil in the case of business. Then, it connects with all stakeholders with regular updates and annual or half-yearly reports as per the case, maybe
- It holds human creativity at best for the ability to connect with humans who are really accomplished or even anyone. The key is communication plan must entail all kinds of connection instruments, such as verbal, written, visual and all other kinds, to help people align with their objectives and actions of theirs much effortlessly
- In families, it must have a special job to connect with children and next-generation leaders. It plays a vital role in creating an absolute sense of institutionalisation in every member right from age eight or earlier!
- The expertise essential to design, run and administer such a facility shall be hand-picked via a process designed only to make the sure perfect match of abilities, skills, attitudes, and behaviours tuned with the goal of the enterprise
If it appears too much, then think about the cost families pay when loved ones hold fears for each other or doubts and many such feelings that are largely born due to lack of proper communication. I don’t need to tell you what other losses businesses bear when stakeholders aren’t aligned and don’t respect them as much as they should.
I hope this begins a quick side note and slowly becomes mainstream once you find deeper understanding and knowledge on the same.