A student in the Leaders in Family Enterprise class took the opportunity of reflecting on the numerous speakers and ideas presented throughout the semester to compose this letter to the members of their family business in the hopes of sparking a meaningful conversation about their future together. This is what that student shared.
I hope this letter finds you safe and well, it’s been a long time since we have seen each other, and I look forward to meeting you all over the Christmas break.
Over the course of my semester at Cornell, I enrolled in the class Leaders in Family Enterprise. The course was an amalgamation of discussions and guest speakers across the globe all leading a Family Business. The class learned from leaders of various family businesses on their transition from their previous generations. Did you know less than 4% of family businesses survive past the 4th generation? Guess this leaves us in a bit of a pickle! Having stated that unpleasant fact I should also mention that I got a chance to learn a thing or two on what makes family businesses transition past the fourth generation.
Some of the lessons I learned and understood were on formalizing structures, open communication, and transparency. There was a very interesting speaker from Venezuela who spoke about how her fourth-generation sat down and negotiated with her older generations. I shall chew your ears about her later!
Family Council – The fourth room
Today we are 12, tomorrow we may be 24, and the day after we may grow to a number I cannot count. This leaves us with the importance to get closer and have a formalized structure before the next member of our generation gets married. We have initiated this process with the charity we work together on, but I feel this is not enough. We may need to put down a formalized monthly meeting and an annual getaway to keep in contact and maintain the bond. A proposed idea is to meet every Thanksgiving at a place that is convenient for all of us.
As a some of us in the family have thought of the importance of staying proactive, I feel this is the right thing to do as there are a few hurdles ahead of us. We all grew up together but somewhere, there seems to be a slight disconnect with the generation above us, mainly on the conservativeness. A few of us have significant others which the family may not accept easily, and there also lies a question on how we may want to partake with our family business as our parents and grandparents are not getting any younger.
I by no means have any answers but feel we would transition better together and should engage in communicating openly and frequently. Once we have these discussions and there is a fair momentum, we can start taking the conversation to the older generation and fix another bimonthly/quarterly conversation with them.
Thank you for reading so far and to sign off with some good news, I presented my startup business idea in my Digital Business Strategy class and got voted the best idea in the class. I made a presentation on our business’s CSR activity in my Social Entrepreneurship class and received an A+, I am submitting this letter for an assignment in my Leaders in Family Enterprise class.
The family and you all are intrinsic to my identity and grades. I am excited for what the future holds for us.