by Cindy Radu
In the introduction to the Bailey family (www.fullspectrumleadership.com/the-bailey- family-a-family-in-conflict/), we saw conflict arise in the context of a family business transition against a backdrop of deteriorating family relationships.
Mr. Bailey and his advisors had designed a business transition plan without the input of other family members. When Mr. Bailey presented the plan to his son (Jeff) and daughter (Anne) it was not well received. After engaging a skilled mediator, family relationships were salvaged and – with collaboration and open communication – the family was able to agree on a revised transition plan.
In many families there is not a positive expected outcome when it comes to the stage of transitioning wealth. It is well known that global statistics show that only 1/3 of families will successfully transition their wealth from the founder generation (Mr. and Mrs. Bailey) to the second generation (Jeff and Anne). By the third generation (the grandchildren) the percentage of successful transitions drops to only 10%.
Research has established that these family wealth transition failures are attributable to a variety of factors:
- breakdown in communication and trust (60%)
- lack of preparation of the rising generation (25%)
- no family vision (10%)
- inadequate tax and financial planning (3%)
This blog reviews the importance of shared family mission, vision and values as a cornerstone to modern approaches to family business – and family wealth – transition planning.
Definitions: Vision, Mission, Values 101
Mission, vision and values are confusing concepts that tend to get muddled up. The most helpful working definitions I have found are as follows: 
- Vision is the future scenario the family / business wants to create, the ideal or desired end state e.g. “Space – The Final Frontier”
- Mission is the specific purpose or task that the family / business commits to in support of the vision. The mission is the means to the end; the answer to “how are we going to get there?” e.g. “To seek out new life, to boldly go where no one has gone before.”
- Values are the principles of behavior that are expected in pursuing the mission
e.g. respect, teamwork, diversity, innovation, communication, trust, creativity
Why are values so important in family communications?
Vision is about the future a family wishes to create. Shared family values are the compass that guides family members on their individual journeys while keeping the collective family vision in sight.
Family values are often passed down across generations. Core values tend not to change over time but can be expressed differently through individual preferences, skills and beliefs. For example, generosity may be expressed through encouragement, donations of money, volunteering or mentoring. Creativity may be expressed through writing, music, art, architecture or engineering.
Values define behaviour in a family’s life; they are also fundamental to how the family views its business and to how business is conducted. It should not be surprising that there is a strong link between a family’s shared values and their family business’s values.
A common value identified by families and family owned businesses is communication. Good communication is essential to establish trust, have healthy interactions and collaborate to solve problems. All of these elements are essential to the success of the family business itself as well as to the process of transitioning that business to the rising generation.
In a family business, the articulation of shared family values (or the lack thereof) will have significant long-term impact on the success of the family, the business and the community in which the business operates. Values will drive:
- What is, and is not, acceptable behaviour in the family and the business
- Governance in the family, business and owner systems
- Business strategy
- Commitment of owners and non-owing family members to the business
- Leadership style
- Approach to stewardship
Values, vision and the Baileys
“It is understandable that the family business field is highly business-focused, yet whether value is created and sustained – or wantonly destroyed – is in almost all cases due to the family and its dynamic.”
In the Bailey case, BizCo had gone well down the path of being “wantonly destroyed” as a result of deteriorating family dynamics. When communication in the family breaks down shared values, and committing to living those values, can be lost. Taking the time to learn how to communicate effectively and clarify collective values will help families avoid this path.
The opportunity for families is to be proactive and intentional about articulating their shared values and vision for their future. Values help clarify acceptable behaviour and how the family chooses to steward its wealth for future generations. To discuss this opportunity further, contact:
Other blogs in this series by David Gould and Cindy Radu include:
 Lucia Ceja, Remei Agulles, Josep Tapies, “The Importance of Values in Family-Owned Firms”, WP-875, July 2010 IESE Business School – University of Navarra, pages 4 – 7.
 Ceja et al, p. 24.
 Ceja et al, p. 15 (quote from Nicholson and Bjornberg, 2008).