Five ways to get the most out of family assemblies

Shareholders often span different generations in long-consolidated family firms, and not all play an active role in the business. In these cases, family assemblies are a vital conduit to bringing people together and up to date on the company’s activity and strategy.

Family assemblies aim to bridge the divide between family members on the front lines of the firm–generally, managers or directors who serve in the company–and those less familiar with its ins and outs.

Far from typical business meetings, they are family reunions where the tapestry of the family firm is on full display, showcasing its achievements, positive impact, challenges and aspirations.

Done well, family assemblies nurture engagement and interest in the company, especially among family members less entwined in its operational threads.

Beyond disseminating information, they should create a shared space where people have pride of belonging and where all voices, both seasoned and new, are heard and appreciated.

Unfortunately, many of these family gatherings miss the mark, subjecting guests to marathon sessions of dry financial overviews and strategic plans.

How can owner families transform them from metric-heavy monologues into interactive symposiums of shared vision and values? Here are five insights to keep in mind:

1 – Get younger generations involved

Actively engaging younger family members adds a lighter touch to family assemblies, while subtly highlighting the need for succession planning and inculcating family values and culture.

Research supports this: according to the North America Family Business Report 2023 by Campden Wealth, early exposure among next-generation members significantly increases their interest in protecting and sustaining the family business.

2 – The power of storytelling

Shift from data-heavy presentations to storytelling sessions that showcase the family’s legacy and milestones. Stories resonate far more than statistics and foster a sense of pride and connection. This evidenced-based narrative approach taps into family members’ emotional connection to the firm, greatly increasing engagement and the retention of information.

3 – Experiential activities

Experiential learning theories point to the power of direct involvement in bolstering understanding and emotional ties. To this end, family assemblies might consider incorporating on-site tours, hands-on activities and other experiential offerings.

4 – Collaborative dialogue

Collaborative learning principles suggest that group interaction promotes more active participation and a broader diversity of perspectives, leading to deeper understanding and problem-solving. Experienced moderators or discussion leaders encourage participation and prevent one or two voices from dominating the conversation.

5 – Make it dynamic

Gamification increases motivation and engagement, so consider introducing interactive elements like quizzes or games. At the same time, make sure they are relevant, contribute to the meeting’s objectives and don’t trivialize important content.


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