Enhancing Family Meetings: Three Tips Beyond the Boardroom


By Michael Scott and Cody Gordon

As a family-operated wealth management firm with four decades of experience managing our own business and facilitating family meetings, we have discovered that the true effectiveness of these gatherings extends beyond thorough planning, structure, and expert input. At its core, a family business thrives on the dynamics of the family itself. Often, it’s less about the strict business elements and more about the softer, emotional aspects. By nurturing relationships and creating a space where every family member feels valued and heard, we tap into what really powers a family business. Here are three “softer” family meeting tips we’ve learned over the years.

Tip #1: Build a Family Story

  • The act of storytelling is powerful—it instills a sense of belonging and inspires a commitment to something far greater than individual aspirations. Building the family story is not just about recounting past events, but about creating a narrative that connects each member to a shared legacy and future. As family members understand the challenges and victories that have shaped their heritage, they see their vital roles within this ongoing saga. This deep sense of responsibility encourages active participation in both preserving and enhancing the family narrative. Told with openness and pride, these narratives become the cornerstone that unites the family, strengthens the enterprise, and enriches every family meeting with a deeper understanding and shared purpose.

Tip #2: A Family That Plays Together Stays Together

  • Integrating fun and relaxed activities into family meetings is crucial. This approach emphasizes spontaneity and inclusiveness, with activities that everyone, from the youngest to the oldest, can enjoy together. Whether it’s holiday celebrations, family game nights, or interactive storytelling sessions, these gatherings are essential for strengthening familial bonds. They provide a break from the formalities of structured meetings and offer a platform for laughter and joy, which are integral to building lasting family relationships. In doing so, these moments of shared enjoyment remind everyone what being a family truly means.

Tip #3: Leverage Constructive Conflict

  • Embrace conflict? It sounds counter intuitive, but when handled with a positive mindset, conflict can catalyze substantial growth and innovation. Encourage family members to share their differing viewpoints and challenges openly yet respectfully. Treat conflicts as opportunities to discover new ideas and solutions that could benefit both the family and the business. By promoting a perspective that sees conflict as an integral part of decision-making, you prevent issues from escalating and instill important negotiation and empathy skills, thereby strengthening the family unit.

Ultimately, the strength of a family business lies not just in well-structured meetings but in the health of relationships among its members. Ensuring these relationships are nurtured and valued is sometimes more critical than adhering strictly to the detailed agenda. By focusing on these softer aspects, family meetings can be transformed into powerful tools for strengthening the family and the business.