Family Matters: Establishing Family Meetings
I'll never forget it. Maybe it was about 10 years ago. My mother grabbed The World Is Flat and slapped it on the table.
"It's time for family meeting", she said.
At the time, I was 13. My brother was 12. I was trying to head outside and play. I had finished my homework and the sun was calling my name. However, that was the day everything changed our family dynamic. My mother and father introduced family meetings.
Family meetings are essential, at least in our family. You may call it old school but it has transformed how we function as a family. Even with life being different now, we still make time to all meet as a family and discuss everything imaginable. Here are some of the valuable lessons I learned through family meetings.
1. Family and business can mix if done correctly
Our family has a business in the education world. All of us contribute in some form or fashion. I left payroll about two years ago. However, in a few more years, I will return to take on greater responsibility as my parents get older. So even if I'm currently not there 24/7, I make sure that there isn't a void that I am meant to fulfill. If you have children or work for your parents within the business, I'm sure we can relate in many ways. The one thing that I've learned is that lines must be established. Whatever role you serve in the office must be clear. I couldn't pull the "Dad" card in the business meeting. My father always taught me that giving me the easy hand in the office would never make me the business woman I needed to be to run it in the future. When we had family meetings, we discussed everything pertaining to the office as a family. If we had ideas to contribute, we would present them to the group. There were several ideas that made it to the business side permanently like upgrading our site and implementing new marketing strategies. Even though my parents have a full staff, as a family, it's still important to discuss these things as a private unit. It establishes trust in the tight bond that is there that only family can provide.
2. Family meetings are there as an outlet
There have been some "reality tv show" moments during some of our family meetings. However, that was what it was meant for. It was the permanent time in everyone's schedule when we knew we could say exactly how we felt. Depending on how it's laid out, we would have dinner together and have an agenda. We would have "open discussion" on the agenda at every meeting. That was when we let it rip. However, this was great because then we could also hear one another out and resolve our differences. Family meetings are a great format to resolve family issues and everyone is present.
3. It helped developed family culture
You may be great at developing a healthy company culture but family culture comes first. You can always start another business. You can't start another family. The greatest thing that family meetings did was establish a sense of unity in where we were headed. Our lives as a family are all over the place. All of us are active in our own ventures along with staying together as a family. Getting everyone together in one room at a specific time can be challenging. However, it helped us become intentional about loving one another and respecting each other's time. It helped us learn how to carry forth meetings professionally within the home. I'm not saying that we ran our meetings like a board room. However, we did pick books to read and my mother would print out pages from certain portions of the book and we would read it. John Maxwell became an easy family favorite. We also picked Malcolm Gladwell and have even brought in articles that were great family topics. We always focus on teamwork, communication, and love.
What if I don't have kids?
The same things still apply. You don't have to have children to set aside time with your partner and create some sort of family structure. Pick out a book to read as a pair and enjoy one another's company aside from all the hustle and madness of the office. Discuss your schedules and your heart. What are you working on that you want to tell them about? What are their dreams? Are they still working on that idea they mentioned last week? These things matter.
Now what does this have to do with entrepreneurship?
Everything. Family dynamics are huge. At the end of our family meetings, we discuss what we have coming up for the week. If there's an important event that one family member would like for us to support, we mark it. This is a great idea especially if you have a larger family. I remember growing up and seeing my mother build their business. Soon, my father left his high paying job to support her. When it became the both of them, they explained to us the time that was being put into the business. Because of the family meetings and the right to express our heart, we understood the sacrifice they were making. Even in some of our readings, our parents connected them to their business. It helped us understand why they were doing what they loved. They brought us into the office and we grew up becoming a part of the not just the family but the business. This is why family meetings are important. It helps your children have an outlet to express their thoughts and desires in life period. It gives you a chance to share yours as well. As an entrepreneur it's vital that we make time for our families.
Your first business is your home.
Never forget that. The return on the investment is greater than anything you could even find here on earth. Here's to wonderful family conversations and yummy dinners!
So...tell me about your family traditions. Do you have a way for the family to connect on a weekly or monthly basis? Maybe we can get some ideas from one another!
See you at the top!
Gigi (Genesis Dorsey)