Last week, Warner’s Private Client and Family Office group hosted a symposium for our client families and family office executives centered around the topic of building and maintaining family engagement.
Our keynote speaker was Eric Allyn, former chairman of Welch Allyn, Inc, a medical device technology company owned by the Allyn family for 100 years and sold in 2015. Eric shared the issues they were experiencing prior to the sale, their use of family business consultants to advise on these issues and the difficult decision to sell the family business.
He explained the challenging path forward the family faced in the years after the sale, including how the sale caused an identity crisis for the family members, even those who did not work in the business. Eric discussed the conversations the family had regarding finding a new purpose and identity and deciding if they wanted to stay together and manage their assets as a cohesive family unit or split apart into multiple family branches.
Eric also spoke about the issues the family experienced with engaging and educating family members, especially the next generations, in managing shared wealth. He explained the family governance system they created, how they are using annual family meetings, how they seek out direct investments that interest and engage the next generation and how they are using the family foundation as the glue for the family.
After the presentation, Eric fielded questions from participants about how the parents in his family handled conversations with their children about:
- Family money, when the sale price of the business is in the news headlines for the children and their classmates and teachers to see.
- The child’s trusts (and he provided thoughts about when is the right time to tell them about trusts).
- Next generation participation in the family foundation, family meetings and the family office.
Following the keynote presentation, breakout groups facilitated by Warner Partners Loren Andrulis, Matt Johnson, Susan Gell Meyers and Jennifer Remondino discussed best practices family members and family office staff can employ to encourage an appropriate level of family cohesion and engagement. We were delighted to bring such an engaging speaker to Grand Rapids to help us discuss family engagement, a topic that is top of mind for many of our clients. If you have questions or concerns about building or maintaining family cohesion and engagement over the next generations, contact your Warner attorney or contact Mark Harder at email@example.com or 616.396.3225.