How to Create a Noble Soul for Your Family

Design your Family Culture and Intangibles

WHAT IS THE FAMILY CULTURE?

It is most important when creating a successful family dynasty to engender a "Family Culture" SOUL by organizing the family intangibles outlined in this memorandum.

In the fast-paced society in which we live and work, the family is sometimes neglected. Most people are aware of this problem and take steps to resolve it. Many set aside time to devote to family activities. Some believe a sit-down family dinner now and then is the solution. Undoubtedly, we have all given some thought to increasing the time we spend with our families. This is because the family is the backbone of our society.

The family structure has proven an effective technique in dealing with the harsh realities of life. They are there when you need help and they expect the same from you. Another structure which is prevalent in our society and which has been time tested is the business structure. These two groups, family and business, permeate almost every aspect of our lives. Unfortunately, the business structure has received our full attention and the family structure has only received partial attention.

Imagine formations of Roman soldiers marching on a road B unit after unit in perfect symmetry, flags lined up, all with shiny armor and behind them several hundred yards are the lame followers, dragging carpet bags, pushing broken down pushcarts, in all order of disarray. You see in this dramatic picture how we deal with our business and our families.

There are libraries full of books analyzing every form of business strategy and the various unique problems they may encounter. The result of this massive brain trust devoted to business issues is we have the strongest economy in the world, numerous techniques to create successful businesses and a phone book full of experts to deal with every business issue. We have all heard of "developing a corporate culture," "business mission statements," and "developing a soul for the corporation."

In contrast, there are very few instructional books devoted to the development of the family culture. The term "family mission statement" sounds foreign. There is little or no guidance on developing the soul of the family. Accordingly, we have written this memo to provide a starting point.

WHY DO WE WANT TO ESTABLISH A FAMILY CULTURE?

We want all our clients to think their family structure is as important to establish and maintain as the business structure.

All of our clients are familiar with the Grantor's Statement of Wishes. This is a way for the Grantor to write down his/her advice, instructions and family standards for the next generation and the trustees of the family trusts to use as a guide when dealing with the family and life in general and specifically by the trustees in making the distributions of assets from the trusts to the family members.

Along with the Statement of Wishes, we include a memorandum explaining its potential uses and benefits. The focus of this memorandum is the incentive aspect, referred to in the memo as "the carrot and stick" approach. However, this falls short of developing the family soul.

The development of the family soul is a dynamic process. We intend this memo to serve as a guide in developing the family soul. We have based the development of the family soul on its counterpart, the soul of the business.

If you use only a few of the ideas expressed in this memo, your family's chances for long-term, multi-generational success are increased manyfold.

The first step in this process is taking the time to think through and write up the family policy statements. Many families already have started this process under informal circumstances. In some families, getting good grades and going to college are expected. They are seen as excellent tools the for the development of successful people. In other families, hard work and community service are a way of life. The problem is that this expectation or way of living is hardly ever put into written form. Sometimes, it is an unspoken theme which loses its clarity in the collective family mind over time.

We encourage the family, immediate and extended, to take some time to sit down and discuss this topic and obtain a concurrence on the phrasing of the family policies. We are confident that numerous family gatherings occur where these topics may be discussed informally. This strategy promotes the involvement of the younger generations. This type of discourse and listening helps younger people gain confidence and feel their ideas are important and useful. In addition, the older generations will probably learn more about the younger generation and may even get some good advice.

HOW TO CREATE THE IDEAL FAMILY CULTURE?

Listed below are the "policy statements" usually included in the organizational minutes of a business entity. They have been modified to fit the family situation. It being necessary for the leaders of a family to declare their destination and direction for its members, advisors and associates as its intangible foundation, we advise adopting/establishing these policies:

1. Family Name
2. Family (Logo, Coat Of Arms) Symbol
3. Family Motto
4. Family Colors or Tartans
5. Mission Statement
6. Vision Statement
7. Character Statement
8. Value Statement
9. Image and Identity Statement
10. Annual Objectives
11. Family Annual Budget
12. Strategic Plan

1. Family Name. A family will want to have a dynamic name. Some have inherited a great name; others are saddled by their ancestors or by circumstances with names which have bad connotations or meanings C roach, coward, or some serial killer or cruel dictator happened to ruin the associations with your name. Or your name is hard to spell, remember or pronounce or your children always sit in the back of the class because your name starts with Z. Be sure you truly feel good about your name; if not, it is very simple to process a name change in court to one the family feels comfortable with passing on to your decedents.

2. Family (Logo, Coat of Arms) Symbol. Ancient noble families all had symbols to identify their family. If you do not have one, create it.

3. Family Motto. A family with a motto will inspire and increase the pride of all its members and program the family to live up to its motto.

4. Family Colors and Tartans. What pride comes from units by having the same color berets or families of Scotland to have color patterns woven into their clothes. Having some agreed colors stimulates affinity and pride.

5. The Mission Statement. The Mission Statement declares the long-term goals and results that the family desires for:

  • The Family Leaders
  • The Various Generations
  • The Family As A Group
  • The Family Associates
  • The Community

Listed below is a sample Mission Statement abstract.

Our Mission is:

  1. To foster the development of multiple leaders within the family group and within our communities.
  2. To provide foundation of stimulating ideas and guiding Principles for the various generations of the family which may be utilized by all members of the family to foster intellectual, emotional and spiritual growth.
  3. To provide (a) a forum for the family members to establish standards which are higher than the community standards (b) to promote a family of unity, atmosphere, encouragement, guidance and assistance family members require and (c) a loving and secure environment for all.
  4. To involve and respect the agents, employees and friends who assist the family.
  5. To contribute more than other families to make our communities a better place.

6. Vision Statement. The Vision Statement is a clear, written picture of where the family will be in 5 years C as if you were walking up to a family gathering 5 years hence and describing what you are seeing C like writing up your family history in advance. Who will be there? How will they have changed? What accomplishments have been made?

We recommend having as many family members as possible participate in this project. This will open the lines of communication in the family and help all to appreciate other people's perceptions and points of view. This skill can be used in almost every aspect of life and very few people are skilled enough in these areas to not benefit from this type of exercise.

For the past 25 years, an organization called the Institute of Cultural Affairs ("ICA") has articulated around the world how this visioning is done for businesses and demonstrated its effectiveness. We believe the same results may be achieved by applying these principles in the familial environment.

The written Vision Statement will light up the electrodes in your family's minds as they move forward into the future.

7. Character Statement. What do you want to be said about your family? List every word or phrase you want to describe and personify your family group. What words will you want to use to tell someone about the attitude and ideals of the family? Listed below is a partial sample of the Character Statement of our Law Firm.

"Eagles, Efficient, Ethical, Independent, Influential, Harmonious, Involved, Networking, Innovative, Knowledgeable, Listening, Diversified, Positive, Creative, Supportive, Flexible, Respected, Professional, Sensitive, Problem Solving, Teamwork, Stable, Integrity, Profitable, Open to New Ideas, Superior, Punctual, Responsive."

Ask every family member to suggest the words they want to describe the family.

8. Value Statement. Writing your Value Statement or Guiding Family Principles is like writing the Ten Commandments for Moses. What are the policies you will adopt throughout the family which will never be compromised? For example:

  • "We will never compromise the integrity of our family for personal gain."
  • "We will insist that we give more to the community than we take."
  • "We will strive to make the world a better place."
  • Etc.

What are your declared Values? Do you have the courage to publish them and be responsible for them henceforth and encourage their compliance within the family?

9. Image and Identity Statement. Why do some families have wonderful reputations and others are only known for their failures and shortcomings? Partially based on the perception of the outside world and partially because of they way the family presents itself. Every family is known to others. Some just throughout the neighborhood, some throughout the community and others nationally and internationally.

Each family is unique. Each family has its own attributes which feed the perception it generates. Many of the families which are known for negative reasons fail to project an image which can counteract the negative perception. How is your family going to be better and different from all others so as to attract a positive perception in non-family members. We encourage each family to commit to writing at least ten things which set your family apart from the general population. Your Image Statement should include not only how it is now, but also how you are going to change it for the better.

10. Annual Objectives. Every tank battalion of an armored division has a special objective for the sector in which it moves forward. Similarly, every aspect of your family life must have a separate objective for the near future in order for "the entire front to be covered." In our memorandum entitled Checklist of Family Objectives (attached to this memorandum), we outline the aspects of a family structure and identity that which must be directed. Set an objective now for each year's success for each of those areas. The results will help you determine your long term goals and their feasibility. This process will also assist you in budgeting the money to achieve these annual goals.

11. Tracking the Success. Each year the family should meet to discuss the accomplishments made and the goals achieved by the various family members or by the family as a whole. Take a moment to spotlight a few of the significant developments and the people involved. As the years go by, the members of the family will be able to identify and articulate what makes the family special and unique. Soon, the whole family will know what makes up the family soul. Pretty soon the family will have a well developed soul which will exist outside the "family body" and will be utilized for generations to come.

12. Conclusion. As this is a new concept, we encourage our client families to share their ideas for developing the family soul. As we often say at our Law Firm, "a good idea always gives way to a better one." To ensure we do our part in fostering this process, we have added the development of the family soul to our annual review agenda. This way, we may track each family's progress and share the strategies and ideas with our extended client family. This will truly make the world a better place. We also want the written statements of your Family Culture and Soul to be incorporated into all your Family Trusts.

DISCLAIMER

The content of this memorandum is general in nature and is meant to be used for informational purposes only. Due to possible changes in the law and its interpretation as well as the uniqueness of each individual's situation, this memorandum should not be relied upon as an expression of legal advice. Before any action is taken by the reader, it is imperative that legal counsel or professional advisors be consulted.