Exclusive to Business Families
November 12-13, 2021

  • Connects enterprising families and global thought leaders
  • Focuses on today's issues and tomorrow's opportunities
  • See what we learned at last year's summit

  • Draws on shared wisdom, contrasting opinions and solution-driven ideas
  • Every participant is a contributor
  • Taking place in beautiful downtown Montreal, Quebec!
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Family Enterprise Canada Monthly Barometer Family Enterprise Foundation

Join us as we explore today's issues in family enterprise

What is urgent? What takes priority? The newest generational divide.

Societal issues are spilling over into family enterprises. Think healthcare crises, climate change, automation, inclusivity, etc. In light of the past year’s events and lingering uncertainty, we may be witnessing a “decoupling” of parallel attitudes between generational cohorts as to what is urgent, what takes priority and how entrepreneurial families should be acting now and for the longer term. Such differences are neither obvious nor bad. In fact, they can be leveraged to support growth and sustainability. How entrepreneurial families harness (and exploit) generational variances is what’s important. The great thing about opposing perspectives is, paradoxically, they offer more options.

In times of crisis, pivot; in quieter times, plan. What do we do post pandemic?

We cannot react and reflect at the same time. Global unrest has all but eradicated entrepreneurial families’ tolerance towards risk. What will shape our attitudes towards tomorrow’s hazards? How might this affect how we grow as an enterprising family? It is surely better to thrive than to merely survive. Answering these questions could transform how we behave as families in business and how we do business as progressive families.

Take a glance at the topics we will be discussing below...

Winds of Social Change

  1. How might families leverage patient capital while reflecting on global events?
  2. What are families observing in the actions their competitors are taking?
  3. Is excessive patience risk-aversion?

Less inequity, more opportunity ǀ By now we have all heard how new policies for social change are needed once the pandemic is over. Politicians from Joe Biden to Boris Johnson, civil society organizations and even consulting firms have espoused the phrase “Build Back Better” as an expression of new values in policymaking. Where do business families fit in? Many seek to further empower their employees. Others are mindful of fair wages and perks, and sensitive to the necessity of flexible and working conditions that favour productivity and health. These factors enhance loyalty. Yet the winds of social change are up. They will blow hot and cold on generations, particularly in this time of fragile economic recovery. Meanwhile, we’re hearing calls for a universal basic income. Calls for greater social dividends – that is, returns on the capital assets owned by our society – are coming too, but at what cost to enterprises that would help finance them? Even visionary families find intergenerational distribution of their wealth challenging. It is a curious paradox that they may be increasingly called upon to lead tremendous social change in ways that will have far-reaching implications beyond their own bloodlines.

Economics and Attitudes

  1. What is a healthy ratio for balancing rentier and entrepreneurial strategies?
  2. What is our relationship to material ownership and capital investment?
  3. If we are not entrepreneurial, are we contributing to global inequalities?

Rentier Class vs Entrepreneurial Class: Tomorrow’s Trade-Offs ǀ One of the sunnier outcomes of the health crisis is that it reminded consumers and producers that, when pushed, we can get by on less. Generational cohorts witnessed this as they found themselves on the same economic page in 2020. Their common ground? Survive. Now, amid the rise of rentier capitalism, one wonders if the generations are truly aligned. Rentiers are considered damaging because they extract “unearned” value from our economy. They invest in unproductive assets, such as real estate, or reap excessive profits through monopolistic control of infrastructure. For “entrepreneurial” families there is plenty to debate. Do we oppose the “bad” capitalism of the unproductive rentier over “good” capitalism of productive enterprise? Paradoxically, both are inextricably linked. The rentier class is not an anomaly but a common recurrence, one which tends to accompany periods of protracted economic decline. Still, there should be a balance between accumulation of capital and entrepreneurial attitudes that promote its redistribution. The question is: What kind of economy do we want our families build and operate in?

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Smarter Environments

  1. Where do families start in building a greener future?
  2. Are families we doing enough for environmental causes?
  3. How do we align all generations towards a coherent environmental strategy?
  4. Are there quick wins and actionable steps?

Are families doing enough? ǀ Often held up as civic-minded and whose long-term views provide economic resilience, family-owned enterprises can do better. What kind of planet will we leave our children? What can we do better today? Regenerative economies that eliminate waste through continual use of resources still stand in contrast with traditional the “take, make and dispose” models of production long associated with Boomers. As we continue to contribute more greenhouses gases that we reduce, one wonders if net-zero is a mirage. The bigger question is: Are family businesses truly aligned across generations in our bid to leave the planet in better shape tomorrow? We assume Millennials are more concerned than others with global challenges. This cohort is seen to be more socially aware and environmentally responsible. Yet there is evidence that shows older age groups who are farther ahead. When it actually comes to reversing their carbon footprints, Boomers spend more on the environment. The same applies to charity and donations. That doesn’t matter. What does is common ground, instilling responsibility across generations, and finding ways to make it tangible so entire families can get behind it.

Vanguard Governance

  1. What does good governance mean to your family?
  2. What governance mechanisms does our family use to source skills?
  3. What are families’ most common governance blind spots?

Shared responsibility, skills and horizontal management ǀ Does our family business decentralize decision-making to the point where employees are empowered with significant levels of responsibility? It is a tantalizing question, yet in the current economic climate some families are facing harder ones. As the global economy imploded last year, business families pivoted, hunkered down and generally sought quick ways to stay afloat. The crisis has brought new meaning to the old adage “think global, act local” as business families soon placed more emphasis on local ownership, local wealth and local investment – the idea being, narrow the focus, widen the chance of success. As they look to recover, families are also seeking skills beyond their bloodlines. Additionally, the idea of cooperatives, companies owned by their share-purchasing members, has come into greater focus as families look for added ways to thrive. Management buy-outs, where owners sell stakes to employees who can hit the ground running, are other options under consideration as families seek options for success and profit, other than turning to external buyers. The underlying theme? Finding new ways to empower stakeholders as well as shareholders. But are the generational cohorts in sync?

Continuity: NextGen Intentions in the Family Enterprise

  1. How do generations define continuity? How do they propel it?
  2. Are the intentions of next-gen owners synced with their deepest desires?
  3. What is the allure of family-ownership?

Peer Discussion | By their very nature family enterprises must reconcile the unpredictability of business with the responsibility of ownership and the challenge of realizing the aspirations of all family members. This fundamental combination, which has defined enterprising families for centuries, yields mixed results in terms of lasting legacies and family cohesion. If enterprise continuity is an overly burdensome concept on the minds of rising generations, a redefinition of legacy may be in order.

Purpose and Re-Purposing: Managing Drive and the Family Enterprise

  1. Can family purpose be tracked through coherence mapping?
  2. What defines a coherent entrepreneurial family?
  3. Do business families have a responsibility to initiate positive change in communities?

Peer Discussion | Successful entrepreneurial families are not driven by mysterious forces – that inexplicable energy commentators vaguely describe as the “secret sauce” of a charmed existence. The actual ingredients – hard work and progressive attitudes – are rather more conventional. Yet as the world changes, so does the family, its attitudes towards enterprise, towards helping communities, and actions taken towards raising living standards. Impact-oriented Millennials are on the same page as philanthropic Boomers but there is a rising discrepancy in what is said and what is done. Family Coherence Mapping could bridge the gaps.

Education: Our Future and the Family Enterprise

  1. Why do learning champions matter?
  2. Why does family learning matter?
  3. What bearing does family education have on purpose, wealth and legacy?

Peer Discussion | Family learning champions, those who invest in lifelong education, have their work cut out. Clans that fully embrace their strategic value may have a continuity edge. Concentrating on the financial capital of a family has long been held up as surest path to build a legacy. New research suggests adding a focus on human and social capital further increases the probability of enterprise longevity and family wealth beyond the coveted third generation. We identify the effects family learning champions on legacy and purpose.

Taxation: Fair Share and the Family Enterprise

  1. Are family enterprises taxed fairly?
  2. Do family-owned enterprises suffer from lack of economic recognition?
  3. Is the health/economic crisis fundamentally changing the pattern of how families work together?

Peer Discussion | Family-owned enterprises account for half of Canada’s private sector GDP. Their economic impact is remarkable. So was Covid-19’s, for the wrong reasons. Now the federal government has earmarked $101 billion in new spending it says will help the country climb out of an economic hole. Will it? What share must entrepreneurial families bear? And as a collective economic engine, what say should families have? Higher deficits in the coming years will test the ability of governments to balance standards of living against spending cuts or tax increases. Families should flex their economic muscle as policy influencers.


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