What is a Family Assembly?
A Family Assembly is a gathering of you and your family where you get to socialise with family that you may not have seen for a while, discuss what is happening within the family business and can also be used as a forum to provide educational and developmental support to members of the family.
They are typically introduced as the size of the business and the family increases and particularly where getting everyone together becomes more difficult.
Whilst there is no hard and fast rule, an assembly would take place over the course of a weekend and some families book out a hotel, a resort, or similar and organise a range of activities over that weekend.
Who attends a Family Assembly?
The Family Assembly will be attended by all members of the family, irrespective of age. Different people may attend different elements over the course of the weekend so you wouldn’t have 6 year olds attending a session on the intricacies of the market that the business is operating in, for example.
The purpose of the Family Assembly is two fold, it is to help bring together family members who may be geographically spread around the country or the world. It may be the only opportunity throughout the year for cousins to be able to meet.
Secondly, it is an opportunity to help ensure that everyone in the family has access to the same information and can build an emotional attachment to the business, which again can be difficult if the family is large and spread across different locations.
What is covered at the Family Assembly?
This can be specified by each family, some will have more of a focus on the business side of things, with briefings from representatives to the Board, interactions with the Family Council, external presentations from advisers to the business on matters relating to market specific information, or legal and taxation issues.
Others will want to focus on ensuring that there are social elements to the meetings. If this is the only real opportunity to get everyone together in one place it makes sense to use it as an opportunity to increase family unity, get to know each other better and create memories. It may be that those in attendance will become future owners or leaders of the business alongside cousins that they only see at these events throughout their childhood and so using it as a forum to build those relationships and an emotional attachment to the business makes sense.
In reality a balanced approach may be considered the most appropriate but it is also important that the meetings are useful and not just filled with stuff that isn’t relevant.
When are they useful?
As I have outlined above the Family Assembly becomes useful at the point where the family is large enough to need one. What you would typically see is that there would be other forums in place first, such as a Family Council and they would decide that a Family Assembly would be beneficial.
Members of the Family Council will often be responsible for ensuring that there is effective communication on certain aspects of the family enterprise, when this becomes unwieldy and difficult, it may be time to introduce a formal meeting once a year to disseminate the information to the relevant family members.
They can become a really useful forum for building family coherency and an emotional attachment to the business.
Who organises a Family Assembly?
Typically the Family Assembly would be organised by the Family Council, or an individual allocated that role by the Family Council. There is a role that is becoming more and more recognised within family enterprises and that is the role of The Family Champion (podcast episode here) and it may be something that the ‘Family Champion’ takes on.
As with most things relating to your family business, it needs to be something that works for you. The key is to ensure that it is relevant and solves the ‘problem’ you are looking to solve.
How to get Started
The best place to get started is to first look at whether your family and family enterprise would benefit from this kind of forum, it may not be on the scale of booking a resort out for the weekend, you may want to start with a day long meeting and a family meal to get the ball rolling. It is also likely that the format of the meeting will change over time as you learn more about what works for your family.
You may want to invite professionals and experts such as myself in to host sessions on specific areas such as family governance, family dynamics and family systems theory etc. You may also bring your accountants and lawyers into the meeting and have specific sessions on matters such as philanthropy facilitated by an expert in that area.
My advice would be to start with what feels right for you and your family, and then take feedback on what else people would want. It is your meeting as a family and there are no ‘cookie cutter’ solutions.
If you would like some help, please get in touch.
Listen to the Podcast Episode here:
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Inviting an external consultant into your business and your family is a big step, I appreciate that, and it is not a responsibility I take lightly. The first step in moving forward is for us to have a chat about what you are trying to achieve and how I can help.
Follow this link to book a chat with me. No obligation, if I can help we can discuss how and the next steps.