Copyright Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images
1. Have a family vacation at least every 18 months.
Copyright Mark Wallheiser, Getty Images
In a geographically dispersed family, having the cousins spend time together and play together can mean building friendship and trust that only happens when they can spend time together with the rest of the family.
2. Arrange to subsidize your family vacation after you’re gone.
Copyright Getty Images
Frank did this because he knew that families are in danger of drifting apart after the patriarch is gone. He set aside a trust to pay for these get-togethers.
3. Make the vacation appealing to those with young children.
Copyright Harold Cunningham, Getty Images
To encourage everyone to come on the vacations, include in the budget funds for baby sitters, and be sure to have child-friendly activities.
4. Write a monthly family newsletter.
Copyright Genevieve de Manio, Getty Images
Initially, our newsletter consisted of my interviewing Frank about the values and the family history that he wanted to share with younger family members.
Over time, the newsletter grew to include descriptions of engagements, weddings and interviews with prospective new family members whenever there was an engagement. There are also many articles on how family members are doing in their careers and a section for what’s going on in the company.
5. Have a newsletter for children.
Copyright Dia Dipasupil, Getty Images
I write kid newsletters every couple of months, and these newsletters let the children know the family’s history, stories and values, and there’s even a “Know Your Cousins” section. I also include with every newsletter a treasure chest with an activity that illustrates the point of that month’s newsletter.
For example, a recent newsletter was about how great grandmother was frugal. When she made her famous biscuits, she’d re-use the aluminum foil she baked them on. The activity in the treasure chest is baking her biscuits.
6. Have a family album year after year.
Copyright John Pratt, Getty Images
Ours is a hardcover book made using one of the online photobook services. In our family book, I try to have a photograph of each member and a caption on what that individual is up to.
My favorite theme, although I don’t do it every year, is to have “a family question.” The answers to the family question are often surprising, and we end up knowing more about each other this way. It’s bonding. And over the decades, it’s great for having a sense of family identity.
7. Have traditions.
Copyright Peter Macdiarmid, Getty Images
There’s a saying that I treasure: “Tradition is the lifeblood of identity,” and one of our traditions started because Frank was involved with the recovering the sunken treasure ship Atocha. We have some beautiful silver coins from the ship. When there’s a new bride in the family, she gets a silver necklace with a silver Atocha coin. What traditions can your clients’ families encourage?
8. Have an education committee.
Copyright Phillip Faraone, Getty Images
Planning to keep the family educated and abreast of what’s going on in the business world can be a tremendous bonding experience. It gets people focused on a common goal, and it’s apt to start many conversations about what is important for the family.
9. Decide what educational topics most interest the family.
Copyright NIcky J Sims, Getty Images
Making the decision on what to focus on is itself something that contributes to family bonding. In the case of my family, I found on the internet the five topics that most families want to be educated on, and asked family members to rank them order of their importance.
The five topics that came up most often were: (1) How the family business works; (2) Governance (how we make decisions that promote harmony); (3) Financial literacy; (4) Wealth literacy; and (5) Education on philanthropy.
10. Hire family business consultants.
Copyright Charley Gallay, Getty Images
A good family business consultant will have a wealth of experience in how other families have successfully handled the issues your client’s family is facing.