Importance of the family genome in family succession

The family genome is commonly known as the family tree. Conventional wisdom states that when seeking to understand the family it is best to trace the genome back to the founding couple. While this is a recognised practice and of significant value I contest that it is best to go back to the pre-founder generation (if possible) to gain an insight as to the how, why and what drew the founding couple together.

Every family genome is a pictorial display of the family history and story, which has defined the family values (their not negotiables) and driven the evolution of the family legacy (what the family is known for internally and externally). It also facilitates the discussion of events within the family that otherwise may not be “tabled” of just forgotten during the process.

All families in business around the world have a story that is unique to them and has shaped the family and the business into what is evident today. These stories are of success, failures, emotional rolla-coaster rides, financial implications, evolution of purpose, business and family relationships, innovation and in some cases, folk lore. This uniqueness must be explored and acknowledged by the family as it is the family’s evolution and the platform for its future.

Through exploring the family genome one can visualise and discuss how each generation has entered, exited or been retained within the business. This is critical as it highlights the cousin consortium relationships and historical interactions that are most likely playing out at the current time. It also enables the tracing of power and influence through the family lines. Finally, it allows the articulation of “taboo” or “off limits” topics within the family.

While all of the above has focused on the family, the genome has another purpose. Mapping of the current family members over the “three circles” of family business – Family, Ownership and Business. This is sometimes utilised for the distribution of wealth however TCB Solutions utilises this as one mechanism of identifying the “attachment” paradigms of each family member.

The final purpose of the family genome is mapping it over the business genome or organisational chart. This is an absolutely critical process as it clearly outlines where the family members are within the business, what their role is and more importantly where they are positioned within the internal segment of the businesses supply chain.

The above process can identify those employees who have strong “attachments” to family members that may well be disrupted throughout the inter-generational transfer process. It also provides clarity as to who actually has “key account management” relationships with the up-stream and down-stream segment s of the supply chain. The identification of these factors provides an insight into the non-family member power and influence structures within the business.

In summary, the family genome is a critical tool for;

  1. Understanding and acknowledging the family’s evolution in a “warts and all” manner
  2. Gaining insights as to the unique story of the family
  3. Identifying what has shaped the family’s values and legacy
  4. Teasing out the non-family member attachment, power and influence possibilities
  5. Supply chain management and risk mitigation
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