Family Mission Statement: 2020 Next item Advice in the Age of...

Family Mission Statement: 2020

2020 – A year of clear vision, a time to reflect on what is most important, and an opportunity to capture your reflections in a Family Mission Statement.

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the focus for many families, no matter the level of wealth, was on the basics – safety, shelter, food and health. Now that many of us have been sheltering in place for a few months and are becoming more settled with a new “normal,” it can be an opportunity for reflection on what is most important – both historically and looking forward.

For businesses, having a healthy culture is often critical for a company to succeed over the long term. The same is true for families. Much attention for families of wealth is on investing, tax planning, cash/liquidity planning and estate planning, which are all very important, but represent only half of the story in the ability of a family to “succeed.” The other half of the story is the health of family relationships and family culture. The stronger family culture is, the better the chance that a family will have a lasting legacy for multiple generations.

How can the current pandemic be used as an opportunity to improve and strengthen a family culture?

Aside from some of the more basic ways many of us can be home together, such as preparing and sharing meals, catching up on movies and going on walks, it can also be a good time to step back and create a family mission statement. This is something that was easily postponed in our busy lives before the pandemic, but the current situation provides a real opportunity to focus on a mission statement now that many of us have been forced to slow down and be in one place together.

What are the building blocks of a Family Mission Statement?

There are many resources and examples available online and in podcasts, but some of the basics include the following:

  • Family history – this can be an opportunity to capture stories that a family wouldn’t want to lose through the generations. For wealthy families, documenting stories can also provide context for future generations to understand how the wealth was created so that there is an increased connection and potentially appreciation and gratitude for the wealth.
  • Family core values – how should family members behave? You can think about this in the same way that successful businesses define how they want and need employees to behave to be a strong and successful company. Some examples could include be humble, be curious, take ownership of your own actions…
  • Family purpose and mission – what does the family want to accomplish by being a family unit? For families of wealth, how can the wealth be used to support the purpose and bring joy and accomplishment?

The process of getting to the answers above is not as simple as one family member taking the lead and others nodding or agreeing. Rather, it works best when all members can share their input and ideas and then, as a family, discuss the ideas that resonate the most with the whole family. Eventually, you will craft a mission statement of which all can be proud and to which all can commit. Time to get out the pen, paper, Post-it® notes and whiteboard! Getting to this point will also provide an opportunity to learn more about what each family member values and build a stronger foundation and understanding of each other.

What resources are available to help?

There are many articles on the web, but a few articles or podcasts that may be helpful are linked below.

If the family has unhealthy dynamics that need to be worked on before being able to put a mission statement together, they can also call on experts in this space, such as wealth counselors who are trained to help families work through differences and help improve the health of relationships.

While the pandemic has put many aspects of life on hold, families that use this time to create a family mission statement will be accomplishing something that will serve their family well for generations.