COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | MARK J. RIEDY

The best idea I’ve had since retiring

Creating a Family Business Council is the best idea I have had since retiring Jan. 15 from USD’s Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate. I recommend the concept highly for senior business executives and retirees with adult children.

The life and career experiences each participant brings to the table will enrich the group and have the potential to create positive feelings and benefits that transcend expectations.

My family is and always has been close-knit. Fortunately, we all live within 25 miles of one another, so family gatherings are at minimum a weekly occurrence. These gatherings provide great social and sometimes political conversations, good food and games that everyone in the family can play. Fun and games — it’s all good.

What’s missing from family gatherings, however, is something I did not even realize was not there until I retired. In January I lost the substantive business conversations with colleagues I had taken for granted throughout my career. It created a real void, one thankfully the Family Business Council (FBC) filled in beautifully.

The Riedy Family Business Council is a made-up generic term that gives an identity to our activities. It should not be confused with organizations focused on issues of family businesses and intergenerational transfers of assets.

Our daughter is a human resources/organizational leadership and development professional and trainer for an international defense contractor. Our son is a professional photographer with an amazing portfolio of products and services. My career spans a wide range of executive positions and service on boards of directors, mainly related to real estate and financial services.

We meet regularly to talk business and help each another professionally. We listen to one another, offer insights and advice when invited, and are there when our help is needed.

Conversations cover topics not particularly accommodated in family gatherings:

• Help establish Riedy Advisors’ as my new business persona with a website and possibly a blog. Use LinkedIn and other social media, which I’ve never had to do for myself in the past.

• Formulate pricing strategy for our son’s latest professional photography initiative, taking advantage of Google’s technology and his certification as a “Google Trusted Photographer.”

• Learn about our daughter’s professional presentations to senior executives on leadership and organization development. Offer suggestions on speech delivery and how to engage audiences.

Conversations are serious and mostly, but not always, business-oriented. For example, one entire meeting focused on family finances, where to find important documents, estate planning, wills and powers of attorney — things my wife and I believe our children should know and expectations my wife and I would like to have fulfilled. These are topics that do not lend themselves to a typical fun-filled family gathering.

In Family Business Council meetings it is natural to bring up these serious topics and have totally candid discussions. Beyond a few lighthearted comments about preserving something for our heirs, 99 percent of the discussion is serious.

Our daughter, for example, agrees we have “different’ types of conversations. She appreciates the diverse perspectives we bring, which open new ways to view projects. She also values the opportunity for her brother and her to have focused time with me, which any dad would be proud to hear.

Like parents universally, my wife and I are convinced our children are the smartest kids ever born. Nonetheless, when I proposed the FBC concept to our son and daughter, I was concerned the proposal would be met with an “oh, Dad, interesting idea but…” response.

Indeed, my son admitted to being highly skeptical at first, but now values having two knowledgeable and loving colleagues as resources to guide his business decisions and complement his excellent photographic skills. That these mentors are two of the people he loves most is a bonus.

Now, four months into it, we find ourselves anxious to decide whose turn it is to schedule the next meeting (and pay for breakfast).

Benefits of our FBC extend far beyond the value of the dialogue during our meetings:

• Greater appreciation of one another’s professional responsibilities and skills.

• Assistance with ideas, editing help and working on each other’s projects.

• Having complete trust in our intent to be helpful.

• Working collegially as business professionals and friends for two hours every few weeks, rather than in the father-son-daughter, or brother-sister relationships we hold so dearly at all other times.

• A wonderful new professional dimension to the love and respect we already share.

When being reflective, I’ve asked myself whether forming the Family Business Council represents the passing of the torch to the next generation. My answer at this moment is “not yet.” Rather, the three of us are using this torch to illuminate our career paths. And now we are walking hand-in-hand, not just side by side and certainly not single file.


Riedy is principal of Riedy Advisors, and can be reached at mark@riedyadvisors.com.

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