Entrepreneurship, innovation, and creativity!
Colleges, universities, trade associations, speakers, authors, media, coaches, advisors, and peer groups such as Entrepreneurs Organization, Vistage, and Young Presidents Organization all endorse the positive impact of entrepreneurial, innovative, and creative values and practices. Competitive advantage in today’s market place relies on it.
For many years, multigenerational business owners resisted considering their businesses, let alone their ownership families, entrepreneurial because there was an assumption that meant start-up and boot-strapping, not thriving and flourishing for long-term continuity. Today, however, we are witnessing more and more multi-generational enterprises planning the future with an entrepreneurial, innovative, and creative orientation. For them it means regeneration and hope.
Since beginning in this field in the mid-1990s, I have created an informal, but informative, list of values, characteristics, and habits that I frequently observe in those highly successful, and strongly unified families who effectively adapt, change, and become resilient when the external environment (and life’s realities) presents inevitable challenges. Their quest for high performance continuity typically includes some of the following:
- Defining themselves as an enterprising family and agreeing on what that means to them. Typically, this includes s being a family with common goals and needing to collectively make decisions in a timely manner on how to apply all types of family capital resources in an innovative way that yields enterprising outcomes (measured in terms of profitability, wealth generation, potential, and purpose for people) while remaining voluntarily unified and harmonious in terms of family relationships.
- Categorizing their capital assets owned by the family as those beyond just measurable wealth (financial capital) to include human, intellectual, social, emotional, and time capital. Some of these families actually created a values matrix to demonstrate to each family member how he or she contributes to the family asset and purpose pool.
- Purposefully developing family leadership versus allowing it to evolve organically or as a derivative from a reaction to crisis or death. Once a family vision, mission, and value statement is crafted, these families then determine the different scenarios for which family leadership is called and determine what type of leadership style is needed. They then create position descriptions, job requirements, and expectations of not only those who will be family leader candidates but also those that will be active followers of that assigned leader. Several of these families also have joined or co-launched facilitated peer support groups with other leaders of enterprising families, focusing mainly on enterprising family leadership issues and not operating business operation matters.
- Encouraging a concept referred to as confident vulnerability in all family members. While these families believe in their capacity to generate outcomes, they typically try to shield themselves and each other from vulnerability. But these families trust in the power of allowing each family member the space, and sometimes the platform, on which to untether from certainty. Researcher Brene Brown, Ph.D., wrote Daring Greatly and The Gifts of Imperfection, two top-selling books about courage, shame, and vulnerability and how they are finding their way onto the center stage of high performance virtues.
- Inspiring risk-taking and regularly celebrating failure. Thanks to the publicized family habits of Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx, a billion dollar company founded with $5,000 start-up cash, creating a family culture in which failure is rejoiced has become an entrepreneurial necessity for enterprising families. In Sara’s case, her father used the dinner table as the venue for reporting the day’s risks and failures. Some of my clients and students have established written journals documenting important failures over time. Others engage professional graphic designers to chronicle and story board each family member’s contribution to continuity through risks, failures, and resiliency plans.
- Defining their family as a learning organization committed to talent development for all, regardless of age and stage. Businesses have long invested in training and development. Many established a corporate university dedicated to the specific needs of the organization. Successful enterprising families incorporate a similar concept into their family, creating a family continuity university with customized curriculum around the family’s goals. Some also integrate family-wide experiential learning opportunities such as outdoor adventure challenges or even philanthro-travel such as going on a multi-branch family educational trip to a third world country to build a school or water well as a family. Many have assigned a family member to be the chief learning officer. Each family member receives a personalized talent and passion development plan and possibly a coach to assist in the implementation and accountability process.
- Incorporating legacy as a value held by others not a prescription controlled by one. These families also seem to have a slightly different philosophy about legacy. Rather than it being a certain value every family member is encouraged to believe and steward, for enterprising families, legacy is viewed as a collective opportunity in which each family member contributes continuously. Some families hold legacy retreats filled with storytelling, history lessons, life coaching, team building, and other personal enrichment programs.
- Creating engaging forms of connection. Many of these families have their own websites and social media structures connecting family members. While not everyone may agree with the merit of certain media, all of their family members agree with the importance of staying connected and current with each other. These families assign or hire someone to champion this project. Their family websites include sections for family history, online storytelling, photo sharing, information transfer, hosting formal family documents, shared and updated calendars of where family members are experiencing their lives, and contact information. Some families also have a family innovation blogs, family creativity centers, or even webinar classes on entrepreneurial family history and timeline.
These are just a few examples of what some enterprising families do to create their competitive advantage for sustainability and continuity. They build and regenerate their entrepreneurial, innovative, and creative muscles. Regardless of what is done, families that are flourishing agree that continuously doing something strategically and proactively advances their family toward their goals for continuity and helps them experience stronger family unity, more sustainable connections, and a greater sense of enterprise success. Each family must explore the universe of possibilities and determine what works for them.