The Business of the Family

By Dr. Richard Orlando

“As CEO of an international company, I have read many books on leadership, wealth, and success. Of these, Dr. Orlando’s book is in a class by itself. Legacy provides principles and insights that can assist business owners and entrepreneurs in their pursuit to prepare themselves and their children for the opportunities and responsibilities that come with success. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in creating a positive legacy through their company and family.”

—John Rakolta, Jr., CEO of Walbridge

The Business of the Family
Last year, my wife and I decided to buy an iPod to be shared by our two youngest children. We knew the “sharing” part might not come easy, however we thought it would be a valuable contribution into their life IQs. This gift was one of their Christmas presents. They found the iPod wrapped with both their names on the tag, but even so my son took it and unwrapped it. “Awesome,” he said, “thanks for getting me this.” How quickly he forgot that his sister’s name was also on the tag and that we’d said the gift was for both of them to share. Making an investment into our children’s life IQs began early that Christmas morning.

All too often, the ability to share isn’t the most natural thing to do. It requires intention, skill, and practice. What happened to our children and their shared iPod is a microcosm of what happens with many adults who have to share adult “toys” —things like businesses, homes, and inheritances in general—with their siblings and cousins. It’s not that people don’t want to share—although this is the case sometimes; it’s more that sharing takes effort. Family members don’t necessarily have the same perspectives, values, and interests. And if you add a little stress, lack of trust, or some conflict into the mix, sharing can be even harder.

There are numerous examples in my work of families that have to make a decision about a shared family asset. This could be a business, the use of a summer home, or the operation of a family foundation. Yes, even such a noble value as wanting to give to charity from a family foundation requires skills to decide which charity or charities to give to. I have witnessed families arguing heatedly because they disagree about their donations. “I rather give to . . .” “That charity’s mission also includes [fill in the blank] and I don’t agree with that.” “I believe we should only give to charities in our backyard.”

It is easy to make a decision, if one person in the family (like the parent) funds the foundation and therefore makes the final decisions. All other family members follow along. However, when there is a decision to be made on a shared family asset by more than one person who has some skin in the game for the outcome of the decision, a decision requires intention and skill.

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