we put on our to-do list a meeting with our parents’ doctors to get a better assessment of their medical conditions. We accomplished this over the Thanksgiving holiday. Other important aspects of our retreat included defining personal aspirations, professional objectives, and financial goals. We also discussed where we envision ourselves as a family over the next year. We didn’t invite a financial advisor to speak to us as a family last year, but perhaps for our next retreat, we’ll make it a point to meet with a financial planner.
We have already set the wheels in motion for next year’s business retreat. There will be an item on the agenda under the heading “A Year in Review,” in which we will revisit and measure the success or failure of our family plan. We will go back over our notes to see what we’ve accomplished. Did we set up wills and living trusts like we said we would? Did we designate guardianship in terms of our own children? Did we set aside funds in a family pool? Unless otherwise needed, we will take care of our family one step at a time — one year at a time.
The Williamses measure the success of their business retreats when they look back at the planning sheets they developed at the previous retreat. “We tend to do it at the beginning of the [retreat],” explains Paul. “Because we keep the books that we use, we’ll look back at the to-do list and the schedule that we made, and we’ll look at what we’ve been able to accomplish. And it gives us a sense of satisfaction and success.
“One thing that helps us is that we try to be outcome-oriented in terms of the discussion, so that we end up with a to-do list or an action list at the end of each agenda item. We always try to push it toward ‘What are we going to do? … What are we going to put down as our goal or objective?’”
Having a family business retreat sends the message that you can have some control over your destiny by virtue of planning, summarizes Ammie Williams. “You work so hard and so many hours for other companies and people, but [you] need to spend that kind of quality time focusing on [your] goals as a family unit and treating your family as a corporation, with a bottom line, with a budget, and with certain financial goals,” she explains. “If you can state a goal for yourself and your family, then you can reach it. And that’s what the family business retreat is for.”
Steps to a Successful Family Business Retreat
Every organization or family has a culture and the way we deal with life is based on the way we’ve been enculturated. According to Steven White, CEO of S.D. White & Associates, every family business retreat will be different because every family is different. A family business retreat is like a fact-finding mission whereby you get to assess financial matters, from