August 1, 2003
It took place at a hotel nestled halfway between Kentucky and New York City, along Highway 80, just a half mile off Exit 221 in eastern Ohio. My siblings and I had gathered to talk serious business — family business. We weren’t having a reunion, and it wasn’t a holiday get-together. I, along with my three brothers and sister, sat in a room discussing our family’s financial affairs: Did our parents have adequate insurance? Did mom and dad have a proper estate plan? What about long-term versus short-term care for the two of them?
Our family may not own a business, but we govern family matters in a professional manner. We use the same principles, standards, and parliamentary procedures that a board of directors in any multimillion-dollar corporation might use. We also held a family business retreat for the very same reasons large corporations do: to map out long-term and short-term goals and to develop a strategy to accomplish those goals.
Each year, thousands of private and public companies hold annual working retreats to devise a game plan for the business over the next year or two. Such retreats allow employees an opportunity to understand the inner workings of various departments within the company, while fostering a sense of teamwork and camaraderie.
As managing editor for BLACK ENTERPRISE, I’ve attended the magazine’s company retreats over the past four years. I’ve always thought that if such a venue is good enough for a major corporation, then it’s good enough for my family. Using BE as a guide, the Meeks family held its first retreat last October.
It was our parents’ health and state of affairs that set off this gathering of the Meeks children, ranging in age from the youngest, myself, at age 39 to my sister, the eldest, at 52. My siblings and I have become distant, living in three different states, separated by hundreds of miles. In fact, it had been at least 10 years since the last time we were all under one roof.
Coming together as a team to create a family plan instead of waiting until a tragedy occurred was the best thing to happen to us. Now no one is in the dark about the family’s financial affairs. Your family, too, can create a plan to preserve and protect generational wealth with the proper preparation.
FAMILY BUSINESS RETREATS VS. FAMILY REUNIONS
I can attest firsthand that family retreats can be a sound part of estate planning. Since no statistical information is available on the number of families in the United States who go on such retreats each year, BLACK ENTERPRISE magazine, with the aid of blackenterprise.com, conducted its own informal survey. The results were disappointing. The majority of those who did respond when asked about their family business retreat actually described what is defined as a “family reunion.”
It is important to note that a family business retreat is not the same as a family reunion. Reunions are usually held for a day or two and are designed for relatives to get reacquainted.