I have had the pleasure of working as a family business consultant to the Renaldo family for more than 25 years. The Renaldos own a collection of retail outlets in Europe. It may well be the most successful business of its kind of in the world. Recently, I took the entire family through an exercise in which each of them wrote a letter to the generation after them. Thus, the mother, who is age 73 and has had a long career in the business, wrote to her three sons, all of whom work in the business.
The mother, who has been a pillar of strength for the family and the family business, agreed to share the letter she wrote to her sons. Her advice is important for any family in business together.
My Dear Sons,
You are entrusted with the stewardship of Renaldo Stores and the Renaldo family legacy. This is an awesome responsibility. Not only must you preserve the brand and evolve it for the future, but also you are responsible for the livelihood of 3,000 people. Do not take either responsibility lightly.
First and foremost make sure the best available people are in all leadership positions. They must understand the culture of our business, and be hard working and committed to helping the stores grow. Please remember that the best leaders may not have the last name of Renaldo.
The business has been built on the solid values of integrity, humility, fun, hard work and conservative financial planning. This has allowed us to grow and at the same time weather economic storms. Our stores’ focus is the customer’s experience. We seek to serve. I believe this is a good formula for the future.
Our associates have made Renaldo Stores a career. Support them and help them strive for personal growth. Always treat them with respect and dignity. Our model involves giving back to the community. For you to remain a leader in the industry, all these values must be guarded. Retail is changing more quickly than in the past. Be aware, be open and proceed with caution.
Continue to work hard to build love and respect among all nuclear family units. The strength of the business depends on the strength of the family. A clear challenge for the future is to make all members of the next generation, my grandchildren, feel an important part of the family regardless of their chosen work path.
The tremendous success of the business has afforded all Renaldo family units a privileged life style. Each generation has experienced financial success earlier than the one before it. I worry that the attitude of entitlement is creeping into our lives. You will need to work hard to check this just as we have worked hard to check everyone’s ego. Ego can be a very dangerous force that could destroy the business and break the family bonds. This is particularly important as everyone becomes more financially successful.
Work hard, have fun and please remember to treat everyone as you would like to be treated. Actions speak much louder than words.
On a personal note, continue to love and support your family. Give everyone the gift of roots and wings. Help everyone to feel accomplished, to have dreams, ambition and self-confidence. Encourage curiosity. Encourage kindness and caring. Continue to give back. Make sure your children understand the concept of stewardship of the business and family wealth.
Learn from mistakes made and move forward. Do not let the fear of failure keep anyone from growing. Minimize the importance of the wealth you have accumulated. Remember: it is only money, and money solves none of life’s important problems. Remind everyone that the disease of alcoholism exists within the family. Emphasize a healthy life style both emotionally and physically.
In this day of “always being connected” encourage your children to develop strong interpersonal skills. Help your children to become caring, independent, responsible, contributing adults.
Know that I love you all,
Writing such a letter is a good exercise. It causes you to examine what’s truly important to your family and your family’s success. To prepare, I encourage you to reflect on the values of your family. Ask yourself the following questions:
What are the enduring qualities that have made your family what it is?
Why have we been successful over the years?
What qualities will keep us strong as a family and focused as a business?
How are we different from other families in business?
What can we learn from families who have had challenges within their family that spilled over into the business?
What cautionary advice do you want to give your children?
What is the life you want for your children and the grandchildren after them?
Good luck in writing your letter!
“Sharing Wisdom, Building Values: Letters from Family Business Owners to Their Successors”
by Kenyon-Rouvinez, Adler, Corbetta & Cuneo
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