Last week, England’s first Royal Foundation forum was held in London led by Prince William, his wife Kate, Prince Harry, and his fiancée Meghan, who is a newly initiated patron of The Foundation. This organization was created as a new style of how the Royal Family could engage with causes that are close to their hearts. It allows them to work together across this generation as well as bring others together to focus on areas they are each passionate about.
What these second-generation royals are doing is something that looks very familiar to us at Matter Family Office. Working together around common values and learning how to communicate as a family in order to reach a shared goal are key pieces of creating and maintaining a healthy family culture. This family is doing it on the world’s stage, but you don’t have to be part of a monarchy to engage in this process. In fact, many Matter families are choosing to do this type of work to give themselves the best possible chance to thrive in the context of wealth and allow subsequent generations to do so, too.
While excellent planning around investments, estate planning, and other technical aspects is a key piece of sustaining wealth, we have found (and the research shows) that it’s not enough on its own to prevent loss of wealth from generation to generation. Family relationships can be complex, and wealth only magnifies the complexity. It is important to be intentional about treating the business of family wealth as a joint effort while also allowing family members to build their own identities separate from the family, engage in careers worth having, and grow healthy families of their own.
At Matter, we help families navigate a Values Retreat process that begins with the first generation, extends to the second generation, and ends with a collaboration of the two to come up with a family vision and values. When family members can unite around common values and vision and learn to appreciate each other’s individual opinions and interests, having hard conversations and approaching generational transition become easier.
A shared vision gives family members incentive to work together successfully, but the tools that can take this work to the next level are listening and communication skills. We have seen that even very close family members can have trouble collaborating if they have different listening and communication styles. There are many resources available to help identify different styles and teach family members how to be cognizant of their style and the styles of others. At Matter, we encourage families to take listening and communication assessments and help them learn how to use the results to make family meetings and other conversations productive and honest.
Of course, there are always challenges, especially when it comes to bringing new spouses into the family business of wealth. In the case of William, Kate, Harry and Meghan, the two Princes had this to say:
The foursome laughed when asked whether they had ever had disagreements when working together.
William said “oh yes”, as Harry added: “Healthy disagreements.”
He continued: “I think it’s really good we’ve got four different personalities, we’ve all got that same passion to want to make a difference, but different opinions.
“And I think those opinions work really, really well. Working as family does have its challenges, of course it does… the fact everyone is laughing means you know exactly (what I mean) – but we’re stuck together for the rest of our lives.”
Every family is different, but every family faces similar challenges. Beating the “shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves” curse does take significant personal commitment from family members. However, with the right framework and appropriate tools, any family that wants to succeed, can.