By Robin C. Catlin, CFP ®, MBA
Director, Matter Family Office
Family meetings are invaluable to multigenerational success. They help families build trust and communication, provide a structure for information-sharing and decision-making, and create a format for introducing the rising generation to the opportunities and complexities of wealth.
At Matter, we take an integrated, holistic approach to helping families thrive for generations, and facilitating family meetings is a critical part of that work. Over the years, we’ve learned a lot about how to help families prepare for meetings, set expectations, and get the most out of their time together. Although every family is different, we’ve found these five actions result in great family meetings.
Set a consistent cadence
Whether you’re meeting annually, quarterly, or somewhere in between, consistency is key. Set a regular cadence for your family meetings and stick with it, to be sure attendees can plan ahead and meetings happen regularly.
Establish ground rules
Successful families establish meeting ground rules that help everyone communicate openly and effectively. We recommend setting clear expectations for who’s invited to family meetings, assigning roles and responsibilities to each participant, and putting your rules in writing, so you can hold each other accountable. Utilizing meeting facilitators—like your family coach, advisor, lawyer, or family office professional—can help keep meetings grounded and productive, too. When facilitating meetings for Matter families, we not only guide discussion and decision-making, we also help families create and stick to their ground rules.
Determine a clear purpose and agenda
Meetings go best when participants are prepared and everyone’s on the same page. Whether you’re gathering to discuss the family business, investments, properties, or philanthropy, it’s key to agree on a clear purpose and agenda for each meeting—and to share it with attendees ahead of time.
Maintain a positive atmosphere
Family meetings often cover serious topics that require tough conversations and decisions. It’s important to be thoughtful and deliberate while maintaining an atmosphere of acceptance, inclusion, and optimism. Families that commit to a positive and supportive atmosphere enjoy meetings that run smoothly and respectfully—even when tackling difficult challenges.
Balance meetings with fun
Whether you’re building fun activities into or around your family meetings, or being intentional about scheduling separate times to connect casually with your family, make sure to balance serious business with fun. Thriving families genuinely enjoy being together, and making time to share laughter, adventure, and joy—as well as to manage the business of the family—is an investment in your future.