Many years ago (and unfortunately still to some degree today) heirs had to wait for someone to die before finding out what they would inherit, with whom they would own a business or other assets, and what role they would be expected to play.  This often happened with little teaching and development to lay a healthy foundation for this intense experience and how to manage the technical, emotional and relational effects. Also, often lacking are conversations with the inheritor(s) to find out what their interests are and what they would like their lives to be like in the context of this transfer of wealth to them and even aside from it. In addition, loving conversations about what this gift means to the grantor(s) have been absent for too long.

This tends to be overwhelming to the inheritor.

Currently, there are many families who put real effort into teaching and developing the rising generation; often they are included in their 20’s and even teen years in ways appropriate to their maturity level.

The next leap is to go younger still. For example, in 1980 researchers DeCasper and Fifer gathered women in the final trimester of pregnancy. The mothers read “The Cat in the Hat” to their bellies. Shortly after birth babies preferred a recording of mother reading “The Cat in the Hat” to the actual mother reading another Dr. Seuss book. The thinking is that babies are already developing complex attachments and are internalizing experiences while still in the womb! It was not simply the mother’s voice they enjoyed, but her voice reading “The Cat in the Hat” as opposed to a different Dr. Seuss book (babies can discern the difference between the two Seuss books!)

What does this have to do with potential future involvement in a family business or inheriting an operating business or other forms of wealth? So much of the potential to develop future stewards of wealth lies in the earliest years. If a fetus in utero can have a favorite book, there are certainly many opportunities to connect with infants and toddlers in a loving and intentional manner that also prepares them for future stewardship and the challenges that inheriting can bring into their lives. See my April 2015 post for more specifics.

And the Family Business world is more receptive than ever to my ideas in this realm.

Last month I was invited to go to Cartagena, Columbia to speak to 400 family business members about the opportunities for parents in multigenerational business/wealth contexts before they even have children and during the first five years of life. Follow this link to check out the Summit and scroll down to Day One – afternoon. Google can translate if your Spanish is not up to speed 🙂

On November 17th from 8:30-10:30 am, I’ll be leading an early morning session for NYCFEC (The New York Family Enterprise Center). It is entitled Raising Family Business Children, and is intended for NYC-area couples, grandparents, husbands, wives or anyone else who has responsibility for (or may be eventually raising) children in a business-owning family. Small family businesses (<$10 million revenues) attend for FREE! Contact me if you or someone you know is interested in attending and I will get a discounted fee and additional family members will be free.

Many of the skills families can develop to raise enlightened children who are ready for the responsibilities and challenges of family business and financial success are helpful for poor families and middle-class families too. However, financial success in a family has the tendency to make life easier when it is the very challenges which wealth can lessen which are the building blocks of character, motivation and selflessness.