I recently came across a NY Times article about musicians fighting over who gets to play (and collect tips) at Strawberry Fields, the memorial to John Lennon in Central Park.

The situation strongly reminded me of challenges my family clients face. It is so essential for families who share assets across generations to take the time to decide HOW they will share the rights and responsibilities that come with ownership, management and leadership. And, they still need to manage being a family in this challenging context in which emotional and economic lives are intertwined.

When starting out in a business, things are almost always informal. Little attention is paid to the essentials about how or even why to work together as a family. Usually, families just forge ahead. If success comes over time, new generations enter, the complexity of combining family with business grows, and the need to take time to calmly discuss HOW the family works together becomes of utmost importance. Without proactive management of these issues, problems and even chaos will ensue; this can tear apart families and destroy wealth created over generations.

The Strawberry Fields article shows interesting parallels to the importance of enterprising families developing and sharing a common vision, including spelling out details about the roles and responsibilities of all the players.  This calls for transparency in discussions about these and related matters and a fair and open process. The situation in Central Park shows how the proverbial “golden goose” can be strangled by warring factions; if that happens, everybody loses because they lack a powerful and unified effort to grow as a group with more success and security for all.

Consider reading the article and let me know your thoughts – particularly if the analogy works!