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How do I facilitate a family meeting that is both inclusive and productive?

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There are many reasons to make the effort to facilitate regular family meetings. Not only can they contribute to long-term family success, they can also lead to better communication, decision-making and education of all family members.

That said, based on our experience working with exceptional families to design and facilitate effective family meetings, we can tell you that getting everyone together to discuss “family business” is not always an easy task. However, if you follow a few basic guidelines, ones our firm has garnered from arranging these gatherings, your own future multi-generational conclaves should be both inclusive and productive.

When arranging a family meeting, be certain all attendees understand that the purpose of this gathering is to provide a forum for all members to openly share ideas, opportunities and challenges and make shared decisions in a truly collaborative manner. It also offers family leaders a chance to train and educate younger members about family finances and traditions. For reference, our firm helps families hold meetings on the following:


These meetings focus on an open discussion and engage family members to collectively come up with their family‘s mission, vision and values, plus define their legacy goals.


These meetings include the rising generations—that is, children, grandchildren and/or great grandchildren, and focus on encouraging cross-generational dialogue. These meetings help to model and develop family leadership.

Facilitating regular multi-generational family meetings helps insure a family’s success for generations to come.


Family meetings also serve to design, review and approve a comprehensive approach to financial education. Meetings offer a chance to train and educate younger family members in the basics of family finances and in family traditions.

Whatever the focus of your meeting, you should try to keep each session to two-to three hours. Beyond that, most individuals will get meeting fatigue, and productivity will plummet. If all topics on the agenda have not been covered, schedule a followup gathering.

If the notion of a family meeting still seems like a daunting task, we can work with you to make this happen.

Our process is fairly simple. It begins with a discovery stage during which we make certain everyone involved is well briefed on your family’s information, and what you hope the meeting accomplishes. Also during this stage, the meeting’s structure and dynamics are determined.

Before the actual meeting, there will have been an introductory call with you, us, and one of our meeting facilitators, to solidify the agenda and goals.

The meeting itself will take place at a location you select, but we will recommend a “neutral location” if sensitive discussions are anticipated. You can also invite nonfamily members such as accountants, or a family office manager. Post-meeting action will depend on what was resolved and what wasn’t, whether all business was covered or not.

Admittedly, facilitating regular multi-generational family meetings that are both inclusive and productive requires some work. But making the effort more often than not leads to better communication, decision making and education of all members of the family. And that, in turn, helps insure a family’s success for generations to come.

1Leslie Dashew et al., The Keys To Family Business Success, Aspen Family Business Group, 2011.

Kathleen Entwistle and Bryan Stephens are Private Wealth Advisors with UBS Financial Services Inc. at 61 South Paramus Road, Paramus, NJ, and 1285 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10019. UBS Financial Services Inc. Private Wealth Advisors engage Worth to feature this article. In providing wealth management services to clients, we offer both investment advisory and brokerage services which are separate and distinct and differ in material ways. For information, including the different laws and contracts that govern, visit ubs. com/workingwithus. The strategies and/or investments referenced may not be suitable for all investors. UBS Financial Services Inc., its affiliates and its employees are not in the business of providing tax or legal advice. Clients should seek advice based on their particular circumstances from an independent tax and/or legal advisor. The views expressed herein are those of the author and may not necessarily reflect the views of UBS Financial Services Inc. a subsidiary of UBS AG. Member FINRA/SIPC.

This article was originally published in the February–April 2017 issue of Worth.

Family Matters

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