Don’t Break the Christmas Dinner Rule

If you can believe it, it’s Christmas time… again — where has the year gone!?

I really enjoy writing this blog. It gets me to think about what Christmas, the holidays, and summer, all means. It is an opportunity to reflect on the year that has been and to recharge the batteries, come up with new ideas and get ready to dive into the new year.

It is also an opportunity to be grateful.

When researching the various religions, it appears that most have a significant event during the months of December and January. Whether this is Hanukkah, Christmas, Bohatsu (Buddhist), the Pagan Solstice, or just heading to the Bach (New Zealand) or the Holiday Home (Australia), it is a time of family and reflection, a time to pause and take stock. Alas, it is also often one of tension. So, let’s take a leaf out of the world’s religions’ respective writings and ideas — whatever you believe in — to find time and space to reflect and connect with family; and what that really means for us.

We all know just how much energy, time and sleepless nights goes into running a successful family business. A family business combines a family’s two most important things: the family and their work/income/career. It takes care and planning to ensure that both continue to thrive and grow. As we say… “Love and money are a potent brew…”

The summer break is really the time when we all can all come together. It can be wonderful — or it can be a nightmare.

Traditionally, in this blog we’ve talked about managing disagreements and ensuring they are always at a level where they don’t impact on important family time. It is crucial we ensure families can sit down to celebrate the end of the year, while possibly feeling quite tired, with all the family relationships intact. For what other reason do we build a family business and pass it on to the next generation if it is not for the good of our family and the benefit of family relationships?

And please don’t think I’m looking at this through rose-tinted glasses. All families struggle at times, all families have disagreements and sometimes even falling outs. But do keep in mind what you’re really trying to do — build and sustain your family.

I speak from recent experience in my own family of how challenging these relationships can be, and how family members are the ones we care about the most. We are always most vulnerable to hurt from our family and, simultaneously, we are most able to hurt those in our family. A colleague at work ignoring our phone call is one thing, a family member ignoring us is an entirely different thing.

So, let’s assume you have managed to keep disputes and arguments to a level that you can sit around the table to celebrate this summer. Take a moment to think. Why are you working so hard? What is really important? What is really important to them? Why do they put so much time and energy into our business? What do we all get out of this…? (Answers to be submitted on the back of an envelope and sent to us please)

And never forget the power of family relationships to heal, to forgive. If this is one lesson I have learned this year, it is this.

From a business perspective we have been through hell in the last few years and there are not many prepared to say we are completely out of it yet. However, do take a moment to appreciate your family and how much they too have put into the business during this time. This, after all, as I said above, is why we have a family business.

I want to acknowledge all the families we have worked with this year in Australia and New Zealand. You know who you are. I know it has not been easy at times, but the courage you have all shown, the resilience, the preparedness to listen to each other and start to look at things differently is extraordinary. You put yourselves in our hands and we do not take this responsibility lightly. For example, we watched a family of 16 (three generations) work through their family charter and come out united and focused, with many seeing new opportunities, not to mention building and strengthening family relationships. We saw a family grieving a parent’s death and working through and resolving some significant past grievances to emerge stronger, more united and focused on what they want to achieve for their family and business. We had a family setting up a new board complete with independent chair and finding the experience both daunting and exciting. We witnessed a family where conflict between the siblings was potentially tearing them apart and yet they were to sit down, discuss the issues, put the past behind them and dive into building an amazing business.

It is an honour to work with you all.

Finally, an acknowledgement to all the in-laws out there. You are amazing and important! I know you get a lot of bad press at times, but you are incredibly important not to mention vital to any family business. A significant number of our referrals come from in-laws who are worried about what is going on in the family and want things to be different. To the rest of the family, listen to them. Theirs is a unique perspective and they see things that you may often miss.

As the end of the year approaches, especially if you are frantically working right up to the break, make sure you find time somewhere over the summer to both appreciate and be with your family. To appreciate all the hard work that you and they, put into the business. And possibly over a great meal and a glass of wine, look around the table and congratulate them and yourself for getting through another year.

After all, it’s right there in the name – in a family business, family comes first.

We look forward to catching up with you all in the new year. We’re on holidays ourselves from December 23rd to Jan 9th. Personally, I’ll be out on the boat in Pittwater exploring the deserted bays, finding the good winds, cooking on the BBQ, watching the sea eagles soar and asking the question the great Australian philosopher Darryl Kerrigan asks: “How’s the serenity?”.

Merry Christmas to all of you in whatever way you are celebrating it.


Philip, Bob and Kat.

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