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Case Study #1 - Equal isn't always Fair


 William and Melissa are siblings and second generation owners of a successful professional services company. During their tenure, they grew the business to twice its size and diversified into several different areas. Both William and Melissa shared everything equally (as their parents had desired) and wanted to provide the same for their children. William passed equal shares to his two daughters, as did Melissa among her three children.

Now, the company is owned equally by the five cousins of the third generation. They have been able to work together through the years following their grandparents and parents' principle of equality. However, there has been conflict among the group over the years regarding what is fair as some cousins are not actively involved in the business, while others play a significant role in the business's growth.

The fourth generation now consists of 20 individuals. All stakeholders realize that equal ownership is not feasible. The group wonders how they can balance what's best for the business while respecting the principles of the earlier generations.


 In individual meetings with the third generation, each of the five cousins had the opportunity to speak openly about their thoughts on the future of the business. In the facilitated meeting, a variety of issues were discussed including ownership and management succession planning objectives, grooming of potential successors, and keeping the lines of communication open.


We worked with the third generation to establish trusts for their families whereby only members of the fourth generation who are actively involved in the business will be eligible to own shares directly. Other family members will benefit from other assets in the trust. Wills were also updated to reflect this objective.

 Third and fourth generation family members came together to develop a Family Participation Plan, or a list of requirements for employment in the family business. We are currently working with members of the fourth generation to prepare their Personal Development Plans, which outline their career goals and progress. This is part of the larger successor grooming process.

The family established a Family Council to assist with keeping communication open. Family Council meetings are facilitated by a facilitator to help ensure that each person's perspective is heard and understood.