A best kept secret, yet to be mainstreamed, is the fact that many families, who are intentional about their greater purpose and impact they want to make, are doing so by crafting values-driven mission statements. The shift? Mission Statements are not just for companies and non-profits anymore! Families have discovered the power of working together to codify who they are and how they intend to lead their lives.
Whether corporations or families, mission statements establish priorities, provide direction, motivate action, act as guides and help families focus on their purpose. Process is key to crafting mission statements, and success hinges on healthy and welcoming inclusion of all relevant family members. “Without participating and experiencing the richness of the conversation and development of the mission statement, the words mean nothing,” says David Herritt, head of Truist Wealth’s Center for Family Legacy.
The Center for Family Legacy (CFL) is a practice within Truist Wealth whose skilled professionals bring client families together through artful facilitation to talk about the future of their family and their family enterprise. CFL educates families on what they need to know to successfully manage their lives relative to wealth, including helping generational families determine how future generations of siblings and cousins will make shared decisions about inherited assets; decisions that were once made for them by their parents and/or grandparents. Core to the work of CFL is a values-based approach. When families take time to identify their inherent values system and explore not only their individual values but the values they share as a family, they have taken the first step towards a better understanding of each other, how they can best work together, and what is most important to the family.
Families developing a mission statement start with the shared values they have identified, which may include values like family, responsibility, education, work ethic, ownership, economic success, tradition, etc., and move from there to articulate their purpose.
Purpose is the “why” of families. They ask themselves, why have we been called to gather; why do we feel driven to make a difference; why have we been blessed with success. The conversation that flows from this process not only crystalizes their purpose, it also deepens family ties and helps form the type of trust essential to building a successful future.
As Bill Lyons from CFL tells us, “Family mission statements typically lead with purpose statements. From there, families are encouraged to spell out how they intend to live purpose-driven lives.” David Herritt further explains that “Including ‘how’ families plan to support their purpose commemorates the commitments family members made while drafting. The mission statement can then act as a touchstone; a reminder to the family.”
The process: Uniting around a mission statement
We asked leaders from the Center for Family Legacy to illuminate on the process they use with their clients. As mentioned earlier in the article, CFL begins with a values process. After a full introduction to the process, family members working with CFL each complete an online assessment that identifies both their individual core values as well as the values family members share. Reports for both are generated, and the CFL advisors gather the client family to explore their family values, where in their lineage they came from, family stories that illuminate the values, how they play themselves out in their daily lives and what they mean to them going forward. These discussions, where people start making connections between their values and their family’s history, “are really where the magic happens,” says Bill Lyons. When family members can see how they have been living out their inherent value system, they are in a better position to articulate their purpose. The “how” and everything else flows from there.
Some family leaders who value “efficiency” think it would be helpful if they wrote the mission statement and presented it to the family. As was discussed earlier, participation by all family members in the process of building this powerful statement is critical to the overall success of the process. “If you can’t see yourself reflected in the purpose and mission of the family, it’s going to be very hard to support it,” says Herritt.
The mission statement in action
The drafting of a mission statement, while very important, is only the first stage.” Next, is actually living the mission.
The Center for Family Legacy recently worked with a family who developed a mission statement focused on having positive social impact. That process led to next steps for the family. They sought the help of their advisors to determine what type of charitable vehicle would align best with their goals; a private foundation, a donor-advised fund, or perhaps a more progressive form of charitable or “impact” vehicle such as an LLC. Family members also discussed whether they should align their investing with their social impact focus. The values and mission process opened the opportunity for this family to have all these tangential conversations.
The process of writing a mission statement can also help families come together when there are important decisions to be made. For example, one family faced questions regarding the succession of it’s business. Of the five siblings who would inherit the family business, only two were working at the business. The other three felt like outsiders who were excluded from business decisions and also felt less important in the family.
To work through this dilemma, the matriarch and patriarch decided to engage the expertise of CFL. A series of family meetings were scheduled through which CFL advisors would facilitate a constructive process for this family to talk about what was most important to them; all of them. As they typically do, CFL advisors started with the values process, which led to mission statement development. Then, as it does, the magic happened! The siblings were not only able to see how their differences were really rooted in their own individual values, adding a helpful element of diversity to the conversations, but were also able to celebrate the values they had in common.
The meetings led to all siblings learning more about the business, and to productive conversations about a succession plan that looked very different from the outcome family leaders had pictured.
Serving your purpose
For families who take this work seriously and use their mission statement as a guide to living values-driven lives, “their financial capital will be in service of their purpose and what the family is trying to accomplish, as opposed to coming up with arbitrary financial goals,” Herritt says.
For generational families who have amassed financial assets and wish to raise healthy, happy and productive next generation stewards of their family’s legacy, the purpose and mission statement processes should be the first step. The family conversations cultivated during these processes should continue for a lifetime.”