Family Business

Governing common wealth as a family


2 min




Listen to Harry Martin, a Family Business Advisor and Family Office Expert, share his views about how managing joint assets influences family dynamics. In a family business that is bound together by common assets, setting up family meetings is crucial to effectively govern the common wealth.


Harry Martin


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What is the difference between a family with wealth and its problems and a middle class family? The difference is the money, and the difference is that the wealthy family cannot break up. You have to govern common wealth. It may be a company, it may be financial assets, so you have to meet four or five times a year with a bunch of people maybe you would not meet with all the time. So you have to create rules of meeting together. A lot of families… If Uncle Jake is so difficult - you just do not see Uncle Jake. You see him once a year. You do not see him all the time. Or if somebody else’s kids are a terrific problem, you do not see them, or you live five hundred miles away. You conduct your own lives. Open discussion is the best thing. Everybody has these ... View More issues. You would think a family in Barcelona would be very different from a family in China – not that different. And when you tell families, “Ok, you are having a conflict,” that is normal.

“How do you know it’s normal, Harry?”

“I have had much worse. I have been in the boardroom where the two brothers knocked each other down, ok? You guys are in good shape. You were only yelling at each other.”

So that helps a little bit. And middle class families, do they have fights? Sure they do, but they can get away from each other easier. They do not have to meet every month or three months and make decisions, because they have got their own lives. When they get along well, they have big family meetings too. They do not talk about wealth. They talk about families and what the children are doing and can they help each other. But the wealthy families are bound together by this need to decide about common assets.