Inter-Generational Generosity by Wendy Rogers


Wendy Rogers was one of the presenters at our recent event for Faith Driven Investors, and she was gracious enough to share a copy of her talk with us. Below is a transcript of her presentation about utilizing investment advisory firms and building alignment inter-generationally.

by Wendy Rogers

In Ted Style Talks, the experts say in order to drive your point home, you must divide your talk into three parts to be inspiring. Make your talk:

- Emotional

- Novel

- Memorable

Well, I must say the emotional part was the thought of me, a true southern woman, trying to bring home an effective point in under 5 minutes. In all seriousness, the topic of wealth management can get pretty emotional when families are not intentional around the vision of the wealth and the positive or negative disruption it can stir through the generations.

This is important stuff and it is not for the faint at heart. There is an expression from a Hermes Family Descendent that says, You do not inherit a family business, You borrow it from your grandchildren. And when I mention family business I am not just thinking about operating companies.

The Novel aspects of what I would like to share today would be the visual picture of what my grandmother taught me years ago. I grew up learning how to care for pecan groves and many times when we lost a tree due to disease, we had to be strategic in where we would plant a new tree. Ecologists taught us that a young tree grows better when planted in an area adjacent to the older, stronger trees. The roots of the young tree may actually graft themselves to one another creating an intricate, interdependent foundation. Let me provoke you a little—when you think in wealth and specifically in transferring any kind of wealth, what do you think is a healthy balance of independence and interdependence within a family or a family enterprise? 

Now to the memorable part. This picture here: I am a third generation family business owner stewarding wealth from a business my sweet grandfather started, my very determined father significantly grew, and then as a family we made a decision to sell to a Fortune 100 company. Here is a fun fact: I am one of three girls and we each have three girls, so there are, or will be, 13 women running the show.

The day after selling our operating company we knew we were in the family office business and we knew we had a great deal to learn about the preservation aspects of wealth, but we then had to get real focused on the growth aspects of those assets.   

We learned a lot about ourselves and also about our future need for surrounding ourselves with great strategic investment advisory partners.  

The transition from family business to business family is more about a mindset change. We, as family members, had to switch our mindset over to owners or stewards. We needed to learn a new industry…strategic investment management. 

In order to create, sustain and adapt family culture and values over generations, the family must be aligned, make fast and effective business decisions, and implement them. This just doesn’t happen overnight. Even to families who all love Jesus! 

The process by which the family owners collectively organize themselves to develop resilience in dealing with both the internal family affairs and the external business challenges is what many would call GOVERNANCE.

We had to learn to balance the many voices, then to translate this input into effective operations, clear decision practices and adaptive responses to new challenges.

Here again, we come back to independence and interdependence concept. I wish I would have understood those two words better 15 years ago.  

But before we could do all this, we had to revisit/collectively declare what we knew to be true about our family. How we were raised, what values defined us and held us together and the passions that pricked our hearts in making sure we clearly defined both our philanthropic and our investment vision and mission together. What was the purpose of this liquidity event and what did it mean to each of us? We sat around and discussed this at length. 

 We knew that inside our operating company we had values and an operating philosophy, a mission and guiding principles to guide how we worked and now as we set up new ownership structures we were going to need the same thing.

Family Enterprise Governance is the structure by which elements of the generative family alliance become aligned and integrated into practice. They need to listen to and balance the voices and perspectives of each group of stakeholders: Matriarch/Patriarch owners, young family owners to be, married in spouses and outside advisors. We knew we needed to work to create this framework and practice it and model it because we are now in the process and transition of on boarding new owners and the next generation, which as I mentioned are all female. 

We had to work hard to build this intergenerational alignment in investing, spending, giving and in living. This was not done overnight and we can never rest that it is complete. We instituted governance structures, shareholder agreements, management companies, estate plans and a family council. These were the fierce conversations to formalize and now we are living out our continuity plans. Picking partners and guiding these partners was a huge part of the process. The search, onboarding, and alignment of these partners is the role of family leadership.

We took the time to thoughtfully create and design an outside board of directors just like we did inside our operating company. This board is the core instrument for the family to build and sustain its distinctive culture and exercise faith -based oversight. This board upholds the legacy and values and defines the relationships among owners and across generations and is also open to anticipating and initiating change to take advantage of new possibilities  and respond to the expansion of the family. Mindset development is huge here as family members need to be tutored in ownership mindset. 

If we believe God owns it all, how do we live that out in our decisions about investing? In our decisions about spending? Bob Goff has said that all the rules change when you are flying under the banner of Jesus Christ. It changes everything…or it changes nothing.  It can’t just change a couple of things.” 

Many of these years proved to be like the old college science class of Lecture and Lab. We spent time and resources in the lecture section of this life -long class and we had to get clear as to the formal education we needed…we needed to invest in ourselves, but also trust our internal “knower” around who to align ourselves with. How to lead and yet learn from these partners. This is the lab part. We are doing this each day, each quarter as we listen to their advice and yet also find other outside, non -family  board members, partners in new private equity ventures and bring in thought -leaders to work with our family.  

Are we efficiently and intelligently using the resources God has granted us to generate returns but also generate human flourishing? This a recurring question we keep asking ourselves…the scorecard so to speak.

If we see ourselves as stewards and our Lord as the owner then we better get about the business of stewarding that well and that should never mean compromising or resting on our laurels to not cultivate growth and returns. We also had to act like geese and honk from behind in those leading us to stir bravery in each other, to live in faith and to continue to ignite purpose in our own lives but also in the lives of those around us.