Of Hula Hoops and Hats: A Guide to the Realm of Family Business for Family Business Members

If you have picked up this book, more than likely you already dwell in the world of a family business, a family office, or some other aspect of a family legacy. What is your story? Where have you come from? Who were the entrepreneurs of your business and the forefathers of your family? How can you keep their legacy going? Of Hula Hoops and Hats is a manual about family businesses and business families. This book is not meant to cover every aspect of the world of family business, but rather it is meant to guide family members to a deeper understanding of family businesses in general and to introduce these members to some of the latest best practices suggested by researchers and advisers in the field of family business.

Besides those who live and dwell in the family business itself, this guide is for family members

  • who have never worked in the business,
  • who might be new to the field of family business,
  • who might want to put a family council in place,
  • who might be newly elected to their family council,
  • who might be newly married into the business family,
  • or, who just want to find new ideas and inspirations for their business and family.

In other words, this book is for those family members who are touched by the concepts of family business, but who have not necessarily dwelt in that business world itself.

I am one of those family members who never worked in our family company, but who grew up with a keen interest in it and a close bond with our family legacy. I am a third generation family member and now one of the family elders. My grandfather and his two brothers bought our company in 1903. Since that time through innovation, stewardship, and hard work, our company has become what it is today: a global forestry company on the leading edge of environmental concerns and solutions. Our company is still a closely held family enterprise, owned by approximately 135 family members, outright or through trusts. We have three living generations. After a recent well-planned succession, we have our fourth generation CEO. In an effort to organize our family for its own sustainability, we established our family council. That is when I became intensely interested in the field of family business. I had attended our annual meetings from the time I was ten; I had listened to company updates; I had learned how to read financial statements with ease; and, I had had a wonderful career teaching math and science. Toward the end of my teaching career, I decided to get my doctorate in leadership studies and pursue research in the area of family governance. I had seen first-hand how our family council had revitalized both our business and our family. I wanted to research how such a governing body affected other family enterprises. And for six years of this doctoral study, I was privileged to serve on our family council first as the education chair and then as the governance coordinator.

What does research say about best practices? What has worked for other families? Of Hula Hoops and Hats is a book of idea sharing from one who has walked the talk. It shares the wisdoms from those who have pioneered and researched in the relatively new field of family business. Learn proven lessons from the experiences of others: What practices have worked for them? What practices do they say have not worked? Why does what works, work? What’s it all about: from the basics to practical experiences?

What to Expect

Of Hula Hoops and Hats is written as a guide to the world of family business with a review and exercises at the end of each chapter. My goal is to enable greater understanding of and participation in this unique business world especially for those who, like me, are members of the family, but not necessarily employees of the business. There are two parts to this guide. Part One, Of Hula Hoops, describes the family business system itself and its three interlocked “hoops”. There are four chapters in this first section: Chapter 1, the family business system in general; Chapter 2, the business, whether it be a functioning enterprise or a legacy asset such as a family office; Chapter 3, the ownership; and Chapter 4, the family. Part Two, And Hats, contains five chapters. Chapter 5 is an introduction to Part Two that describes the four major governing dimensions that enable those in the family business system to interact with one another in their various roles (“hats”). The next four chapters cover each dimension separately: Chapter 6, Documentation; Chapter 7, Celebration; Chapter 8, Education; and Chapter 9, Communication. The final chapter, Chapter 10, provides some parting thoughts and final suggestions.