Educating the Rising Generation – One Size Does Not Fit All

Gerry has over 40 years of experience in all aspects of business strategy, organizational culture and design, business transition/change management and Human Resources as both a practitioner and an advisor, with the last 18 years focused exclusively on family enterprises.  

He now provides advisory services to family enterprises in Canada and the US in a variety of industries, as a trusted advisor to founding, active and next generation family as well as non-family executive and management.

Gerry focusses on bringing measurable value to his clients through consulting and advisory services in family, ownership/shareholder and enterprise governance, family office mandate and structure, family vision and values, next generation development for succession/continuity planning, family constitution and policy development, and optimizing existing family and organizational culture and structures.

He has been invited to speak on various panels and been involved in publications related to family and business governance.  Gerry sits on Family Enterprise Canada’s Ambassador Committee; it’s FEA Institute Committee, providing guidance on the future direction of the Family Enterprise Advisor Program; and is a Facilitator for FEC’s Next Gen Mentorship Program.  He is also associated with the Family Firm Institute and the Purposeful Planning Institute, two associations focused on developing and professionalizing the area of Family Advisory services.

Gerry is a certified Family Enterprise Advisor (FEA), a Chartered Professional in Human Resources (CPHR, Canada), a Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP, United States) and is certified in the Center for Creative Leadership’s Benchmarks 360 Assessment suite and TTI’s DISC Assessment tool.

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[00:00:13.370] - Cindy Radu

Welcome to the Tamarind Learning Podcast. I'm your host, Cindy Radu. I'm the Chief Learning Officer for Tamarind Learning Canada, which is an online wealth education platform that develops practical foundational learning programs for beneficiaries and their advisors to help them prepare for the responsible stewardship of wealth. As part of the Tamarind Learning Platform, I have the privilege to speak with experts on topics relevant to families of wealth and family offices. And in this episode, I am absolutely delighted to welcome Gerry Meyer from Vancouver, Canada as our guest. Gerry, thank you so much for being with us today.


[00:00:53.150] - Gerry Meyer

And thanks for having me on the podcast. Looking forward to it.


[00:00:56.680] - Cindy Radu

Excellent. Before we do get into our conversation on rising generation engagement and development, I want to share some of your bio highlights with our listeners.


[00:01:09.050] - Cindy Radu

Gerry has over 40 years of experience in all aspects of business strategy, organizational culture and design, business transition, change management, and human resources. For the last 18 years, Gerry has focused on bringing measurable value to his exclusively family enterprise clients. During eleven of those years, he was involved in all major aspects of a business realignment that was driven by a family succession. Gerry's many designations and certifications include a BA. Bachelor of Arts in Economics, a chartered professional in Human Resources, a senior certified professional in the United States and a Family Enterprise advisor. Gerry's expertise includes family owner and enterprise governance, developing family office mandates and structuring family offices, family constitution, development and of particular notes for our podcast, Gerry has a keen interest in engagement and development for rising generations. Gerry, we were recently introduced to each other by our friend Steve Legler, and Steve connected us because of our mutual interest in education for families. As a lifelong learner yourself, you clearly bring a passion for cultivating educational engagement and development in the families you work with.


[00:02:38.260] - Cindy Radu

And just to get us started, I'd be really interested in knowing what general themes you're seeing with respect to rising gen education.


[00:02:49.770] - Gerry Meyer

Thanks, Cindy. In terms of some of the key areas or key trends that I'm starting to see with the clients that I'm working with and also with other families that other advisors are working with. There is a general focus on lifelong learning. A recognition that as a member of a family enterprise, regardless of your role, your learning is not just one of go to a course, pass a course, and you're done. The area of family enterprise continues to evolve, and the academic and empirical research continues to evolve. So just spending a great deal of time continuing to stay on top of all of that is certainly one of the hallmarks, I see of very successful family enterprises. A couple of other areas that I've seen is actually a rising recognition in the role of women going forward in family enterprises that gender diversity is coming more and more into the conversation, including in industries that have traditionally been quite male dominated. As an example, one of my clients in a generational transition, the next gen females outnumber the next gen males, or rising gen females outnumber the rising gen males in the family. A couple of other areas that I'm also seeing, we've all heard of the concept of the three circle model by Davis and Tagieri from the nineteen seventies.


[00:04:40.750] - Gerry Meyer

And for, some families we tend to see that they have one circle and everything is discussed with inside it. So the ownership, the management of the company and the family issues. As families transition from generation to generation, those circles start to fall apart. Families that are clearly understanding the need to separate each of those circles and having the necessary conversations in each of those circles and educating themselves around each of those circles continue to be the ones I see as successful going forward. And just in terms of the availability of material, I alluded to it earlier, just a wealth of material, online courses, resources, books that are continuing to come out. And I would say the last trend that I'm starting to see more and more of is the role of mentorship in rising generations. In the sense that families are recognizing that perhaps a mentor outside of the family relationship would be a good role model for the rising generation. And I'm starting to see more and more of that as well.


[00:06:03.830] - Cindy Radu

So I like this idea of mentorship. Is that really alongside, I'm assuming, supplementing other modalities of learning that the families are doing? And what sort of age or stage is that mentorship role becoming of interest both to the senior generation and the rising generation?


[00:06:29.790] - Gerry Meyer

It's an interesting aspect when you talk about sort of what age that is kicking in. First of all, let's go back to a point that you brought about in terms of the different modalities. There's not one consistent modality that people tend to use. It's a diverse range of modalities that are the most effective way of developing education and developing yourself. Mentorship is just one aspect of that. The relationship where a mentor will come in is somewhat dependent on what it is that the mentee, so the rising generation wants to focus on. And so for perhaps younger, early career stage individuals, that would be a different relationship than, let's say, someone who's in their late 20s, early thirties and potentially moving into as it relates to the operations of the business, potentially senior management executive type roles. So I wouldn't necessarily say there's sort of a clear indicator of when's the right time to bring a mentor in. It really is a question of what is it that the rising generation individual wants to focus on and what's the right kind of mentor that they would work effectively with.


[00:07:54.430] - Cindy Radu

So how is that being identified? Are those mentees actually coming forward proactively or is that coming out in some sort of one on one conversations in your role with family members? What is the process that you're finding is bringing that mentorship relationship into fruition?


[00:08:16.030] - Gerry Meyer

That's a really good question in the sense that most of these are happening as a result of conversations I'm having with both the active generation and the rising generation. And where it gets to is a recognition that perhaps the dynamic between the active generation individual and the rising generation individual isn't conducive to having a mentor relationship and having someone external would be much more effective. They're independent, they can be transparent, they have effectively no vested interest in the outcome. They're really there to provide, as I said, the mentor relationship with the rising generation. And they can have conversations differently than the rising generation can have with an active generation member. So certainly in the work that I've done with a number of my clients where I'm working to develop rising gen individuals or a collection of them, I will put on the table, well, maybe we want to talk about a mentor relationship and look externally. And again, just a quick anecdote for one situation, a fairly large family enterprise had an informal relationship with another fairly large family enterprise in the same area. And the active generation, a number of individuals got together and said, hey look, we need to do some mentoring with our respective rising generation people.


[00:10:05.220] - Gerry Meyer

Why don't we cross fertilize? And they're in completely disparate industries, there's no competition issues whatsoever, but it was a recognition that the issues are unique to family enterprises and both could bring meaning to the other.


[00:10:25.190] - Cindy Radu

I really like that example. Thanks for sharing that. What thoughts, Gerry, do you have on what I'll call the lens? What lens a family embarks on education from? For example, does a development path, learning path, differ if there's a purely operating family business where some members work in the family members work in the business or want to work in the family business, but there's maybe others who have chosen a different path and maybe there isn't a broader formal family enterprise structure that's already in place.


[00:11:04.170] - Gerry Meyer

I love this question in the sense that the vast majority of the conversations I'm having with my family enterprise clients is around this conversation. And if we recognize that there is a role for the rising generation, potentially as an operator of the business, as an owner or shareholder of the business, as a member of the board of directors of the business, we then need to recognize that the development education for each one of those roles, in my humble opinion, is really very different. And if I want to be an executive, I ultimately aspire to be the CEO of family business, then I need to develop a set of skill, sets of skills, set of competencies that quite frankly are very different than if I want to be an effective owner or actually the term that I prefer to use is an effective steward of the wealth. The role of a steward of the wealth is again very different than being an operator of the business. The skill sets and the competencies associated with being a shareholder and an effective shareholder that's focused on the legacy and the stewardship role is very different than operating a business.


[00:12:40.570] - Gerry Meyer

And then finally and this one can be a bit of a challenging conversation, is drawing the distinction between a board of director, a role as a board of director on a family board versus being a shareholder. Depending on the size of your family enterprise not all shareholders will be sitting on the board for the active business. And so what is your role as a director on the board? And there's certainly all the fiduciary aspects etc. etc., into it, especially if it turns out to be as a publicly traded board. And so many of the conversations that I have with my clients, it revolves around drawing that distinction between are you developing them as future owners or stewards? Are you developing them as future operators of the business or are you developing them to be directors on the board? And to a point that you put into the conversation and this is also comes out in the conversations I have with rising generation not all of them want to be operators in the business. An anecdotal story very quickly, with a particular family that I worked with, the father decided it was time for him to retire. Well actually the mother decided it was time for the father to retire and pointed that out.


[00:14:14.790] - Gerry Meyer

And so he just without any preparation or conversation or dialogue he simply said to the two daughters okay, it's all yours.


[00:14:22.810] - Cindy Radu

Oh my.


[00:14:23.970] - Gerry Meyer

And the two daughters went thanks but no. I'm somewhat glossing over it a little bit but the result was that without a lot of conversation there is a significant disconnect between what the daughters were looking at in terms of their career aspirations, lifestyle and life goals and what the father was expecting them to play in the role of going forward. The end result, very quickly, we recognized that they wanted to continue to own and manage the asset but they didn't want to actually manage the business.


[00:15:11.610] - Gerry Meyer

We set up a board, put on a couple of independents, the daughters and father sat on the board and we promoted a non-family executive into the CEO role. And everybody ended up being very comfortable with that outcome, especially the mother.


[00:15:29.070] - Cindy Radu

Yeah. There's lots of layers of dynamics in family businesses and family enterprise. And I would imagine just on this theme of education development then to the first sort of question that we were talking about with this idea of mentors that once you've been able to identify with the rising generation where they see themselves and I imagine that where they might see themselves today might be very different from five years from now or 20 years from now. But that pairing with a mentor would also provide some guidance and structure around that learning path that would be tailored to that individual in that role, in addition to whatever the family might be doing as a collective in their education strategy.


[00:16:23.830] - Gerry Meyer

Absolutely. And an interesting layer to that point is some of the tension, I'll use that word carefully, between the active generation and the rising generation in defining the path going forward as to how the next gen or the rising gen will be developed or what areas of development they need to focus on. Because what I also find with many clients is an unfortunate assumption from active generation that the path that they took needs to be the path the rising generation takes. And more and more families are starting to recognize that that's not the case. What got us as an active generation to where we are today doesn't necessarily relate to or is appropriate for the rising generation in getting them ready to assume a role in the organization or in the family enterprise. And that involves a lot of dialogue, a lot of meaningful dialogue around the realities of what the rising generation are facing. And just look at what we've been through in the last two years, socially, economically, environmentally. And it's a very different picture than what the active generation may have grown up through as they continued to operate the business and be stewards of the wealth.


[00:18:25.630] - Cindy Radu

Excellent. Well, that kind of takes me to really the practicalities of this in terms of how families are initiating or if they haven't initiated this kind of really proactive, intentional learning path. Are you finding that there's a particular generation that's kind of driving this education agenda? How are family members participating as a general rule in getting these programs in place?


[00:19:00.350] - Gerry Meyer

Unfortunately, but in reality, I'm not experiencing that there is a particular generation that's driving this. With some clients it's the active generation that are, in a sense, pulling along the rising generation to get them prepped, to get them to focus on development, and unfortunately, in some cases, screaming and kicking the whole way through. On other clients it's the rising generation that are kind of knocking on the door. The standard statement I want to seat at the table, and they need to push the active generation to start to have conversations around how can I, as a rising generation, prepare myself to become an owner, a steward of the wealth, or an executive in the business? And so what it really boils down to is creating the environment around which the constituents, all the generations and all of the family members, and I'll come back at that point in just a second, can sit down around a table and have a meaningful conversation around what does the future look like. And that picture may be slightly different for the active generation than it is for the rising generation. And that's okay. What are the value systems that the family want to continue to evolve and values as a family aren't necessarily the same as values as a business.


[00:20:54.490] - Gerry Meyer

When I mentioned earlier all of the family members being part of that conversation, I do drive families to have a governance model around the family. So having a family assembly on a regular basis where we can have those meaningful conversations around the table, we can work as a family around communication and conflict resolution, managing conflict resolution and starting to define what direction do we want to take, how do we let the rising generation know that they're going to be ready to assume a role. Anecdotally, one family took it to the point of saying, okay, here are the different roles as a family member, here are the competencies for each one of those roles and here are the development elements of each of those competencies that you need to go through. So it could be reading, it could be course, it could be experience. To illustrate, one competency was understanding governance model on a board. So next gen were encouraged to go sit on nonprofit boards to gain that experience.


[00:22:14.090] - Cindy Radu

That's excellent Gerry. We have to wrap up.


[00:22:18.400] - Gerry Meyer


 [00:22:19.040] - Cindy Radu

For me I think we could talk for days,

 [00:22:23.510] - Gerry Meyer

I could talk forever.

 [00:22:24.900] - Cindy Radu

Because we're both very passionate about it. For me, I think two main takeaways from our conversation today is, it's important to get that conversation started and whether it's the active gen, the rising gen, the advisors who are involved in the family, just start talking about education, what are your interests, where do you see yourself? And then I love also this concept of mentorship and I think that's a really interesting way for families to really bring another layer to that learning and development for rising generations. Gerry Meyer, it has been great to have you on this podcast today. We've learned a lot from you and I'm sure we could learn a whole lot more. Thank you very much for joining the Tamarind Learning podcast and we hope to have you as a guest again soon in the future.

 [00:23:20.340] - Gerry Meyer

It's been an absolute pleasure and I look forward to continuing the conversation.


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