Jean Meeks-Koch on Helping Families With Multi-Generational Business Planning

Jean Meeks-Koch, Ph.D., MAcc, CEO & Founder at Positively People, LLC, was interviewed by host Adam Torres on the Mission Matter Money Podcast.

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Multi-generational family enterprises play a significant role in economies across the world, and Jean Meeks-Koch talks here about the ways in which Positively People provides counsel and care to those who run them.

How did you get started on the path of entrepreneurship?

Dr. Meeks-Koch says her path to entrepreneurship began when her late husband founded a multi-million dollar construction company. After his passing, she earned her Ph.D. and transitioned into academia and consulting. Her first consulting client was a nursery business run by a multi-generational family; this, she says, led directly to her next entrepreneurial venture. 

The consulting firm focused primarily on large enterprise and governmental institution management, but after encountering the multi-generational business that served as a turning point for her, she launched Positively People and became a senior consultant at Family Business Consulting Group (FBCG), a 30-year-old collaboration of family business consultants and practitioners, sharing thoughts, ideas, and intellectual property.

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Talk with us about the strengths and challenges of multi-generational businesses. 

A multi-generational business, Meeks-Koch explains, is one in which the founder(s) intend to involve their siblings or children in its management, extending its legacy by growing its reach or creating subsequent businesses springing from the original. 

As such, founders and their families often face the challenge of vision alignment. “Hence, we look at family enterprises in a three-circle model, where we note why they are unique, how the family impacts the operating business, and how the family impacts governance,” she explains. 

Family governance is a unique aspect of family businesses, she notes. When a business focuses on governance and creates systems, structures, protocols, and policies that everyone agrees to, sustainability can be maintained. It’s essential to conduct this kind of planning sooner rather than later in order to achieve and maintain success, she advises: it’s important to go into the process of building a family business with as many resources at your disposal as possible. 

“Your issue is continuity in the family enterprise,” she says, and stresses that prospective founders should “look for good resources, such as reading family business magazines or joining universities with family business centers, before dipping your toes in a multi-generation family enterprise.”

The significance of third-generation family businesses

The involvement of a third generation in a family business is a pivotal point, Meeks-Koch notes, because these inheritors have less of an opportunity to spend time with the founding generation than the one before it did; they may not even live in the same household. On the bright side, she says, they can bring fresh interpretations and new perspectives to the table to help the business maintain some modernity to support its long-term sustainability. 

How does Positively People help its clients?

Positively People provides a platform for conversations about differences in how each generation sees the business’s future, helping them to align their perspectives into a singular vision. 

Within a big or extended family, the values within each nuclear family can differ slightly. “We create a safe and neutral environment to have discussions where all the voices can be heard, which leads to defining the future,” Meeks-Koch explains. “We take away the titles and focus on bringing it down to the basics of you as a family member.” The end goal, always, is to arrive at an effective family business continuity plan that actually works, resolving or even preventing conflict and setting the family business up for enterprise success. 

To learn more, visit Positively People at www.positivelypeople.com or The Family Business Consulting Group at www.thefbcg.com.