As a family business coach and mentor who helps next-gen family business members to gain clarity and direction in their lives, Russ Haworth knows a thing or two about what makes multi-generational ultra-high-net-worth families tick.
As the founder of The Family Business Partnership, host of The Family Business Podcast and co-director of The Quest For Legitimacy (a research project looking at how the rising generation are able to find identity when they have grown up around significant wealth), he works with family businesses to help them to understand and navigate the challenges that come from working together.
In an exclusive interview, Russ talks to Campden FB about the key issues family businesses are facing, creating a productive and rewarding working environment and the pressures felt by the rising generation…
Where in the world are you right now?
I am currently in my home office in Trull, a village in Somerset, UK.
Where would be where would you rather be right now?
I have just returned from a fantastic week of work in Denver, Colorado, which included a day of strategic planning in the Rocky Mountains. The scenery was amazing and inspired lots of creative thinking. If I could be anywhere else right now it would be back in the Mountains.
Through the Family Business Partnership, you help multi-generational firms with the complexities of working together. When did you identify the need for what you do?
I have worked with family businesses for most of my career, initially through financial planning and wealth management and more recently as a specialist family business adviser. While working with business-owning families on their retirement or succession planning, I became more and more curious about family dynamics and the non-financial, non-technical elements of that planning. This inspired me to research and write a book about the emotional barriers associated with transition planning and the complexities of being in business with your family.
I also completed the Advanced Certificate in Family Business Advising from The Family Firm Institute and fully immersed myself in the world of family business. The book is still sat on my laptop, unpublished, but the interviews I conducted planted the seed for my podcast, imaginatively titled The Family Business Podcast. This has and continues to allow me to speak to and learn from the leading experts in the world of family business, family wealth and family offices. I often find that families aren’t aware of the support that is available to them to help them navigate the complexities that come from being in business together.
“Through research we heard that, typically, the rising generation are spoken down to, so it was important to us to focus on them and their experiences.”
As a family business advisor, what are the key issues that you find that families need solving and how do you go about helping them?
The key issues that I come across most often are related to transitions, whether that is of ownership or management responsibilities, typically what is called succession planning. I also get approached by families who are facing challenges around communication (both within the business and the family) but where there is a desire to create the appropriate forums to ensure that boundaries exist between the multiple roles that are present within a family enterprise, they are just unclear on where to start.
I help the families I work with to create an environment that allows them to explore the challenges that they are facing together, somewhere where everyone feels heard and that they have a voice. I am not there to provide off-the-shelf, cookie-cutter solutions but to provide a framework and facilitation for the discussions that lead to them creating a sustainable solution aligned to their vision and aspirations, both as a family and individually.
You are also co-director of The Quest For Legitimacy, which focuses on the rising generation and the issues faced by growing up in prominent families. What is it about the experiences of next-gen family members that interests you in particular?
I was asked to join this research project which is being led by my friend and colleague Dr Jamie Weiner around five years ago. Jamie outlined his idea of capturing the experiences of those that have grown up in prominent families. We felt it was one of the first times that the focus was placed on their lived experience rather than the traditional focus as being on the wealth, preparing them for a role in the enterprise or protecting the goose that laid the golden egg. I jumped at the opportunity, I am naturally curious and interested in people and their stories and this was an opportunity to have a real impact in the field.
Through the research we heard that, typically, the rising generation are spoken at or down to and so it was important to us to focus on them and their experiences. What we have been able to do because of the academic research team is to define a path that is followed on what we have called ‘The Quest for Legitimacy’. When we communicated this with the participants, they felt both a sense of relief that they were not the only one’s experiencing this, but also that if they had understood they were on a path earlier in their lives, it would have made a real difference to that experience.
“Our mission is to help alleviate feelings of isolation and to support individuals as they rise above the shadow that has been cast those that have come before them.”
What have you found are the key pressures felt by family members who feel they are in the shadow of successful and prominent family members?
While much of the focus in the field remains on how to prepare the rising generation to manage the money or how to prepare them for a role in the business, which is valuable and needed, we found that the rising generation from prominent families feel the pressure of measuring up to the achievements of those that have gone before them. Growing up in a prominent family can bring a huge amount of opportunity but it can also bring this pressure that leads to a feeling of loneliness and isolation, we feel that this is something that is not spoken about or addresses often enough.
In his book The Quest For Legitimacy, How Children Of Prominent Families Discover Their Unique Place In The World, Jamie highlights that there is a common path that the rising generation take. By identifying and sharing this, our mission is to help alleviate these feelings of isolation and loneliness and to support these individuals as they rise above the shadow that has been cast by the achievements of those that have come before them.
What advice would you give to family members looking to start a clear dialogue about issues within family business and growing up within a prominent family but don’t know where to start?
The conversations we had with the rising generation were very often the first time that they were asked to speak about their experience. It was cathartic for them and helped them to realise they were on a quest, so I would encourage those who are living the same experience to find an environment where you can speak about how you are feeling and what it is like for you.
The nature of prominent families can mean that this is not always easy as peers may not understand the world you are living in and it can be tricky talking about this with the giants in your life, but identifying it, naming it and exploring it can be a really positive step towards taking ownership and feeling able to walk shoulder to shoulder with those giants.
What fuels your passion to keep doing what you’re doing?
Through the research that Jamie and I have conducted, I have been able to reflect and have come to realise that I too grew up in a shadow. This took the form of the impact my parents were able to have on others.
They fostered several children during my childhood and many of those we fostered came from very difficult environments. The care and love that my parents were able to provide created safety and security for these children, many for the first time in their lives. The aspiration to have that kind of impact is what fuels my passion and drives my work.
What does a good working day look like for you?
I am driven by having a positive impact on those I work with, and I am really lucky to have a job that allows me to do that. Whether that is with a family, one to one or with a group of the rising generation. A good working day is one that involves any of the above, I enjoy the challenge of helping others.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Life is not a rehearsal so trust yourself more, be bold and surround yourself with those who want to see you succeed, most importantly enjoy every day. Growth comes from the challenges we face in life, and it would be a pretty dull experience if there were no bumps in the road!
The Quest For Legitimacy: How Children Of Prominent Families Discover Their Unique Place in The World by Dr. James Weiner is available to buy now. Click here for further information.