Picture Courtesy of Veronica Maldonado

I am a fourth generation family member from Venezuela in a family with 17 first cousins. Since my family founded the business in 1911 in farming and cattle, we have undergone many transformations. In 1997, as a result of a generational transition we had our first Family Council Meeting. Today, 10 cousins of my generation continue to meet on a monthly basis in the Family Council. Getting to this point has been an arduous personal and family journey.

As I look back, I realize that my expectations and understanding of the process of integrating structures in a family business group was naïve and unrealistic. I soon realized that each one of the family members had an idea of how things should be, could be, or had to be. We had many theories, strong opinions and understandably, wanted to “get it right”.

I have since learned that “getting it right” is missing the point. There is no such thing as a “right format” that applies to all families in business. There is, however, the dedication to process, correct orientation and commitment. Having patience, tolerance and understanding for our process facilitates our mission of working as a coherent and functioning whole.

The design of my family’s process is a reflection of our culture, personalities, ideals, values, goals and objectives. It is unique to my family. It also has nothing to do with the dynamics of the business, which it controls. This differentiation is important: The family’s dynamic is one thing and the business dynamic is another. The business is subject to the markets in which it operates, the family is subject to the individuals, who are part of it. Both parts have different needs and cycles. It’s important to distinguish these two and not confuse them while creating processes for the family business.

Family processes can be emotionally draining, especially if you are impatient and driven like I am. So, at one point, I crashed and burned. After many years of deep soul searching, talking to families from around the world, having conversations and meetings with my own siblings, parents, cousins and uncles, and pondering on why we have continued together as a family business, it dawned on me: We have nurtured family unity through JOY.

Despite the challenges, conflicts and difficulties, we celebrate our union with joy. We make time for family sharing and fun. We have dinner or lunch after each family council meeting. We organize a family trip each year to the FBN conference. We learn and work through our problems and differences together. We love to dance and just have an awesome good time laughing as a family, as cousins and as friends.

Most importantly, we have learned that nurturing joy is not an option; it’s a must for our survival. We have learned through dedicated, hard work to celebrate our goodness and relate to each other from a place of strength rather than weakness. We have the courage to speak to each other from the heart and express our gratitude and love for who we are and what we have.

Nurturing and expressing joy in your family business takes courage but it will keep you going when the going gets tough the tough gets going!

By Veronica Maldonado, Venezuela