The road to wealth – and the route chosen to pass it on to succeeding generations – is deeply personal. Beneath the surface of wealth ownership, management, governance, and inheritance are living breathing human beings. Each family presents a complex array of talents, abilities, perspectives, desires, and weaknesses. It is the complexity of these relationships that gives rise to challenges of successful wealth transition.
How to bring family and business systems into a more unified whole was the thrust of The Gathering, an annual event organized by Aspen Family Business Group, 6–9 August 2009 in Aspen, Colorado. This year’s event focused on “Handing Off and Taking Hold.”
The small-group environment of The Gathering combined educational presentations with intimate, interactive workshop sessions to help families discuss and uncover issues that might otherwise remain hidden, to learn how to communicate better, and to take concrete steps toward implementing sustainable long-term plans.
Emblematic of his own personal stake in this field, Michael Stalker played a dual role at the conference as both presenter and attendee.
Michael’s session, “Managing Wealth outside of the Business,” spanned the range from the objective to the more personal – from family business and portfolio management strategies in deflationary versus inflationary times, to exploring concerns that inherited wealth will have a negative impact on those who receive it.
Michael’s stake in this field, however, is personal. He brought his own family and participated in the conference shoulder to shoulder with other families. “I have the same issues as everyone else here,” he says. “This event gave us the opportunity to get my whole family in the same room to talk about the business, how it works, and whether and how my kids might be involved in it in the future.”
The best guide is one who knows the terrain, intimately, from personal experience. “I am passionate about this work,” Michael says, “from a personal as well as professional standpoint. I wouldn’t want to give anyone any advice I’m not willing to adopt in my own family or business.”
Michael is developing programs with partners of the Aspen Family Business Group to adopt these methods to successfully transition his own wealth and to work with clients willing to invest themselves in such a process.