Three Things I’ve Learned About Purpose and Long-Term Success

Purpose has become a buzzword for everyone from Fortune 500 CEOs to entrepreneurs, politicians and more.  It may have slightly different meanings for everyone, but at the heart – purpose is simply the reason that something exists.

When I began working with families of wealth years ago, I saw the power of a shared purpose in action. Those families that had a defined purpose were much more capable of navigating the everyday complexities of the family office or business and weathering tough times.

Recently, I was fortunate enough to sit down with several experts on this subject for Family Office Association’s Successful Families Video Project. I spoke at length with Patricia Angus, Fredda Herz Brown, Dennis Jaffe, Roy P. Kozupsky, and Donald B. Trone on the importance of purpose to a family’s long-term success.

I wanted to share three things I learned during that discussion:

1. Your purpose needs to be inclusive. Don shared some current thinking on leadership theory across the globe. Command and control or top-down management is quickly falling out of fashion in favor of more inclusive forms of leadership. In a family setting this can be incredibly valuable in aligning multiple generations around a shared purpose. Incorporating the thoughts and feelings of all the members – including those who have married in or even non-family – creates a better sense of ownership for that purpose and gives it stronger legs to carry the family forward.

2. Your purpose needs to come with a plan. In the family office industry we call this governance. During our discussion, Dennis noted that this is particularly important as the family moves into the third generation and beyond. An unspoken purpose, set of values and decision-making processes that exist among the beginning generations may not translate to subsequent generations. A formalized governance structure can help communicate the purpose to new generations. “It’s about making the unspoken, spoken and then talking about it,” Dennis says.

3. Your purpose can evolve. As Fredda says “every generation needs to re-think – What am I here for? What are we doing together?” This is an important point as the world around us is constantly changing and a family in particular will experience any number of shifts through the years – marriages, births, deaths. The purpose that was developed three generations ago for the family may need to be refreshed heading into the next generation.

These are just three of many insights shared on the subject of purpose during our discussion. You can watch entire video now at this link:


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