Zions Bank's Family Dinners

Create dialogue between generations.

James Rayburn May 1, 2016

We’ve all been to a family dinner where the conversation reached a deep level. The same can also be said of a few business dinners. The dialogue can sometimes be uncomfortable and unpleasant, but necessary in the end. Zions Bank’s Family Business Services periodically sponsors a family business dinner that combines the two. They are designed to initiate dialogue between owners of a family business and their children, who may or may not want to someday take over the business’s reins.

“It may sound cheesy, but there’s just no better way to clear the air and get feelings out there than around the family dinner table,” says Garrett Barnes, senior vice president of Zions Family Business Services. “These dinners offer a lot of good information that tends to inspire everyone to be more proactive on the direction of their business’s future.”

The dinners/seminars are free. No products or services are pushed or sold. The goal is simply to open dialogue, like it did for seven business owners and their children who attended a January family business dinner in Ogden.

“The owner of a successful computer company and his two sons attended, and they heard some things that really created a platform for deeper discussion,” Barnes says. “They are now having a conversation that they realize they should have started a long time ago.”

The dinners aim to help family business owners understand and address the following issues.

Breaking Down Barriers

Parents have opinions and beliefs regarding their children’s desires and capabilities. Some tend to be overprotective and untrusting. Children often feel this, which makes them hesitate to take over the family business.

“When you bring these feelings into a business it can be unhealthy,” Barnes says. “It’s vital that any feelings on these matters are put on the table, discussed and resolved so that they don’t become obstacles in passing the torch. Children need to feel inspired. There’s a big difference between inspiring someone versus controlling them.”

Letting Go of the Reins

Many family business owners struggle to let go. Eventually, however, someone else will own and manage the business. The timing and process of this transition are critical to the business’s future success.

“Often it just takes some executive peer coaching to determine when that time is and which is the best move to make,” Barnes says. “The moment they can let go of the reins and allow the next generation to make the decisions is the moment many businesses take off.”

Having a Succession Plan

Whether passing the business on to the next generation or selling it to an outside party, a proper succession plan is essential. Zions Bank not only facilitates businesses in making this determination but also connects them with financial experts who can craft a proper succession plan.

“We truly want to support their vision of their family business and provide them with the expertise and resources that they need to have a proper plan in place,” Barnes says.

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