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FO Perspective

Sharpening our perspectives

Sharpening our perspectives

Here we are again 🙂

Here to learn together about family wealth. I love writing as it helps me express important perspectives. I hope you are also learning. If you want to really lean in, please tell me what is on your mind! I will reply with an email, possibly a Loom video, maybe even a blog topic!

In the post-script, I will be summarizing the opening 18 issues of FO Perspective. A helpful resource if you want to revisit any of the prior topics. It dawned on me when summarizing the prior issues that perhaps my favourite topic regarding generational wealth has not been a blog topic yet!

I find this topic so critical that it is the central perspective within my personal mission statement! I first developed this mission statement to help filter the opportunities presented during my post tax-law career. That first mission statement was “empowering families to thrive for generations”.

I was recently improving my mission statement upon the advice of a mission-driven steward, and the result is:

I empower, connect and delight fellow wealth stewards who agree that entrepreneurialism is the key to meaningful family legacies.

Not every family member could or should build businesses from scratch, sure, but families that develop each steward’s interest in behaving like entrepreneurs are my inspiration. It is my key to meaningful family legacies.

Entrepreneurship is not just about starting a business and making money. If so, it would not be the key. Entrepreneurship is a mindset. Mindsets that can produce effective cultures. Entrepreneurship is about seeing opportunities where others see obstacles. It’s about taking risks, embracing failure, and never, ever giving up (unless of course failing fast is the better option!).

And I believe that the above qualities can develop an enduring family legacy for generations.

Fostering entrepreneurial spirit

The world is changing at an unprecedented pace, yet our world has always been changing rapidly. Financial capital and family businesses that were built up over decades can easily dissipate in a few years, sometimes through no fault of the family. Yet the family legacy can endure far longer than the peak of the family’s financial power.

By fostering an entrepreneurial spirit within your family, you are equipping your family members with the skills and mindset they need to navigate this ever-changing world. You’re teaching them to be resilient, adaptable, and forward-thinking. You’re encouraging them to take ownership of their future and make their own mark on the family. Entrepreneurs love and identify talent, which can only serve to improve the quality of the family’s ecosystem over time. Entrepreneurs understand how people have value in many different ways in building a business, and this understanding translates effectively over time to a family culture that fosters tolerance and diversity of it’s family members.

Adding to the family story

Family governance experts often speak to the importance of clarifying the family’s mission, vision and values. Entrepreneurs actualize that focus. Every entrepreneurial venture should be a reflection of the entrepreneur’s values, passions, and vision. So, when a family member starts a business, they’re not just contributing to the family’s financial capital (or contributing to the family’s human capital if the venture fails!), they are also actualizing the family’s story, identity, and legacy.

The family shadow. One of the hardest topics to tackle in family governance. Typically, the wealth creator is so talented, so unique, that the generations that follow cannot help but compare themselves and fall short.

The shadow looms greatly.

There is no single universal statement more commonly uttered by a successful entrepreneur than this: wealth creators wish their journey (not their success) could happen for all of their family members. They had a remarkable journey, a fulfilling ride. Yet wealth creators often struggle to beget entrepreneurs.

A wealth creator may struggle to figure out how to support their heirs because starting on third base is very different than their journey, but every wealth creator I’ve met wishes a similarly fulfilling ride for their children and grandchildren.

How to circle this square?

Celebrate their successes and failures

Encourage your children to start their own ventures. Celebrate their successes, and more importantly, their failures. Really go after those failures and ideally have family rituals that can be revisited in those times of failure so that the failures live together within the family legacy script.

Role model that business-building is about so much more than making money, it is about making an impact in a way that you know the world needs, than your family is getting far far ahead.

Describe the lows; far more important than the highs. Your family needs to hear about how the success included ample amounts of luck and difficult times. They need to know how you bounced back.

Entrepreneurship is not just starting businesses; it as a way of life. And my mission is to empower, delight and connect fellow heirs that also see entrepreneurship as the secret sauce that keeps your family legacy alive and well for generations to come.

Wealth means well-being

Wealth means well-being

Jay Hughes is the best. He is the biggest influence (imho) for our industry’s perspective on family wealth strategy. He was recently being interviewed and I used Otter.Ai to transcribe the interview. Email me if interested in the transcript.

Jay’s most-used line these days is an opener for many of his conversations – he sets the table for what will always be a valuable use of your time with this line:

“wealth is well-being.”

Long-time Jay fans know how much words matter to Jay.

Jay uses the term “financial capital” when he is describing the financial resources of a family. Never the term “rich”, sometimes he uses “money” synonymously and certainly he never uses “wealth” to describe financial capital.

Because wealth means something else.

Wealth means well-being.

Wealth is well-being.

The etymology of wealth is “weol” in old English. The term meant “well-being”. The word “Commonwealth” reflects this original meaning to this day. This is the REAL meaning of wealth. Webster’s considers this use of the term “obsolete”.

Economists look at the interplay of labour, land and capital and worry when one economic influence overweights the others.

Yet here we are, living in the era of the financialization of everything. The currency derivative markets are estimated to have $12 trillion in notional value. Residential real estate overly financialized in the ’00s and we are still suffering the negative consequences of the asset-backed commercial paper meltdown to this day.

Even our attention is financialized. The algorithms that benefit from our attention derive financial value for those capturing our social media attention.

Wealth has been quite obviously financialized. The term “Wealth Management” meaning principally investment management and financial planning is certainly proof of that.

Yes, financial capital matters a lot. But it is certainly not everything we seek.

Here at Family Office Perspective we are all about bringing more perspective to wealth. To be honest, I’m sheepish that I’ve made it this far into the series without a blog on Jay’s quote.

Wealth is well-being.

FW = R (HC + RC)

Your family well-being is comprised of the total of the quality of your people (HC) and their relationships (RC), amplified by how well they use their time and financial capital (R). Use your resources wisely and choose your words carefully.

Experimenting with culture for success

Cultural gardening

Even in two-season Calgary, spring is upon us! In the spirit of renewal, I’m excited to share a fresh perspective on family enterprise that I learned of last month in my Chief Learning Officer group. The presenter, Torsten Peiper, delivered his framework for family success by using a fantastic spring metaphor.

So this month we ask, metaphorically, how do you tend to your garden?

FW = R (HC + RC)

Growing family wealth and establishing long term family legacy (FW) requires strong family cultures (RC). Cultures are byproducts of their inputs (R, HC).

The Cynefin Framework applied to Family Enterprise. 

The family enterprise system is categorized as “complex” within the Cynefin Framework*, and compared to the other forms of systems in this framework (chaotic, complicated, and clear), a complex system can attempt to identify cause and effect in retrospect (unlike “chaotic”) but not in advance (unlike “clear” and “complicated”).

I highly recommend Torsten’s articles (here and here) on the topic and from what I’ve seen, the work that Greg McCann, Torsten and the Generation6 group is superb.

Ultimately, Torsten recommends that families recognize their complexity, and with this recognition comes an important perspective: culture planning must be multi-faceted to appeal to all family members.

Our motivations drive our behaviours and all family members are motivated by different aspects of family enterprise. So a family has the highest probability of long-term success by delivering within all of these types of motivating factors.

The ingredients of a good garden / the motivating factors of families.

On a 2X2 matrix, there are four dimensions created by two factors that impact motivation:


The two factors in the matrix are:

  1. the relationship involved (split into the family and the enterprise), and
  2. the motivational appeal (split into emotional and logistical).

A family that focuses on the logistics/enterprise group will only attract family members motivated by the financial affairs of the business. This works when all of the family members are motivated by the financial success of the family enterprise – risky business!

For me, for example, the appeal of the emotional aspects of family enterprise are far more motivating. I would consider that kind of culture “cold” and despite being interested in the business, I would feel like a poor fit and be demotivated.

We are all different and valuable in different ways motivated by different things.

Here are some examples of topics that can motivate within the four groups:

(crediting Torsten’s powerpoint deck with permission: all rights reserved. Torsten uses slightly different group descriptions)

Dimension 1:
Family Emotional

  • Regular meetings
  • Family name and history
  • Interesting personalities
  • Philanthropic activities

Dimension 2:
Family Financial

  • Money and other material objects
  • Inheritances
  • Intra-family lending
  • Elevated life style

Dimension 3:
Business Financial

  • Dividends
  • Shareholder agreements
  • Investing and business opportunities
  • Salaries in excess of market wages

Dimension 4:
Business Emotional

  • Quality products
  • Archives, museums, and other artifacts
  • Plant tours and internships
  • Corporate Social Responsibility

Stay intentional and try many things! The experimentation is itself valuable because:

  1. it recognizes that strong families put time and attention into their families, so experimentation exhibits caring; and
  2. it recognizes that even a cohesive family is dynamic and changing through growth, so experimentation exhibits humility.


OK, please put your gardener’s hat back on.

A gardener does not know the outcome of their efforts at the outset. You tend to your garden by working on the components of the environment (seed, water, garden design, etc.) but you cannot garden with the end result clearly in mind. If you remain engaged in the progress of your garden, you are often rewarded with beauty and success – yet you are not always rewarded.

Sometimes uncontrollable factors derail even the strongest family cultures (and gardens). Show you care by experimenting, tend to your garden, and the good outcomes will outweigh the bad.

Control is more than governance

Control is more than governance

This was a fun one to write. I was in a brainstorm, I love brainstorms, and this Newsletter popped out revealing to myself more perspective on the topic of control within family enterprise.

Control in one obvious sense is specifically family governance. Meaning the systems of the family to make decisions and align actions in accordance with family goals. Yet in the brainstorm, my mind turned to the family wealth equation, and the topic of control became a lot broader and a lot more nuanced than a look at simply governance systems.

FW = R (HC + RC)

When thinking about how your family’s Resources (R) exist to amplify your human capital (HC) and relational capital (RC), it is helpful to think of long term family success (FW) as your family legacy. Strong family legacies require multiple generations of family members to look backwards, forwards and within themselves and say “yes, I’m doing good and our family is doing good.”

Control is much more difficult within a family enterprise when they aspire for seven generations of success. Within this larger time frame, it is easier to make the tradeoff of your personal time and comfort in exchange for greater stewardship. Families define success as something more meaningful than the superficial, hedonic, satisfaction readily available in exchange for money for any one family member. Meaningful family legacies happen when you are fulfilled by contributing to the greater family (and/or humanity’s) goals.

There is a really big tradeoff to make within the concept of control. When considering long term family legacy, when the goal includes building strong wealth stewards for generations, the easiest form of control (dictatorship) must be discarded and a harder form of control (democracy) must be adopted.

Professionals consider the topic of control from the lens of their subject-matter expertise. Within this framing, progress in control will typically focus on governance structures. These are critical topics; like our skeletons, but skeletons are not enough to make us humans.

I would contend that a controlling family member retains control until all aspects of control have been removed except control through influence. This would include all sorts of control mechanisms, a Chairman still retains significant control levers, even as one vote. A protector of a trust certainly has a big control lever. Experts even contend that they have witnessed withholding of love and financial support for a family member in an attempt to control their behaviour.

I haven’t witnessed this personally. Sounds very rough!

The point is that letting go is hard to do. Being left to only influence is certainly fearful. No advisor will recommend ceding this much control because truly only the controller of the family enterprise will be able to determine for themselves when that transition is appropriate.

Control is often something of an invisible system, an unwritten governance structure. Control of this sort is far more relevant to understanding how individuals develop and how the family’s relationships operate towards success or failure. How influence is more than powerful enough to impact legacy.

As one aspires to the role of Elder, the transition from control to influence is the key perspective. Giving up control does not mean checking out. Mining for ways to reduce control to just influence, that is the tricky journey.

Mine for those opportunities!

In the brainstorm, in thinking about what a book about control within family enterprise would look like, I was of course drawn towards the conventional family governance discussion. Building effective Boards, empowered wealth stewards, and effective trusts, are three of the topics that first came to mind.

The richness of the topic arrived by thinking broadly:

  • when you consider that culture eats strategy for breakfast,
  • when you realize that humans are HUMANS and we act with emotion as well as reason,
  • when you consider control from a broader perspective,

you see control as just another topic that strong family cultures can tackle well and weak families cannot.


Control does not have to be an insurmountable topic with wealth creators.

“Succession” as a term is often replaced with a more continuous and less serial term like “transition” in family enterprise. Because regardless of the size of their wealth, strong family cultures seem to always leave meaningful family legacies. These families will not let our human frailties overwhelm our collective vision of leaving the world and those we care about in it a better place than we got it.

Once those in control recognize that the time after their control is more important to consider than their time “with the crown”, control simply cannot impede family success. Yes control is a difficult topic. But like family enterprise’s most difficult topic, death, our fears and discomforts around control should be tackled head-on.

Us Family Champions won’t stand for anything less 🙂

To the journey,


And then it rained

And then it rained…

How will your decisions now drive innovation into the future?

The state of the venture capital (“VC”) industry was already in dire straights before the SVB run. The two big problems for VC (and the innovation economy more broadly) are:

1) that interest rates were too low for too long, causing unreasonably weak bets to be capitalized with no accountability for profitability, and

2) massive quantitative easing efforts, causing the largest inflation in recent memory.

So, we now face innovation austerity. Innovation’s journey reminds me of the wealth creation cycle that many families go through.

When a family first creates liquid wealth, there is a large pull towards lifestyle design (spending on comfort and luxury). Through time, this lifestyle creep establishes new norms. This is the same process that VC just experienced. A large pull towards unsustainable industry norms with weak accountability:


During this period, some traditional investment classes became disfavoured (fixed income, value investing and gold come to mind), while venture and growth-at-all-costs appeared to set a new norm. A new “lifestyle class” to keep the analogy going.

This growth was aided in large part by government policies that supported the stock market. I believe Quantitative Easing and the other government policy tools during the pandemic did more than protect the vulnerable – the spending propped up the stock market in an unsustainable way.

So, unfortunately, many investment portfolios, including those reliant on investment returns for retirement, had become too “luxurious” and committed to the new “lifestyle” that the growth stocks delivered.

After entitlement; austerity.

And now we face austerity. It couldn’t have arrived at a better time.

There is perhaps no more difficult pill to swallow than a family adjusting it’s lifestyle habits to spend less. It feels like a failure. The ramifications are visceral. But of course, on the other side of austerity measures, no one actually feels materially worse (particularly when those austerity steps are taken with love, compassion and support from their community).

Austerity comes with so many fears to push through. People often feel embarrassed. They might feel hurt by that nasty little emotion that I hate referencing at all… fairness.

Yet if you look at the root of happiness, a person’s well-being, rarely if ever is someone worse off after austerity measures and often the reset of lifestyle expectations is very beneficial, both for the individual and their family’s long-term well-being.

It is time for VC and the North American innovation economy to reset. To take austere measures. Reset expectations, more discipline and more accountability will ensure that innovation rises back up better for it.

I’m particularly eager to see innovation companies focus on two concepts:

1) a company’s return on invested capital becoming more directly aligned with short term growth plans, and

2) human capital discipline. Utilizing technology and the new advances in work to make companies more productive.

With greater human capital discipline, human talent will no longer be mothballed, atrophying at the FANGs.

I personally hope the current times bring austerity to more than the innovation economy. I would argue it is time for the US economy as a whole to reset. To deleverage and reduce financial incentives. To take austere measures. And to come out the other side as the most powerful economy in the world for another seven generations.

Family offices have begun to reset their expectations for the Venture Capital asset class and the innovation economy in general. However, I hope these reset expectations does not result in disregard for the industry.

It has never been more important for purposeful investing and the innovation economy to align.

I believe innovation is the root of all liberal progress and I do believe that the West’s ability to innovate is absolutely critical to geopolitical stability and the world’s greater good.

I cannot fathom a world where the West loses a decade of innovation, which is possible in the current circumstances. More than ever, family capital allocators must find the courage and skill to deploy capital into the innovation economy reset.

Long term and private capital allocators have perhaps never been more important to an economy.

FW = R (HC + RC)

I’ve long advocated that the family office’ core business, investment strategy, must align with the family culture and purpose. Families that continue to address their unique answer to the tricky question “so what is all this money actually good for?” build better communication with their investment professionals. This then leads to better financial capital deployment (R, meaning “Resources”); better in terms of the alignment of those investment decisions with the family’s culture. This alignment, I believe, has an enormous impact on building stronger people (HC) and stronger relationships (RC) ultimately leading to greater family wealth (FW) and meaningful family legacies.

I would consider it an emergency that families meet and get laser-focused on which areas of innovation align best with their investment policies and family goals. The innovation companies will be desperate for your capital and they may often be difficult to find. With investment strategy clarity, families will find the right opportunities and in turn, these families should expect to benefit greatly.

Families will benefit financially certainly, but I believe the stronger returns will be in creating stronger wealth stewards capable of deploying capital in more difficult times and with clearer goals.

The coming difficult months and years are the exact time for wealth stewards to take action. Improve your IPS statements. Find important industries and work with your investment professionals on finding investment opportunities within those industries. Find ways to pull the right companies out of the ashes and into regeneration.

The story of the pandemic and quantitative easing’s impact on the venture industry will be told for decades if not centuries, what story will your family be telling future generations about your impact during this difficult time?

Considering starting a Family Office?

Considering starting a Family Office?

Every family should have a family office: X
Designing investment strategy is the first step: X
ChatGPT can design this for me: X… maybe?

There is a whole lot more to the role of family offices than just increasing your financial resources… that is, if you intend the family office to grow all of your family wealth:

FW = R (HC + RC)

Your Family Wealth is the sum of your human and relational capital pools, amplified by your resources (financial resources being the second most important resource to time).

This month, I tackle a popular family office topic, when and why to start a family office. Thank you for your time, Dear Reader, I hope in this short read you take away something valuable!

Families that start a family office strategy focusing on the investment strategy must have missed Simon Sinek’s famous Ted Talk Start With Why. Although instead of inspiring action with the business’ why (Simon’s point), in this case, your family’s why will inspire action towards building meaningful family legacies.

Family Champions: resist the urge to start your family office design from the investment strategy. That is the “how”. What is your “why”. What is your unique answer to the question “so what is all this money actually good for?”

Once you have a working answer to that question, please apply the answer to the overall question of how the family office design will effectively impact your goals for the resource.

Here are some subsidiary questions on your family office design that I like to ask:

  • Is the Office a means to amplify the love and support you describe as part of your “why”? If so, how will it amplify?
  • What important skills and behaviours are the Office role modelling for the family? Skills like financial literacy, critical thinking, due diligence, etc.
  • What other ways can the Office be a role model?
  • What matters to your family, in the way that your employees in the office behave? If a family member works within the office for a summer or for years, hypothetically, what are the key behaviours you expect that family member to observe as being “just like our family”?
  • In what ways will the current and future stewards of your family wealth appreciate and value the actions of the Office?

Often, these are the types of questions that shape Mission, Vision and Values statements for an Office. It is integral to build these documents and especially critical to consistently check-in with management and determine how well understood and relatable those documents are to the family office team.

Now, some questions when starting to develop the Office’s Investment Policy Statement:

  • What are your lifestyle goals and those of your known heirs?
  • How would the Office support those lifestyle goals?
  • What investment policies work to meet the family’s lifestyle?

With lifestyle goals, I do think the “how” of investment strategy is very important. Designing investment strategies to ensure a certain base level of lifestyle may PERHAPS tolerably ignore alignment of your investment strategies’ with your family culture.

Far better though to have all actions align with your why, but depending on the situation, I can see many scenarios where a family is more comfortable with their lifestyle needs being met with a different investment strategy than the strategies applied to the family’s legacy goals.

Legacy financial goals are where the family’s why is the rubber that hits the road.

It is the legacy goals of the family where the family culture’s influence on investment strategy really makes all the difference. The question is not “what investment policies work best to meet the family’s legacy goals?” but rather “how does the family culture dictate the investment strategy for the family’s legacy goals?”

The second question better frames the importance of the family’s why within building an effective family office culture.

There are a multitude of ways to do investment strategy effectively. Except that not all of those investment ideas fit within all family cultures. This is a key determinant in which Family Offices improve the family’s wealth and which detract from family culture by being singularly focused on financial objectives.

Care should be taken to think beyond the most common policy, which is determining which types of businesses the family does not want to support.

Consider other factors like:

  1. Geographic goals (can interest in various regions improve the family’s worldly perspectives),
  2. Industry goals (can showing investment interest in an industry stimulate one or more family members’ interest towards investment success), and
  3. Do certain investments amplify the family’s culture by creating greater focus on the family’s values, goals and principles.

I believe that the families that can consistently identify their why and communicate alignment between their financial legacy goals and their values are the families that successfully apply their family offices to supporting flourishing family cultures.

So, to summarize, these steps are absolutely critical to starting a family office:

  1. Establish your family’s why for the financial capital (revisit this answer regularly).
  2. Determine your lifestyle needs for the financial capital.
  3. Determine your legacy goals for the financial capital.
  4. Identify investment policies that suit your lifestyle needs and legacy goals in alignment with your family’s why.
  5. Then, deploy financial capital into the resources required to accomplish all of the above.

Family office design certainly does not end here Dear Reader! Although the above list is a lot of work on it’s own, further work remains. Not everything can be accomplished at the outset; Rome wasn’t built in a day, so to speak.

One last investment issue that I particularly relate to is: how does the family use financial resources to invest in their family members’ flourishing?

This is the role of the Family Bank, and various spending policies on health care, education, development, etc. An effective policy on deploying financial capital into your family members is actually much different than the lifestyle goals described above. The lifestyle goals are more predictable; this Family Bank focus is more uncertain in timing and amount. The more intentional ways to increase human and relational capital.

A clear set of policies on these unique, irregular, opportunities to spend financial capital on the family members is the type of dispassionate policy development that truly shows how much a family cares (how paradoxical does that sound? Bring in the lawyers to improve our loving and nurturing environment!)

With the Family Bank and similar policies in hand, the Office can determine, approximately, what these uncertain investment events might be which has a significant impact on the liquidity and the suitable risk/reward for that portion of the portfolio.

And with the above investment strategy planning complete, a family office is done the hard work…

No, not actually…

An effective family office design must address all of the other risks beyond investment risk! There are many more risks to consider and more tradeoffs to weigh in the family office design.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of other critical risks requiring attention in Family Office design:

  • Reporting risks; consolidation, cash flow analysis, accounting, tax compliance
  • Custodianship and cash risks; physical assets, marketable securities, currency, private banking, bill pay
  • Financial risks; financial projections, debt management, liquidity, tax strategy, Office/active business financial integration
  • Security risks; physical security, online security, Information Technology function
  • Legal risks; creditor protection, general commercial, insurance, estate, physical assets, active business integration with Office,
  • Communication risks; public relations, ownership relations, role of Office in family cohesiveness, family meeting and retreat,
  • Governance risks; Boards, policies, ownership governance, overall accountability to family’s goals / plan
  • Alignment with “why” specifics: social impact, philanthropy, Family Bank, leadership development, education/learning, mentorship

In the work that a family office can (and cannot) accomplish, not all of these risks can be the priority. Again, the family’s why and culture goals are extremely critical both firstly to the Office’ decisions and weighing tradeoffs and secondly to building effective accountability and performance monitoring and reporting once design decisions have been made.

The best family offices integrate their ecosystems well, calling on all of the various resources required at the right time and keeping them up-to-date on family affairs in between those critical moments. I believe advisor ecosystem preparedness is a critical and under-emphasized communication task (and something well-worth measuring and reporting on!)

A skilled Family Office can consistently bring the family’s why into whatever is the current task at hand with outside advisors.

Many aspects of the family office should never be in-sourced because the quality of professionals required for the task retain their skill by application to many fact patterns.


Simon Sinek caught the world’s attention with Start with Why. And the presentation played a critical role in my summary of how to start a Family Office. Once a family realizes it’s investment decisions do not exist separately and instead require alignment with the “why”, with the family purpose, with clear and intentional goals shaped by values, only then will the family create and sustain a meaningful Office.

And only then will the Family Office contribute more than financial resource strategy in growing the family’s wealth.

No family has a perfect “why” but we should all strive to have something to anchor our decisions to. Striving for that first answer to “what is all this money actually good for?” is that critical first step in building an intentional family culture and in developing a family office.

To the journey,


Introducing a new term for a key player in family enterprise

What is a Spripe? And other key terms you should know.

This month I hope we share this time together wisely by defining a few terms important to the language of family enterprise.

In working on the League of Heirs, I came to realize that there is not a term that properly defines our target market: the enlightened, responsible wealth stewards that intend to meaningfully contribute to their family legacies.

About the same time as realizing this new term needed inventing, I joined Reddit’s fatFIRE community, a public anonymized space that I find worthwhile  to discuss legacy-scale wealth topics.

For my anonymous Alias, I wanted a name that properly conveyed my perspective; where my comments would be coming from.

I come from very spoiled beginnings; the more I meet wealthy folks the more I realize how high up the “spoiled” spectrum I sit!

Growing up, my mom often used the line, “you’re spoiled not spoiled rotten”. I always identified with that, and nothing frustrates me more than those spoiled rotten types; the anti-heroes. They lean into comfort and luxury and are all-too comfortable making a marginal (or negative!) impact on their world.

I wonder how often these people look back on their lives with regret.

And then the Alias hit me and with that, the new term!

I went with “Spoiled_Ripe” for my Reddit user name. I like to think that I’m doing my best to live up to my mom’s “spoiled not spoiled rotten” goal.

And the new term needed to describe our tribe of privileged, responsible, intentional wealthy folks?

How about a “Spripe“:

Spripe n. plural Spripes a person that uses the resources available from their wealth to improve their well-being and those they care about.

Spripes of course come with varying degrees of engagement within their family enterprises. Not all Spripes become or even aspire to become Family Champions.

And what is a Family Champion? This is also a clearly defined term by Dr. Joshua Nacht, who wrote his PHD thesis on the concept. A Family Champion is “a visionary catalyst who brings new energy into the family enterprise to support the family ownership advantage.” I describe Family Champions as natural collaborators and strong communicators that ensure family principles are both known, through storytelling, and are also effective through governance adaptations and a willingness to stand up for what matters to the family.

Two great resources regarding Family Champions:

FEX’ summary and an interview with Dr. Nacht.

A few other roles came to mind that you, dear Reader, might enjoy. Especially if these terms are new to you:

Personne de confiance. A term Jay Hughes uses often and lovingly to describe a family outsider that is entrusted with key information and is afforded the opportunity to deliver advice on key family matters. A similar but heightened role to a “Trusted Advisor”.

Elder. Elders hold key wisdom and are willing to sacrifice personal ambition for the betterment of the family, and other tribes like Indigenous Bands. They work on conveying that wisdom to younger family members. They are also critical to the family culture in conveying the historical family stories and the principles and values embedded in those stories. .

Rising Gen. Replacing the term “Next Gen” to describe a younger generation than the older generation (typically in positions of greater control). The term “Rising Gen” fits better in large part because these generations aren’t “former” and “next”; families must balance the needs of multiple generations of wealth stewards that want to participate in family leadership whom have decades-long overlapping prime leadership years.

Black Sheep. As opposed to former family members that no longer have affinity for each other, in which case the person outside the family is simply a former family member. A Black Sheep is different than most of the other family members, the flock still includes them and appreciates their diversity of opinions. However painful that opinion may be 😉

Seven Generation Families. The objectively held goal that a meaningful family legacy occurs when a family considers the impact of their decisions on the family’s culture seven generations into the future.

While I have other terms I love to use, I will leave this Newsletter with a perspective on one last key term.

The Wealth Equation:

FW = R (HC + RC) 

(Your wealth is the product of your resources, your human capital and your relational capital.)

Family Wealth is more than your money and through time your “FW” measures the quality of your legacy (discussed last May, here.)

I hope my legacy will include the re-ordering of Webster’s definition of “legacy” because clearly the wealth management industry has usurped what is a much more valuable form of legacy (the second definition) while focusing our attention on the first definition; making a financial gift.

I’ll know the League of Heirs succeeded when the definitions reorder and the perspective that your legacy is your Family Wealth, not merely your money.

To the journey,


Trade-offs exist everywhere and always. What are you willing to sacrifice?

Trade-offs exist everywhere and always. What are you willing to sacrifice?

Let’s begin with a cheers:

Here’s to making 2023 fulfilling, fun and also… well… in reflecting on 2022 and how trade-offs exist everywhere and always, cheers to 2023 being enough for you however it unfolds. Some goals should be hard enough that they may not happen. Some trade-offs are properly sacrificed for other priorities and goals. Bring your contentment perspective to 2023 along with your ambition.

Last month I wrote:

“To get to a specific, clear and unique investment strategy, the family has to be able to articulate their purposes for investing. Far more specifically than their risk adjusted return tolerances. So investment policy statements are a fun and important governance tool to work on and get right.”

Let’s find perspective together on how IPSs can grow your family wealth.

FW = R (HC + RC)

Your family wealth grows fastest when you consider ways that your resources can amplify your human and relational capital pools. 

Investment Policy Statements: Before running a wealth management firm, my interaction with these documents was limited to a quick review with an investment professional and the occasional deeper dive on behalf of a client.

I never considered at the time that families could create their own investment policy statements. I also was unaware that the document could strengthen family cultures and that unlike the documents produced by the wealth management industry to CYA, there was not any specific rules to follow or legal risks to mitigate.

RC – Families’ relational capital, it’s culture 

An IPS is a document that families can work on: This document is a living document, amended whenever your family sees fit to improve the terms and guiding principles under which financial resources are deployed.

There are many topics an IPS can discuss, but the most important lens in my opinion is how your family’s investment philosophy influences your family’s collective well-being.

A policy to align financial resource deployment with personal and collective well-being.

HC – human capital and personal development

How can your investment decisions positively influence your day-to-day lives?

As a document produced with the mindset that it can amplify a family’s fulfillment and success, a document that can meaningfully guide a family’s seven-generation journey, the focus of the IPS changes significantly from the IPS produced by conventional investment management.

One key policy requires prioritization of family investment interests. Identifying specific areas that family members find particularly interesting is a helpful initiative.

Have you considered for yourself: do you find any particular investments compelling and worthy of more of your time, attention and investment dollars?

Here’s a simple example of the type of policy you could include:

We value investing in industries that family members find particularly compelling for long-term value accretion.

A minimum of 10% and a maximum of 80% of the value of our financial capital should be classified by the family as being in “Well-Being Additive” industries (such industries agreed upon annually by voting family members. 

A policy like this requires that the family stay sharp on topics of interest. Your family will benefit in multiple ways from this focus:

Firstly is the potential for outsized financial returns. The investment in a specific thesis gaining concentration in the portfolio may outperform as Peter Thiel describes:

“You can expect the future to take a definite form or you can treat it as hazily uncertain. If you treat the future as something definite, it makes sense to understand it in advance and to work to shape it. But if you expect an indefinite future ruled by randomness, you’ll give up on trying to master it.”

“The most common answer to the question of future value is a diversified portfolio: “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket,” everyone has been told. As we said, even the best venture investors have a portfolio, but investors who understand the power law make as few investments as possible.”

Secondly and more importantly, the focus will likely result in finding areas of potential vocation and personal fulfillment. Areas compelling enough that you will learn and grow, ultimately gaining expertise.

Role modeling the expertise and increased agency will also inspire other family members.  While improving your own well-being.

So be curious! Join new communities and bring your beginner’s mindset, and you just might find a fulfilling new focus.

R – resources, financial capital

An investment focus need not result in creating a startup or adding significant risk. For example, an interest in the future of energy could begin with an investment in a clean energy ETF and then possibly advance to allocating to a private equity team focused on a specific area (like power storage for a clean energy example) as you meet the top teams and get curious.

If the interest is so compelling that those risky startups enter the portfolio (like Katal Energy did for me!) then the Investment Policy Statement should consider how to manage those concentration risks while also identifying potential non-financial goals of the investment.

This topic would then become a cross-over policy between the IPS and my favourite policy tool, the Family Bank. You can read the third in my series on the topic at

Here’s to a 2023 where we continue to sharpen our unique answer to the tricky question “so what is all this money actually good for?”

To the journey,


I’m excited to learn about Japan’s 72 micro-seasons, lead through the eyes of a wonderful writer and the person that reintroduced me to nihilism (some very interesting wisdom to distill into family wealth dynamics from nihilism) Lucian James. If you want a philosophy that attunes your attention to valuing your day to day more, I expect this 72 season focus to be enjoyable and valuable!

Find out more here.

Have you noticed that “family office” is used a lot of ways?

Capital Deployment + Risk Management = Family Office Ecosystems

In this month’s edition of Family Office Perspective, I’m distilling the surprisingly complex definition of “family office”.

The holidays are almost upon us; I hope amidst your year-end efforts you enjoy time with friends and family.

I’ve been eager to write about family offices for awhile. The web version of this Newsletter will eventually be chock-full of links so if you want to learn more about Family Offices, please check out our online editions.

The Wealth Equation expresses the idea that your family wealth increases when your resources are applied to growing stronger family members and family culture. Family Offices relate to all aspects of the Equation.

The Wealth Equation: FW = R (HC + RC)

R – Resources

Family Offices deploy resources and manage risk. It really is as simple as that. If you picture a Family Office as a bricks-and-mortar physical office, you might have the wrong framing. The Office of the Family is similar to the Office of the President in that many resources support the Office and many of those resources are probably called in only on certain specific tasks.

All Family Offices juggle internal and external resources. Some Family Offices generate profit for shareholders and some do not. Some Family Offices include investment professionals and, rarely, some do not. All Family Offices must manage the complexity of a family’s affairs, however complex those affairs are, and however that complexity came to be, whether intentional, or oftentimes simply from unintentional momentum.

I first used the term to describe family enterprises that recently monetized the main family business and retained favourite employees and often held real estate to house their teams. My definition has certainly evolved!

Actually I find the term is used so many ways to render it useless without adding clarifying descriptions:

  • A “Multi-Family Office” is a for profit enterprises owned in part by non-family shareholders/officers serving more than one family.
  • A “Multi-Family Office” is also a cost centre for more than one nuclear family that wants to share resources. Yes I find the synonym confusing also!
  • A “Single Family Office” is a cost centre for one “family” (my favourite versions of SFOs define the “family” by affinity not by blood).
  • “Virtual Family Office” is a common term and a decent attempt to define the types of MFOs that are particularly leanly-staffed and rely on the resources of  partner-level service providers. I like the concept of a VFO but am unsure if the partner-level relationship of the service providers somehow impedes the families they serve at all.

There are still other types of family offices and I’ll summarize to say that all of these family offices are differentiated but also the same in that they are designed around the dual goals of capital deployment and risk management for the families they serve.

The majority of this newsletter’s readership would be interested in for-profit Multi-Family Offices and Virtual Family Offices.

And I believe the quality of their ecosystems separate the wheat from the chaff for these businesses in their goals of resource deployment and risk management.

HC – Human Capital

When I use the term “ecosystem”, I mean the network web of services that are required to varying degrees by families. I see the quarterbacking of those services as the most important aspect of family offices. I personally enjoy the web as do many other advisors, but also it seems unique to find advisors that have the time and mind space to effectively deliver as quarterbacks.

Many of you reading quarterback service providers. Do you enjoy it?

Project management discipline and a strong BS radar are the key skills for the ecosystem quarterback. Sniffing out bad actors is key, and having a network to help collectively sniff out the bullshitters works even better.

Work together.

RC – Relational Capital

Ecosystems expand and contract based on the risks the family sees and wants to manage.

I’m amazed when I hear of large portfolios managed directly by the family and they use a KISS perspective to mostly own S&P500 and Berkshire Hathaway. They have traded off management of certain investment management risks (the principal ones I see relate to a lack of diversification from public markets). They have decided to prioritize the making of their quarterbacking a simpler exercise for their family.

I get the decision and it very likely improves relational capital, but I would choose to add strong investment professionals to my ecosystem. I would take on the responsibility of a more complex but effective investment management strategy.

I like when families hire the right investment professionals and it is magic to see professionals go after they are empowered with a specific, clear, and unique investment strategy.

And to get to a specific, clear and unique investment strategy, the family has to be able to articulate their purposes for investing. Far more specifically than their risk adjusted return tolerances.* So investment policy statements are a fun and important governance tool to work on and get right**

*** I’m foreshadowing the next two newsletters here 🙂

To the journey,


Post-script, a paragraph of a poem by Douglas Malloch:

Good timber does not grow with ease:
The stronger wind, the stronger trees;
The further sky, the greater length;
The more the storm, the more the strength.
By sun and cold, by rain and snow,
In trees and men good timbers grow.

Read the whole poem here:

The Good Fortune of Mentorship

In this month’s edition of FO Perspective, I’m glowing in the good fortune of mentorship.

The Wealth Equation attempts to simplify to merely 11 characters the critical idea that your family wealth increases when your resources are applied to growing stronger family members and family culture.

The Wealth Equation: FW = R (HC + RC)

HC – Human Capital

Of the ways I’ve worked on becoming a better person, be it coaching, learning (usually from podcasting and online videos), finding new challenges, etc. my greatest growth is due to great mentors in my life.

With the one year anniversary of Dennis’ passing on October 30th, and recently travelling to Aspen, Colorado to take my menteeship with James E. Hughes to the next level, I’m thinking a lot about mentorship these days.

RC – Relational Capital

Harnessing a close relationship into an effective mentorship relationship is fulfilling for both mentor and mentee. We enrich our lives greatly by finding the time to mentor and be mentored.

Mentorship is a critical skill in being an effective Elder. As the highest wisdom-holder within a family enterprise, but without the control, it is an Elder’s influence that defines her agency. The influence is the action and certainly there has been no greater influence in my life than my mentors.

R – Resources

One aspect of mentorship that I’m fascinated by, because I think understanding incentives is paramount in building strong family office ecosystems, is that mentors are (in my opinion) unpaid.

I don’t think you can pay for effective mentorship. That looks more like teaching or coaching to me – also valuable relationships for sure. But the resource to monitor expensing in mentorship is time, not money!

Time is our greatest resource.

How can we spend our time effectively as mentors and mentees?

Here are my favourite tips from perusing the internet for good advice on mentorship:


  • Frame the time. The mentee should have an agenda.
  • Come prepared. The agenda should be delivered prior to meeting.
  • Get to know each other. The agenda should always include time for getting to understand each other’s worlds.
  • Use effective and increasingly curious questions to gain understanding of each other.


  • Be genuine and direct.
  • Be teachable / look to deliver advice in a teachable manner.
  • Look to the future and action plan; mentorship is not therapy.


  • Goal set effectively and complete accountability check ins.
  • Follow through on the last session’s actions.

Dennis did far more for me than mentor. I saw how he acted constantly. I saw him invest in people every day. I saw him remain calm in adversity. I witnessed his high level of trust, which was was truly unparalleled and resulted in events to his detriment often.

But he always maintained that his trust in people was still worthwhile even though it occasionally burned him.

Dennis was far more than a mentor; he was also a role model.

Geez, I’m “spoiled ripe” in so many ways, and in ways that spoiled rotten people could never imagine.

To the journey,


post-script, a paragraph of a poem by Douglas Malloch:

Good timber does not grow with ease:
The stronger wind, the stronger trees;
The further sky, the greater length;
The more the storm, the more the strength.
By sun and cold, by rain and snow,
In trees and men good timbers grow.

Read the whole poem here.