"This is a personal review. I first met Tom Hubler when I was a junior lawyer in Minneapolis and Tom was a family therapist working with some of our law firm’s family business clients, especially those whose lawyer was Steve Swartz.
Tom and Steve decided to join forces. They created the first prominent family business consulting firm in the United States: “Hubler/Swartz.” The firm had a significant successful run, and added their combined knowledge to the field of family business consulting. Later they separated and Tom continued to work with family businesses. This is a book that he has compiled to share the lessons he has learned during that long admirable career.
What I find fascinating about the book is that it comes full circle back to Tom’s original principles. This is a book about celebrating a family’s “heart” and its “soul.” It is about caring for each other and appreciating each other. Tom’s conviction is that we should focus foremost on the family relations with each other. If those are strong, the rest of the challenges can be met with confidence.
The book follows the various stages of a family business: its start-up, its growth, the involvement—or not—of family members, its mature phase, the necessary “succession” planning with the difficult transition roles and attention to legacy. He ends with a section of advice for consultants who work with family businesses. His sections apply just as well to family groups in family offices.
Through each stage Tom stresses the importance of the “heart.” He encourages family members to express their appreciation for each other. Even to express their love for each other. His many relevant case studies from his own practice include innumerable examples of the stern patriarch who exclaims “Of course my children know I love them; I don’t need to tell them.” This reminds me of a Minnesota culture joke “Ole loved his wife Lena so much that … he almost told her.”
This is not enough Tom emphasizes. Family members must be explicit and verbal in their appreciation of each other. He develops exercises, like the Family Mission Statement to be repeated each day, or like the Family Forgiveness Circle to give a way for families to “forgive” each other for the inevitable hurts and misunderstandings.
Other helpful practices include regular family meetings. In my own experience I have seen the positive benefits from having a family have a time and place to discuss issues that could otherwise become quite disruptive. Another helpful practice that he encourages—though not followed very often—is to have the relevant family members be involved in structuring the founders’ estate planning. This provides valuable input and also prevents the surprises that lead to litigation.
Another helpful structure is to have a board of directors. Tom includes both a board made up of family members only and a board that includes independent outsiders. My own preference would be the board with outsiders.
In sum, while some parts of the sections on “soul” may seem too spiritual for some (I admit that includes me), it is impossible to disagree with Tom’s focus on the “heart.”
I knew him first when he worked with the “heart.” Now after all these years and all his family business consulting years, he returns to the “heart.” Every family can profit from this timeless insight.
We can all encourage families (and ourselves) to show and express the love of each other, the gratitude, appreciation and even forgiveness of each other.
This focus will keep a family strong for multiple generations. Thank you to Tom for this timeless reminder."