Raise your hand if your family has ever had a cousins group that was somehow engaged in investing together. Keep your hand up if after a year or two, or even three, those Next Gens were no longer interested in their group. My hand is up. Is yours? Now, raise your hand if you decided to find a way to work past that blip in time, and have a thriving group. Hand still up? Mine is. Here are some of the reasons why:
First, we diversified. And I don’t (just) mean our portfolio. When the process of investing was no longer interesting, we had to find other ways to stay focused, so we tried a few different things. We started planning our annual family retreats. We began a tradition of a family Day of Caring (see ncfp.com blog for more). We chose the topic of focus for our family meetings and vetted the potential speakers. And we had a larger hand in choosing our investments so that they more closely mirrored our personal feelings about the world. In other words, we made it as much about us as possible.
Second, we introduced a bit of friendly competition. Nothing gets people focused quite like competition. So we found a way to include it within our portfolio. In pairs, we were given a focus of investing, lets say healthcare, and we had to come up with anything within that realm to invest a half of a position in for (at least) the year. The pair with the greatest increase over the year won! We happen to all have equal shares, so in essence, winning didn’t mean anything other than the pleasure of saying you had won, but it was effective, and fun. Our portfolio became more diverse, we learned some of the intricacies of investing (for instance, one pair who shall remain nameless, chose WalMart in the “Asia” challenge. The rest of us called foul- but indeed, WalMart’s fastest growing market is Asia!), and we created a new atmosphere for discussion and challenge. We’re lucky because we’re a small enough group that this worked well and didn’t destroy our relationships. It’s not for everyone, perhaps there’s a different way to encourage competition within your family structure, but it was perfect for us.
And finally, we didn’t give up. It’s a simple as that. There were many times over the past 15 years (yes, we are 15 years strong with this group) when members of my cousins group, myself included, waned in terms of our participation. But when the going got rough, our Family Office Executive didn’t give up on us. He engaged the leaders of the group, and challenged us to find a way to get our cousins (and ourselves) moving. This came in many forms, but the most useful was when we decided to vote for a Leader of our group to be the point person amongst ourselves and our Family Office. For us, we made the position rotating, so that we would each have the opportunity to experience both being a leader, and what it was like to have someone else lead. It worked for us. It may or may not work for your family.
In essence, we found what worked for our family - a mix of diversifying, challenging our selves, and of course, not giving up. 15 years later our extremely strong portfolio taught us much more than we ever could have imagined. We recently dissolved that partnership in favor of a new business venture, but I know that together we will continue to learn, grow, and find a way to make it work!