As my father so wisely said, “Money comes and goes. It’s what’s inside of you that’s important—what you have invested in yourself, in your soul, that gets you to the next phase of life.”
When it comes down to it, your family bond is your greatest asset—a fact that is as true in life as it is in your family business. And the most important asset your family brings to the family business table is their intellectual capital. According to a study published in the International Entrepreneurship and Management Journal, “The current trend is for organizations to focus less on material assets and more on intangible assets when seeking competitive advantages and that those firms with adequate intellectual capital have a better chance of survival.”
Regardless of whether that intellectual capital has been earned through higher learning or life experiences, that wealth of information is a reservoir from which the family can draw to help overcome those unexpected circumstances that are inevitable in every business cycle. The trick is to tap into this potential, celebrate it, and not take it for granted. Sometimes this can be precarious, as you bring into the boardroom the family dynamics and baggage that you might have grown up with. Family knows how to press each other’s buttons (double-edged sword) and you might have no limits with each other. The trick is to nurture the best and drop the rest. When we remember that our relationships with one another and the contributions made by each other are the most important aspect of our business we can approach challenges with greater patience and clarity.
Ramon Mendiola, is a good example of this. He used his well-earned intellectual capital from working for multinational companies Kraft Foods and Philip Morris when he came back to Costa Rica to head up the family business, Florida Ice and Farm Company (FIFCO). “When I joined [FIFCO], I tried to take the best out of the multinationals [such as accountability], but at the same time also to keep some of those family-related values that for me were quite important,” said Mendiola.
In taking what he learned and turning it to focus more toward family values, such as treating people as more than “just a number” and cutting down on unnecessary bureaucracy, he was able to blend both family and non-family business perspectives in a way that has greatly benefited the structure of the publicly traded Costa Rican company.