How family and business legacies are born

Roy Williams, founder and president of family wealth management firm The Williams Group, has been making family business his business for more than 50 years.

The issue of succession is a difficult one. But if you’ve invested years of effort into building a family legacy, preparing to hand your wealth to your children can create an even bigger knot of anxiety that sprouts up worries about everything from financial security to your life’s work, says Roy, a prolific Vistage member in the late ‘70s and throughout the ‘80s. During his half-centennial consulting families, Roy conducted a 20-year field study that involved interviewing 2,500 families to find the ingredients to a successful family wealth succession plan.

And what Roy found in families who were able to have a harmonious post-estate transition was astonishingly simple.

The key ingredients to the best heir succession plan boiled down to trust and communication among family members.

“Our clients have given us the extraordinary gift of learning the transformation of human beings, especially families,” said Roy. “And as we take them through the process of succession and family transformation it has become our assessment that the issue of trust and communication matter the most.”

But the study wasn’t the only empirical evidence Roy relied on to shape his outlook on successful family wealth planning. He also turned to his experience as an active member of Vistage, a business networking organization that helps executives grow through peer advisory processes.

“I consider Vistage a gift to the world, by promoting an environment of openness and transparency that you can find in very few places,” said Roy. “It really is a rare occasion where you can be yourself and not worry about anything but being open and honest.”

And that is what also shaped Roy’s outlook on guiding families into the family legacy they want to maintain and matriculate.

In fact, a key stepping stone to wealth transfers and other complex family wealth issues has to do with asking questions that require transparency and awareness among family members. These questions include: What is a family? Who is in the family? What’s the money involved?

The Williams Group has guided countless families through what some may consider a harrowing process. But Roy’s approach to complex issues like family wealth successions has been like solving a puzzle.

And in that problem solving process he always reminds his clients trust and communication play key roles in the outcome they want. With trust and communication he has been able to develop a way to measure the family’s values and expectations while quantifying their growth.

It’s clear that Roy, who also had a brief stint as a San Francisco 49’ers’ tackle, has helped families regain focus of their future while expanding clarity on the longevity of his business for 50 years and more.

How do trust and communications impact your business in the day-to-day? How can you learn from Roy’s legacy?