Elements of a successful family education program

By Anna Nichols

Getting an education program started and creating enthusiasm and interest across the family for it to continue involves more than selecting a date, time and topic. There are many ways to make programs more enticing and exciting for family members -- and thus increase the chances of long-term participation and success.

• Define the goals. Family members will be more inclined to participate in your education program if you clearly define and communicate what you hope the program will achieve.

• Get buy-in early and often. Measure and take feedback on a regular basis. Survey family members on what they’ve enjoyed so far, what they want to learn next and their suggestions for change.

• Go for easy wins. Early success is critical. Start with topics that are universal -- things that all family members have in common. One example is the shared history of the family and the business. Don’t dive in with prickly or controversial topics. It’s important that family members’ initial experiences be positive. This will boost enthusiasm for the program and encourage future participation. Once family members are used to the format and process and recognize value in coming together, you can think about tackling tougher issues.

• Make it fun! Pair learning with family outings and activities. Also memorialize your family meeting with “swag” -- T-shirts, beach towels, hats. These items build a sense of community and are a low-cost way to generate ongoing good feelings about your family gathering every time someone uses that item in the future.

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