holiday planning

The Forest for the Trees

To enjoy the holidays, leave the family business at work


Key Takeaways:

  • Talking too much about the business during family celebrations can alienate relatives who are not actively involved in the family business.

  • Your family’s values are often the core culture of your family’s business.

  • Seek innovative ways to celebrate that are inclusive and family-oriented.

 

The music of the holiday season fills our lives. Images of chestnuts roasting on an open fire and family gatherings around the hearth dance through our heads like sugarplum fairies—or at least that is the popular mythology we think about for the holidays.

But for members of family-owned businesses, the holidays can be a very different story.

When families that have a business together gather for the holidays, they sometimes have another place at the table set for discussing their business. This scene shares similarities with one of my favorite holiday films.

For me, preparing for the holidays means viewing some of my favorite movies. At the top of my list is “The Bishop’s Wife,” a 1947 film (remade with Denzel Washington) that originally starred Loretta Young, Cary Grant and David Niven.

The film is a metaphor for an entrepreneur and family-owned businesses. The story is about a bishop (David Niven) and his wife (Loretta Young), who are involved in parish life. The bishop is driven to raise money for a new cathedral at the expense of everything else in his parish, including his family. In the midst of the holiday season and beleaguered by his responsibilities, the bishop asks God for relief from the pressure. God sends him an angel (Cary Grant) who, through a series of tricks, helps the bishop realize that his real mission in life is not to build a cathedral, but to serve the needs of his parishioners.

In family businesses, the entrepreneur often becomes so focused on building a cathedral (the business) that family relationships suffer. During holidays, it’s not unusual for business discussions to dominate family gatherings. As a result, family members who are not active in the business may feel left out of the family—as if the business were the family.

In the film, the bishop not only focuses on building the cathedral, but in the process ignores his wife at the expense of their marital relationship. The angel becomes smitten with the bishop’s wife, which creates a competition between the bishop and angel for the wife’s affections.

Just as the fictional bishop realizes his real mission—to serve parishioners—entrepreneurs should realize their mission is not only to serve the business, but to steward family traditions and rituals along with their spouses. These family and holiday rituals are what bind families together and create the richness in families that makes holidays so lasting and special. These rituals also contribute ultimately to the well-being of the business.

Whatever your tradition, the holiday season is a wonderful opportunity to set aside the stress and strains of the business and celebrate all the special rituals that bind families together. For me, the family is what makes the holidays special. As our family celebrates the holidays, we build the emotional value of our family. This strengthens our family and continues to inspire, strengthen and infuse family values into the company.

The family’s values are the core culture of the family’s business. However, by talking too much about the business during family celebrations, you could inadvertently alienate family members who are not actively involved in the business. So, keep normal business discussions in the boardroom and out of the holiday gatherings.

During this holiday season, seek new and innovative ways to celebrate that are inclusive and family-oriented. You can form a “family holiday committee” to evaluate whether your family holiday celebration is working. If so, keep doing it; if not, create a new approach. Put the family in charge first and keep it there.

Here are some ways to strengthen your holiday celebration:

1.    Be clear with each other about your expectations for the holidays. Spend time talking with each other before the holidays arrive to make sure you all understand what you want to get out of the holiday season.

2.    Do your best to focus your time and energy on activities that celebrate family traditions and the blessings of the holiday season. In those instances where you’ve outgrown family traditions or the family has become too large to reasonably continue the traditions, create new ones that allow you to experience the joy and love of your family.

3.    Do your best to limit business discussions or save them for the boardroom or for a regularly scheduled family meeting. Sitting around the table on Christmas Eve is not the appropriate forum for airing business activities, successes and problems.

4.    Most of all, go out of your way to have fun.  It’s important to have fun with each other and connect or reconnect with those family members you often don’t see. In the event you see your family regularly at work, go out of your way to renew, rekindle and enjoy a side of your relatives you would otherwise not see. Here are some suggested family icebreakers to be discussed in a group:

  • What’s your favorite holiday memory?

  • What’s the most exciting thing that’s happened this past year?

  • What is your biggest dream for the new year?

Here are some other ideas:

  • Take a multigenerational family photograph.

  • Learn about each other’s kids—your nieces and nephews.

  • Hide a special small toy or prize in the holiday pudding; the winner receives a special gift.

  • Have a holiday cookie “bake off” with your grandsons and granddaughters.

  • Do your best to focus your time and energy on activities that celebrate family traditions and the blessings of the season.

The holiday season provides great opportunities to emphasize those family values that are the bedrock of your family. As you plan family activities, understand that less is more. Consider what you can do to create balance and harmony and to enjoy the family and life you’ve created.

Blessings to you and your family. Have a happy holiday season!

Robert J. Pyle, CFP®, CFA is president of Diversified Asset Management, Inc. (DAMI). DAMI is licensed as an investment adviser with the State of Colorado Division of Securities, and its investment advisory representatives are licensed by the State of Colorado. DAMI will only transact business in other states to the extent DAMI has made the requisite notice filings or obtained the necessary licensing in such state. No follow up or individualized responses to persons in other jurisdictions that involve either rendering or attempting to render personalized investment advice for compensation will be made absent compliance with applicable legal requirements, or an applicable exemption or exclusion. It does not constitute investment or tax advice. To contact Robert, call 303-440-2906 or e-mail info@diversifiedassetmanagement.com.

The views, opinion, information and content provided here are solely those of the respective authors, and may not represent the views or opinions of Diversified Asset Management, Inc.  The selection of any posts or articles should not be regarded as an explicit or implicit endorsement or recommendation of any such posts or articles, or services provided or referenced and statements made by the authors of such posts or articles.  Diversified Asset Management, Inc. cannot guarantee the accuracy or currency of any such third party information or content, and does not undertake to verify or update such information or content. Any such information or other content should not be construed as investment, legal, accounting or tax advice.

’Tis the Season… For Accidents, Burglaries and Other Mishaps

How to manage holiday-related risk

Key Takeaways:

  • Insurance claim experience has shown that increased social activities and travel throughout the holiday season lead to a corresponding rise in accidents and property damage.

  • You can lessen your exposure by anticipating the frequent causes of mishaps and taking proactive steps to mitigate them.

  • The holiday season also is an ideal time to revisit the insurance coverage that is currently in place, to make sure that protection will be adequate in the unfortunate event of a claim.



The holidays are a time for family gatherings, entertaining friends, gift-giving and travel. It’s also a time when homeowners and their guests have increased exposure to accidents, property damage and theft.

Following is an overview of the most prevalent incidents as well as practical tips that can help you employ to maximize their protection at home and on the road.

1. Home entertaining

Common risks:

  • Hosting events at home increases the potential for accidents that can lead to personal liability lawsuits. Examples include guests slipping on a wet floor or an icy walkway, a car accident caused by an “over-served” attendee, sickness due to spoiled food, dog bites and more.

  • Possessions inside the home are subject to breakage or theft as a result of increased foot traffic. In addition, fires can stem from overloaded electrical outlets, neglected candles, unsecured decorations and cooking mishaps.

  • If outside help is hired, such as a catering company or a valet parking service, any actions or injuries sustained on the premises can be blamed on you, the homeowner.

What you can do:

  • Consider the weather conditions and how they will impact traffic inside and outside your home. Take precautions to address wet, slippery walkways or foyers. Notify guests to take extra care around areas that are particularly crowded or that you know to be potentially unsafe.

  • Be mindful of holiday décor. Could items on upper levels fall? Are there any obstructed areas that could pose a safety concern?

  • Move high-value items (particularly artwork, breakables and sculptures) away from high-traffic areas whenever possible.

  • Keep jewelry and other smaller valuables out of sight and locked in safes whenever possible. If you have a wine cellar inside your home, lock the entrance.

  • Have contact information handy for local taxi services in case guests cannot drive home safely.

  • Do not leave candles burning in unoccupied rooms. Unplug interior decorations before going to sleep, and unplug appliances not in use. Avoid using old plugs that don’t fit snugly into the outlet. In addition, replace devices or décor that has frayed wires.

  • If an outside vendor is helping with the party, request a certificate of liability insurance and proof of workers’ compensation insurance to ensure that their insurance will respond if there is an incident.

2. Leaving the house unoccupied

Common risks:

  • Weather events increase the chance of property damage. Freezing temperatures can lead to burst pipes; heavy rains, wind and ice can cause power outages and flooding.

  • A vacant home is a target for burglars.

  • Announcing vacation plans via online social networks can also increase your risk of being burglarized.

What you can do:

  • Occupancy is the best prevention. If you aren’t in a position to hire a caretaker, you can have a friend or neighbor check the property periodically—with their car clearly visible in the driveway if possible.

  • Look to technology. Low-temperature sensors and water shutoff devices can help identify problems before they get out of control. Set lights to turn on/off throughout the day—not just at night.

  • Conduct a professional security assessment to ensure that the existing alarm system provides optimal protection against burglary, fire and low temperatures.

  • Also consider behavior patterns that can elevate the risk of burglary. For example, if your family travels at the exact same time each year, it’s easier for a criminal to target the home.

  • Advise family members to use social media wisely. Don’t announce to a broad (and often unknown) audience that your home will be vacant.

3. Travel

Common risks:

  • Liability laws may vary from country to country, as does the climate for litigation.

  • Gifts and other items purchased abroad are often lost or damaged before making it home.

  • Valuables are left accidentally in hotel rooms or on planes.

  • If a family member gets sick or injured, nonrefundable tickets may be canceled or trips cut short. In a remote destination, top-quality medical care may not be within reach.

What you can do:

  • Consult with an insurance professional prior to your trip to gain a better understanding of local laws and their coverage, particularly if you are renting a car or recreational vehicle. When possible, choose an excess liability (umbrella) insurance policy that offers worldwide coverage.

  • Leave high-value jewelry at home, in a safe or safety deposit box. If you must travel with jewelry, keep it with you at all times; do not place it in checked luggage.

  • If larger or fragile items purchased on vacation (such as artwork or cases of wine) cannot travel home with you, then consult a specialized shipping company for assistance. Notify your insurance agent of any substantial new purchases to ensure coverage as soon as you become the owner of those items.

  • A homeowners’ policy may not be sufficient for jewelry, art and other high-value collectibles. A separate private collections policy offers more appropriate coverage.

  • Obtain travel insurance, which can provide coverage for medical evacuation as well as trip cancellation.

  • If a family member has a pre-existing medical condition, prior to departure identify local emergency contacts at their destination.

Conclusion

Insurance claims can be disruptive on many fronts. In addition to taking proactive steps to minimize your likelihood of damage, it is crucial to have adequate coverage limits in place if an incident cannot be avoided. You can benefit from annual reviews of your property and liability coverage needs. Consulting an independent insurance agent or broker who specializes in the high-net-worth niche is the best way to access the broadest range of product and service solutions designed for your lifestyle.

Robert J. Pyle, CFP®, CFA is president of Diversified Asset Management, Inc. (DAMI). DAMI is licensed as an investment adviser with the State of Colorado Division of Securities, and its investment advisory representatives are licensed by the State of Colorado. DAMI will only transact business in other states to the extent DAMI has made the requisite notice filings or obtained the necessary licensing in such state. No follow up or individualized responses to persons in other jurisdictions that involve either rendering or attempting to render personalized investment advice for compensation will be made absent compliance with applicable legal requirements, or an applicable exemption or exclusion. It does not constitute investment or tax advice. To contact Robert, call 303-440-2906 or e-mail info@diversifiedassetmanagement.com.

The views, opinion, information and content provided here are solely those of the respective authors, and may not represent the views or opinions of Diversified Asset Management, Inc.  The selection of any posts or articles should not be regarded as an explicit or implicit endorsement or recommendation of any such posts or articles, or services provided or referenced and statements made by the authors of such posts or articles.  Diversified Asset Management, Inc. cannot guarantee the accuracy or currency of any such third party information or content, and does not undertake to verify or update such information or content. Any such information or other content should not be construed as investment, legal, accounting or tax advice.