“Keep It In the Family.”

I’m saying that in my best Godfather voice…which, truth be told, isn’t that good.

But that’s what I wanted to say to a colleague last week when he shared that he was struggling to figure out how his company should give back to the community. He’s running a family-owned business that is now operating in 4 cities. His business has an ethnic focus, and he wants his office branches to give back locally. But he wants there to be a theme; he doesn’t want to just support the local peewee team in one city and the local shelter in another city.

My first piece of advice to him: “Keep making money. You won’t be able to give back if you don’t make a profit, so don’t lose sight of that.”

My second piece of advice: “Find out what matters to your extended family – otherwise known as your team members, the people whom you are paying. Yes, the immediate family can make the ultimate decision, but your team will be grateful that you asked.” His business is in an industry with high turnover. But he’ll see a reduction in turnover if he takes the time to ask his employees what issues are important to them. And to make an impact, he should share the results with his team members. A simple high-level report, back on what top issues emerged, will go a long way toward ensuring his employees know that their voice matters.

Then he needs to figure out what matters to his immediate family members. What are their values? What kind of legacy do they want to leave? Look at the top issues identified by his team and his family and then determine where there is overlap.

Once those “overlap issues” are identified, he and his family (immediate and extended if he’s willing to open up the dialogue) can think of creative ways in which to support that area. For instance, if education is the top issue, funds can be raised locally to support a scholarship for a student who reflects the ethnic focus of the company. If healthcare is a top issue, local funds can be raised to support the safety net clinics in the local community. There are endless ways in which a company can support the local community and still keep to an overall issue that is important to the family. Offer them a legacy “that they can’t refuse!”

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