Aspen current thinking column


Spring 2013

April Current Thinking Column

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Building and Sustaining Legacy of your Oikos

Best Practices for Families in Business

by Burak Kocer, PhD
International Associate, Aspen Family Business Group

This coming September, the Aspen Family Business Group will conduct a conference in Greece: Building and Sustaining Legacy of Oikos: Best Practices for Families in Business.

The Ancient Greek word oikos (pronounced ecos) refers to three related but distinct concepts: (1) the family members per se, (2) the family’s possessions and (3) the building, which houses the family.

The concept oikos can be found as part of many words in modern English such as “economy” among others: oiko and the verb nemo, which translates into distribute or allocate in English. This history of words shows us that the term economy itself was born from the need of allocating the rights and responsibilities among the household members. Although throughout the centuries, respective roles of the members in the family and in the society in general have largely changed, it looks like the need remains the same:

Defining the principles regarding the relationship between the family members and the family’s wealth.

And this is exactly what the experts of the Aspen Family Business Group have dedicated their careers to.

In September, we will discuss with our guests at the conference, the barriers against the continuity of family’s wealth and the best practices to prepare for effective transfer to the next generation. Beautiful Thessaloniki, in Northern Greece will host this exchange of experiences as an international group, thanks to the participation of families from different countries.

We invite you to join us for this opportunity of being part of this invaluable multicultural platform of knowledge sharing, where our partners Joel Paul and Leslie Dashew, pioneers in the field of family business consulting, will share their extensive experience together with my colleague Donnel Nunes, several other expert speakers and myself.

We are excited to explore how ancient wisdom would compare and contrast with best practices for families in business from different aspects including succession planning, knowledge management, governance of family and its business, as well as communication.

Defining the Eco-System

Aristotle in his Politics utilizes the term oikos in order to refer to everybody living in the house. This term is used today in the form of eco-system, to define the elements of a whole, which exist in an interdependent relationship. This is also the first step in our work with families: defining the family tree to understand who is involved in our oiko-system and how their perspectives differ from each other. This awareness helps family members to understand one’s own assumptions as well as others and to manage the expectations.

Succession Plan

Oikos also referred to a line of descendants not limited to the living members of the family but encompasses also the previous and upcoming generations. As a key element in sustaining the family’s legacy, we will discuss different elements of family’s wealth to be transferred to the next generation during the conference. The above-mentioned transfers require careful planning, including rigorous preparation of both the next generation to assume an enriched role in the family’s business and of the senior family members to experience a meaningful retirement period. As part of the focus on successful succession, Donnel Nunes will share with us his expertise on mentoring the next generation by highlighting pitfalls and how to overcome them. His session will also allow us to understand the targets for development when preparing the next generation.

Knowledge Management

Sustainability in families requires a concerted effort that has been well-defined in the literature. The challenging part, though is walking this path. In his book called Balancing the Emotional Ledger, Joe’s reference to Tolstoy reminds us the value of best practices in sustainability:

“Happy families are happy in similar ways, but unhappy families are each unhappy in their own way.”

One of the main elements of the family’s wealth to be transferred to the next generation is the knowledge in the family that makes the difference. In Thessaloniki, Joe will lead our session on knowledge management to help us identify, what this knowledge is, where it lies and how effectively it flows to where it needs to go.

Governance of Family and its Business

Having identified the best practices in terms of the essence, e.g., values, knowledge and ways to transfer them; the family needs to establish a system, which would ensure the sustainability of the family’s wealth. The central element of this system is decision making. My role in our conference in September will be to lead the session regarding the governance of family and its business, where we will discuss the question: “who is entitled to make what kind of decisions and through which procedures?” Since there is no limit to sophistication of governance models, (e.g., variety of committees, number of non-executive directors, differentiation of authorities), our focus will be on exploring best practices that are applicable to all organizations of different size and maturity.


Effective communication in the oikos is the sine qua non for the family to work on all these critical issues. Based on her extensive experience in working with complex family situations, moderating family retreats and guiding families through transitions, Leslie will broaden our understanding of the three critical elements, (i.e., safety, structure and skills) in effective communication and provide models on how these apply to families in business. Under Leslie’s guidance we will explore ways to set up the forum for regular communication, to adopt constructive confrontation to a family business decision and to enhance courage to share openly and handle conflict.

Let’s Meet in Thessaloniki on September 22-24

This two-day program is an excellent opportunity not only to enhance your awareness and skills for sustainability of your family business but also to socialize with and learn from the experiences of other families from different cultures and to visit some inspiring venues in Northern Greece and spend some quality time. Looking forward to meet you in Thessaloniki. In addition to the very interesting and engaging programs, additional opportunities to interact while visiting the area have been arranged for the 24th of September.

For further details about the conference please refer to our brochure and for your possible questions please contact Leslie Dashew.

View/Download the Conference Brochure:
Building and Sustaining Legacy of Oikos: Best Practices for Families in Business - Conference Brochure



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