How to Build the 100-Year Family

By Bill High 5 years ago. Legacy PlanningFamily ValuesLegacy

Steelcase, the office furniture maker based in Michigan turned 100 years old recently.[1]

The feat of surviving 100 years in this age of the ebb and flow of business is hard to imagine.  Times change, and businesses must change with those times or they run the risk of being outdated. The fickle nature of the consumer makes it difficult to adapt.  The pace of change is further heightened by the rise of technology.  Navigation is difficult.

But Steelcase proclaims that it is not an office furniture maker but rather it is a company of ideas. They state simply: “Companies don’t survive for a century, ideas do.”

I love that.  And I couldn’t help modify the Steelcase motto to families: “Families, as an institution don’t survive for a century, but their values will.”

That bears some explaining.  The family is the first institution of society.  But like any institution it is subject to the ebbs and flows of time.  There are good times and bad.  Some families are rocked during the wind and sink.  Others cannot stand their own success and wealth and suffer similar fates.

Like Steelcase, the families that survive are those that have a reason to be.  Values.  Ideas.  What are the ideas that a family will live and die for?  We’ve seen it time and time again.  Those who have a reason to rally around a big idea will more likely survive the test of time.

What are some of the big ideas?  Faith.  Service.  Generosity.  Freedom.  Those are the ideas that outlast the waves and produce an enduring family.

To begin defining your family’s values, one of the first things I encourage you to do simply is to talk about it. What do you do well as a family? Where do you share common interests and pursuits? What does it look like when you are doing well as a family or when you are not? These questions might unveil common themes.

If you’re not sure, still have the conversation. The choice to start is the most important. The wisdom you gain through each step will only grow.


Bill High
Bill High Bill High is the founder of The Signatry and a national award-winning author & speaker on legacy, family, and philanthropy.

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