Tips For a Successful Annual Family Meeting

A few years ago, we attended the INSEAD executive program on family business. It was a turning point for our family business in terms of identifying goals and best practices. One best practice that came out of this program was to hold an annual family meeting – we call it our Family Council meeting.

A few years ago, we attended the INSEAD executive program on family business. It was a turning point for our family business in terms of identifying goals and best practices. One best practice that came out of this program was to hold an annual family meeting – we call it our Family Council meeting.

The intended outcome of this meeting is to spend time together, of course, but beyond that it is to update those family members not involved in the day to day operations of the family business on the current states of our business units, and to benefit from their thinking, insights, and questions.

We just came back from our third Family Council meeting, held at Villa Verde Resort in Friuli, the region of Italy where our father grew up. Each meeting gets better, as we learn from our experiences. Here are our best practices so far:

Roxane:

  • Have someone take photos; these times are precious! My husband Guillaume is (one of) our assigned photographer.
  • If the work meeting lasts the equivalent of a full work day – which it should – make sure there is time to exercise or practice an outdoor activity before dinner. Your body fluids get moving again, your brain is oxygenated, and everything feels much better afterwards. I know I needed this time!

Rachel:

  • Do not schedule anything right after the meeting, as ours usually lasts longer than scheduled. We learned this the hard way our first Family Council meeting (we all had a train to catch): everyone left rushed and frustrated at not having been able to share everything we wanted to share (yes, we do talk a lot and the goal of these moments is to share, share, share). However, balance this with respect for timing and scheduling.
  • Set a clear code of conduct. I love ours – love, respect, no sleeping (see photo!).

Cyrille:

  • Organize some bonding time before starting the meeting. Reconnecting emotionally and tuning our energies towards one another makes the business discussions much more open, rich and authentic.
  • If one or more family members has a hobby they are passionate about, it’s great to include it in the schedule. Our dad loves golf, and so do some other family members. Thus, we set aside time to golf (see bonding time above). The rest of us were by the pool and that was superb too!
  • Include a festive and joyful together time after the meeting. Either a dinner – or even better, stay overnight and have some fun the morning after.

Ada:

  • Schedule “alone time” in the midst of all the “together time.” Without it, I am not very much fun to be around.
  • Include the children in the day as much as possible. Either in terms of them participating in the presentations and discussions (depending on the age), or in terms of them being present even if they are not actively participating. Per our Dad, it is never too early to start – and they learn by osmosis.
  • Think about all of the possible tension points that will surely come up during such intense family time. Plan for them. Figure out how to diffuse them before they occur.

We already can’t wait for next year’s meeting!

Professional photoshoot? No problem!

There are so many things I love about working with my sisters, the list is too long for a blog post. Very near the top of the list, however, is the fact that we do “sister photoshoots,” like the one we just did this week at the Lausanne Beau-Rivage Palace for OPEN Magazine. Over the years, we have gotten better at taking better pictures. It’s not always easy to get four girls to look good in one shot… Here are our tips.

There are so many things I love about working with my sisters, the list is too long for a blog post. Very near the top of the list, however, is the fact that we do “sister photoshoots,” like the one we just did this week at the Lausanne Beau-Rivage Palace for OPEN Magazine. Over the years, we have gotten better at taking better pictures. It’s not always easy to get four girls to look good in one shot… Here are our tips.

Roxane
– I sleep a lot – both before and after the photoshoot. Before, so that I look my best, rested, glowing. After, because photoshoots drain me – and I always feel exhausted afterwards. So I plan accordingly.

– I used to do my own hair, until once I didn’t – and noticed such a difference. I know this seems so obvious… it’s as true as it may seem obvious!

– I always ask the photographer to view the pictures as they are being taken. That way if I don’t like how I look, I tweak something (the decor, my position, the light, my hair…) as the shoot is happening.

Rachel

– Hire a professional makeup artist. Always. I have been working with the same makeup artist for a while, she understands my face, my features, my style. She enhances me but does not change me. I always want to recognize myself on photos. 


– Be patient and don’t overschedule yourself on the day of the photoshoot. It may take an hour, it may take three. Having an appointment a few minutes after the time the photographer told you he or she would be done is a bad idea.

– I always have a glass of champagne right before we start shooting! It loosens me up, but it’s not enough that I can’t focus and be professional.

Cyrille

– I pick outfits that I don’t usually wear, because the things that seem hard to wear for a “normal day” are easy to wear just in photos.  

– I put myself in a playful mood. It’s not always easy to smile on command, but I try to think about how lucky I am that someone is taking my photo.

– I love to document the “making of,” the behind the scenes part of the photoshoot. It’s great for social media, but it’s more than that. I look at those casual photos after the fact and figure out where there is room for improvement, so that I can be even better next time.

Ada  

– Chin up and out! It may not feel right, but it always looks better.  


– I try to put myself in the photographer’s shoes and try to make his or her job easy. I imagine how Cindy Crawford would behave and try to model (no pun intended!) that professional behavior. 


– I wear my every day clothes (sorry Cyrille!) to feel as much myself as possible. I am not playing dress up, I am playing me. 

Ada, Cyrille, Rachel and Roxane Polla embody the 2nd generation of “Forever” family businesses. Complicit and complementary, the sisters put their power of 4 towards the development of their three brands: Forever Institute, Forever Boutique and Alchimie Forever. They build the future on a shared heritage: audacity of innovation, value of work, passion for aesthetics.