For family businesses, the challenge of integrating and passing on the business to the next generation is the single greatest issue they face. And yet, many Next Gen members have their own perspectives, expectations, and desires that are often overlooked within the context of a greater family legacy. Enter Horizons. Founded by Kydd Boyle and Richard Blackwell, both next generation members of their respective family businesses, Horizons is a self-described social enterprise built to inspire, educate and connect Next Gens who want to have a positive impact on the world in which they live.
In this interview with Tharawat Magazine, founders Kydd and Richard share the stories of what inspired them to start such an enterprise and how Next Gen members can augment their visions through this forward-looking community.
Ramia: Welcome to another episode of Tharawat Magazine’s podcast for family businesses and entrepreneurs. I’m here with Kydd Boyle and Richard Blackwell who are the founders of Horizons, which is something we’re going to be talking about for the next few minutes. So guys, welcome to our podcast. Can you tell us a little bit more about yourself?
Kydd: Hi friend. Well, we are Next Gen’s ourselves. We come from family businesses and we have gone through a period of personal development in our lives for the last five years both individually but also collectively through knowing each other. We really felt there was a community that allowed next gens to share with each other the fears, aspirations, and pitfalls of this journey of growing into a family business.
Richard: It’s been a slightly strange journey in many ways. Kydd and I have known each other for a couple of years and really actually in the past year, the idea of there being a demand and a need for something like Horizons which is specifically catered for next gens, by next gens was really missing. While it was initially just meeting up and having discussions about it, it eventually became this creature that is now Horizons. It’s very exciting. I’m really looking forward to seeing how it develops and so far, progress has been really great and getting a lot of traction. We are off to the races.
Ramia: Before we learn more about the actual program and what you guys do with Horizons, let’s just maybe dig a little bit deeper as to what prompted the main motivation in creating an initiative that comes from next gens for next gens. So maybe if you could tell us a little bit more about what you perceive to be the main challenges for the next geners at the moment when they are faced with the legacy, as you’ve both been faced such a moment in your family businesses. So what do you feel are the common challenges where next gens can support each other better than anyone else?
Kydd: I think that our stories are fairly common amongst next gens but they are also quite different. My story has been integrating myself to a management position in my family business, and Richard is from a business family that sold their company, but both of us come from a legacy background. We see ourselves as the mortals, and we have this big myth of a business behind us. It’s about what do you do, whether you can be yourself, and be part of that business, or of that family legacy in a productive way. So for me personally, because my connection to the family business was through my mom and the business is a patriarchal business, when I started representing our family business, I felt very fraudulent in the conversations because my niche of the family had not been steeped in the history of the family business.
Our business is a multifamily office that deals with a wealth of individuals, so that requires me as a family member to speak to many other wealthy families that may be prospects of our family business. It took me a long time to find my authentic voice and to really feel natural within that family business. Whereas Richard was brought up steeped in that history, weren’t you?
Richard: For me, growing up the family business background was in publishing. My father was the head of the business, as was my grandfather and my great-grandfather. We lived in Oxford where the family business was based. For the first 17 years of my life, I really thought that my trajectory in life was to go through university and then do what my predecessors had done – start in the mail room in the family business, and the climb the ladder working in the management position, and hopefully up to the top. But my father sold the business in 2007, which was really the absolute right thing to do. But I suddenly found myself at a point in my life where I went from being a publisher to having a world of opportunity open to me. It’s taken 10 years really especially with the last couple of years having a real direction. There were a good five years where I really struggled to find a direction.
I feel this immense amount of responsibility with the family wealth and legacy aspect of that. It was certainly played on me. It’s taken a lot of time to really ground myself and actually be working towards a real goal. Horizons is a part of that. It’s given me the experiences which I think both Kydd and I have had, which really informs a lot of the content and what we want to achieve and help next gens from our personal experiences.
Ramia: So let’s talk about this awesome initiative that you guys have built over such a short amount of time. Tell us more about how it’s structured, and who is part of it, and how people can become part of this community which I think is so relevant for so many young people around the world at this age. So tell us more about the actual activities within horizons.
Kydd: I think that me and Richard really felt that from our own network, we were constantly put in touch with best in-class service providers. What we could do within that world was to represent the issues of next gens. We both didn’t have a problem sharing our vulnerabilities in terms of the journey that we’d gone on. We both learned a lot through peer sharing, but we felt that some level of coaching and academic development was key. So that’s why we developed a community of people where we could create intimacy first and foremost between the attendees. We want to create small groups of people that become friends for the rest of their lives and help each other along their family business journey. Secondly, we felt that what was wrong with next gen education space was that education material was being spoon fed for the next generation. What we could do is we could represent the real next gen issues very well and connect that to best in-class provision providers.
Richard: If you take a look at the landscape, there are a lot of different week-long courses provided by lots of different clients and lawyers for next gens. A lot of it is focused on succession planning and how to manage your portfolio when it’s inherited. It really didn’t strike a tone with the concerns of the next gens and how they would fit within a family business role, or whether they are looking to break out and look for greater independence in a new venture. Many of the latter look to take something they’ve learned from their experiences outside of the family and then bring that back to the family business. A lot of next gens have these questions and ideas, but they don’t know how to empower themselves to go on and actually achieve these things. So having this community of a close-knit group where you can share ideas and find people from similar situations who’ve tackled these hurdles is really important. Then, with our educational side of things, we’re really looking to empower next gens to define what they want to achieve and then give them the toolkit to achieve them.
Ramia: I believe you have your programs coming up now starting early summer and going throughout until the next the year. So tell us more about those times where you actually go full on into an educational mode where participants are being taught beyond your usual community gatherings where you give each other the moral support. Tell us more about those programs, and what they look like, and where they take place.
Kydd: I think this is the part we get really excited about because we can actually tailor the experience to an individual. Collective experiences are very useful and we need them, but the tailored experienced is really what’s missing. So the key to that is that we get groups together, these intimate groups together for a week to start and they learn the fundaments of business. We have academics from Harvard, Cambridge, and Hult International Business School who will be delivering that concept. More importantly than that in my opinion, these people need an executive coach. The coaches, based on various psychometric tests and interviews with the attendees, will actually create assignments, real life assignments for these individuals. So for the next six months, they’ll go through an acceleration.
What we do by creating these targets throughout the six months is we get people to succeed or fail. It doesn’t really matter if they do succeed or fail, but they learn a lot if they have these crystallize moments. That’s what they’ll do over the next six months – taking what they learned from the course and working with these executive coaches. Then six months later, they all get back together. We’ve done it in Chamonix in the Alps because we feel that having a fun time together is important as well. It’s always good for the spirit I think, but when they come back together in Chamonix they’ll be presenting to each other what they’ve achieved, where they succeed, where they failed. We know from other courses that have been run that when this type of model is used, people often see a positive reflection of themselves in each other.
Richard: It’s a journey. Starting this year, we’re kicking off on the 18th of June at Ashroot with our first course. You have that quite intensive week. You’re going to spend a lot of time with people and you’re going to get that bonding and that network, and then you’re also going to have the opportunity to really draw a line in the sense of what you want to achieve over the next six months. With this group of people who you have connected with, you need to present to them, ‘‘This is what I want to achieve in the next six months.” Everyone’s going to be completely different. Someone may want to gain the management position in their company. Someone may want to achieve their first individual investment. Someone my want to say, “I want to break out on my own or get a place at Harvard to do an MBA.” It’s going to be completely different, but the whole idea is with your personal coach over the following six months.
You are held accountable to achieve these things that you’ve laid out to everyone. That’s a real journey and we’ll have that peer to peer network along with the coaching so everyone is there to support and guide each other. Then when we bring everyone back together in Chamonix in January next year, everyone has an opportunity to say what has happened. “Here is the list of things that I said that I was going to achieve six months ago, and here is what’s happened.” There is an accountability which I think a lot of courses miss. You got to a course, you get inspired, you go away, and you go back to day to day regime, and you forget about what you did. But we don’t want that. We want this to be a journey and after the six months, yes, technically the course is over, but that doesn’t mean that the journey and the networking and that peer to peer aspect stops. We’re really hoping that continues throughout.
Horizons is hopefully something which is a bigger part of your life than just a week that you spent somewhere in England in the countryside.
Ramia: It almost sounds like an MBA in emotional intelligence that you guys are offering for family business next gen members. It really sounds super exciting because we all know that fostering the emotional intelligence that you guys are talking about is extremely important for the next generation of leaders for the family businesses. They are being faced with so many radical changes which can be quite overwhelming even in the best of circumstances, and many family businesses are facing very tumultuous times ahead where their industries are changing quite radically. So to have leaders who are prepared for that mindset shift and for that kind of responsibility will be quite a big plus.
What is it that you hope that the participants will be taking away and bring to their family businesses? Is it concrete skills like communication?
Richard: I think a single word definitely would be ‘confidence’ and the belief that whatever it is that they want to achieve within that space, they can do it. We want each individual to feel empowered to be able to achieve what they want to do. To go up the management hierarchy, to talk to the patriarch or matriarch of the family and say, “I have a big idea, and you should listen to me, and here is why.” For people to feel that they can actually go to their family and say what’s on their mind, and say what it is that they want to achieve. That confidence is going to be crucial, just making people believe and understand that they have the ability to do it. It’s a question of figuring out what the stepping stones are to achieve that goal.
Kydd: One thing I’ve really learned in the last three years is that at school, you learn Maths, you learn English. But every day, we communicate with each other and yet we so rarely look at our how we communicate with people and the reasons why we do things. You have general core for businesses particularly in the US, where they have been using techniques where they focus on communication, body language skills of positive visualizations, and all these techniques that we under-utilize or under-stress the importance of in family businesses. So I think it will hopefully help people with communication. I think that’s really where the core of the confidence comes: How do you express yourself?
Ramia: That’s a really interesting point though Kydd. So why do you think we fail in family business or in the family business education field that’s emphasizing those things? Are we taking the next generation for granted? Is it maybe a level of complacency? Do you think that maybe particularly our generation of millennials is particularly sensitive to these things or do you feel like it was bound to be an evolution where we finally talk about these things more openly?
Kydd: There’s probably bound to be an evolution and family business is by nature, especially when it becomes multigenerational, are clunky organizations. Trying to get something done requires stakeholder engagement and that can be very difficult when you’re related to the other stakeholders. You’ve got family dynamics and the sluggish nature of a large company as well that comes into play. I think these two things make us by nature slow to react to these things. In a way, it’s what makes us succeed as well. That slow nature is positive in a business sense. It means that there is more stability to the business, it means that decisions are better reasoned, but when it comes to this sort of personal development piece, I think it can be something that restricts certainly the next gens of family businesses. In this really competitive world, you need to have an extraordinary responsive to that kind of situation particularly if you’re born into privilege where you will be accelerated into an important position in the company. I think being able to know who you are, communicate the wishes of yourself and your family is really important in that.
Richard: I think there has also been a real shift in the last couple of decades not just in family business but also throughout the world. The way in which people did business in the 80s and 90s is very different. Enforcing the ideas that people now expect from big businesses has really changed. I think millennials are very hot on that topic especially in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. The millennial generation feels much more acutely aware of the negative impact that the financial system can have. So they really do demand more from the way in which assets are allocated and the way investments are run, or the ways in which their businesses are doing business.
There has been a shift. But that also means it can be very difficult for millennials to bring these thinking to the table because it seems alien. Words like ‘impact investing’ are seen as philanthropy when it’s kind of a misunderstood aspect. So there is education needed throughout the system and many millennials were finding that they were the ones who were really passionate in the space. If that’s where the education has to begin, then hopefully that’s where we can help.
Ramia: Great. You guys, I think you’ve made all the listeners want to join Horizons and I’d call it almost a movement in the family business field. How can young people who feel like you guys have a struck a chord right now, how can they get in touch with you and how can they join your community?
Kydd: People can get in touch if they got to our website which is www.horizons.org, then we have our firstname.lastname@example.org email address and people can just reach out to us there. We check every day. What we are really looking for is purposeful young people; people that have a legacy that want to play their own part in that legacy, and do something that positively impacts themselves, society, and the world. It sounds like a big statement to make, but you actually can if you are from the business family.
Ramia: Wonderful. Guys, thank you very much. All the best of luck with Horizons, we’ll keep tabs on you, and hopefully speak to you again very soon about all topics related to next gens and family business.
Kydd: Thank you very much. Tharawat has been a big inspiration to us as well.
Ramia: Thank you very much, guys.
Richard: Thank you.