For more than a decade we have used the 39 Critical Questions as agenda builders for family discussion. Most business families find all of their critical issues among these questions. The 39 Critical Questions are discussed extensively in Gerald Le Van's books, The Survival Guide for Business Families and Families Money and Trouble.

The 39 Critical Questions

  1. Are we committed to the future of our family business?
  2. Are we obligated to work there indefinitely, or may we pursue other careers?
  3. Do we want to own the business or should it be sold?
  4. How do we decide which family members will be employed by the company?
  5. Must we offer every family member a job?
  6. Should in?laws or other relatives be invited to work in the business?
  7. What education or work preparation should be required of family members who work in the business?
  8. How do we assign titles and work responsibility?
  9. How should we evaluate and pay family members who work in the business?
  10. What should we do if a family member doesn't perform, or leaves the business?
  11. How do we select the next leader of the company?
  12. When do we decide who will be the next leader of the company?
  13. When and how should leadership transition take place?
  14. How do we evaluate our new leader’s job performance?
  15. How do we provide meaningful careers for other family members who are not chosen to lead?
  16. Who should serve on our board of directors? Family members? Employees? Our outside advisors? Others?
  17. How should our board of directors function?
  18. What should we expect of our directors?
  19. Who should own stock in the business?
  20. Should all children own equally, whether or not they work in the business?
  21. What dividends or perquisites (perks) should shareholders receive?
  22. How do we balance the interests of inside family shareholders (who work in the business) with the interests of outside family shareholders (who don‘t work in the business)?
  23. What do we do if a family shareholder wants to sell out?
  24. How should we deal with family disagreements? (Between individuals? Between members of the same or different generations?)
  25. How do we teach in?laws and younger family members about the values and traditions of our business and our family?
  26. Who will lead family activities in the next generation?
  27. How do we help family members who are in financial distress?
  28. What other responsibilities do we have towards family members?
  29. What do we do if there is a divorce in the family?
  30. What if a family member breaks the law or is seriously irresponsible?
  31. How do we support family members in their own business ventures?
  32. How do we protect the contributions of unrelated key employees?
  33. To what extent do we involve key employees in family disagreements?
  34. What obligations do we have to prized employees?
  35. Should key employees own stock in our family business?
  36. Might one key employee be the next leader of our business?
  37. How do we treat loyal employees whose productivity or value to the company has declined?
  38. What are our responsibilities to the community?
  39. How do we cope with our public image and the public’s expectations of us?
The 39 Critical Questions are treated at length in The Survival Guide for Business Families.
If you reproduce the 39 Critical Questions for your own use, please show The Le Van Company as your source.

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