Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Stage 4 Planning: Applying Science to Family Business Planning

By Scott E. Friedman, Andrea H. HusVar, and Eliza P. Friedman

After last week conclusion of “Stage 3 planning” strategies, we turn now to one of the most important paradigms of Family Business Advising in the 21st Century: “Stage 4 Planning.”

Over the coming weeks we’ll delve into this often overlooked, yet highly relevant planning phase and discuss how families in business together can benefit from its implementation.

Insights and advances in science, particularly from the fields of social neuroscience and positive psychology, suggest new planning strategies for lawyers and other professionals working with family businesses. Many of these insights have become well known through bestselling books written by preeminent scholars and researchers, resulting in increased accessibility to lay audiences.[1] Some researchers and scholars have brought particular focus to how such insights can be applied to business, discussing their findings and strategies in a variety of publications, including prestigious journals like The Harvard Business Review.[2] As a result of ongoing cutting edge research that has already built a compelling body of knowledge supported by empirical data, strategies informed by positive psychology have become increasingly familiar to, and applied by, business leaders into actionable ideas, plans and strategies that nurture culture and enhance an organization’s success.[3]

Shockingly, however, while these strategies continue to gain increasing recognition in “non-family” business settings,[4] it remains a virtually undeveloped planning paradigm for family businesses and there is an unfortunate dearth of material on how family businesses could benefit from science.[5] As a result, we are excited to introduce “Stage 4 Planning” strategies and explain how these insights can be applied in practice to help family businesses.[6]

Our discussion continues next week as we explore how our innate “fight or flight” mode can lead to negative, fear-based behaviors in the workplace.

[1] See generally id.; Carol S. Dwek, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (2006); Barbara L. Fredrickson, Positivity (2009); Martin E. P. Seligman, Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment (2002); Garrison Kitchen, The Long and Winding Road from Positive Psychology Theory to Corporate Application (August 1, 2016) (unpublished Master’s thesis, University of Pennsylvania) (on file with the University of Pennsylvania Scholarly Commons),

[2] See e.g., Harv. Bus. Rev., Jan.–Feb. 2012 (featuring the iconic yellow “smiley face” and the title: The Value of Happiness: How Employee Well Being Drives Profits).

[3] See e.g., Margaret Greenberg, Profit From the Positive: Proven Leadership Strategies to Boost Productivity and Transform Your Business 98 (2013) (stating that companies like Google, Zappos, and Amazon use positive psychology as a low cost strategy to increase productivity); Zak, supra note 89 at 86 (“Consider Gallup’s meta-analysis of decades’ worth of data: It shows that high engagement—defined largely as having a strong connection with one’s work and colleagues, feeling like a real contributor, and enjoying ample chances to learn—consistently leads to positive outcomes for both individuals and organizations. The rewards include higher productivity, better quality products and increased profitability.”). In addition, as of this writing, LinkedIn identifies twenty-five profiles of “Chief Happiness Officers,” some at well-known companies such as Hewlett Packard. Chief Happiness Officer, LinkedIn, (last visited Apr. 3, 2017).

[3]. The relevance of positive psychology in the practice of law has already been recognized in some other contexts. See generally, e.g., Clare Huntington, Happy Families? Translating Positive Psychology into Family Law, 16 Va. J. Soc. Pol’y & L. 385 (2009).

[4] The relevance of positive psychology in the practice of law has already been recognized in some other contexts. See generally, e.g., Clare Huntington, Happy Families? Translating Positive Psychology into Family Law, 16 Va. J. Soc. Pol’y & L. 385 (2009).

[5] Though these strategies are still underutilized in family business planning, some resources do exist. See generally, Scott E. Friedman, Family Business and Positive Psychology: New Planning Strategies for the 21st Century (2014); Donella Caspersz & Jill Thomas, Developing Positivity in Family Business Leaders, 28 Fam. Bus. Rev. 60 (2015); Scott E. Friedman & Eliza P. Friedman, Family Business and Positive Psychology: A New Planning Paradigm, N.Y. St. B. Ass’n J., Jan. 2014, at 44; Eliza Friedman & Andrea HusVar, New Strategies for Family Businesses, Buff. L.J. (Jan. 5, 2015),  

[6] There is a substantial amount of research that suggests strategies that tend to help individuals live happier, more fulfilling lives could also be applied to benefit individual family members and their family business, because emotions are “contagious.” For example, fifty years of research by Gallup scientists, in partnership with economists, psychologists, and other scientists, suggests certain common elements of wellbeing that transcend cultures: (1) career wellbeing (i.e. simply liking what you do every day); (2) social wellbeing (i.e. having strong relationships in your life); (3) financial wellbeing (i.e. effectively managing your economic life); (4) physical wellbeing (i.e. having good health); and (5) community wellbeing (i.e. feeling engaged in the area where you live). See, e.g., Tom Rath & Jim Harter, Your Career Wellbeing and Your Identity, Gallup (July 22, 2010),; Tom Rath & Jim Harter, Your Friends and Your Social Wellbeing, Gallup (Aug. 19, 2010),; Tom Rath & Jim Harter, Your Spending and Your Financial Wellbeing, Gallup (Sept. 16, 2010), Financial-Wellbeing.aspx; Tom Rath & Jim Harter, Exercise, Sleep, and Physical Wellbeing, Gallup (Oct. 21, 2010),; Jennifer Robison, Wellbeing is Contagious (for Better or Worse), Gallup (Nov. 27, 2012),

Scott E. Friedman, Andrea H. HusVar, and Eliza P. Friedman, Advising Family Businesses in the 21st Century: An Introduction to “Stage 4 Planning” Strategies, 65 Buff. L. Rev.,  May, 2017

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