The retreat can lead to the creation of the Family Council, an ongoing forum for exploring family matters that relate to the future of the business and family; and a Family Business Constitution, a document which operationalises and formalises the procedures and relationships between the business and family members.
Similar to the processes involved with conducting family meetings, family-retreat work sessions require advance planning; decisions concerning who should facilitate and attend the sessions; the direction each session should take; where the retreat should be held; and an agreed agenda.
At a family retreat, each person has an opportunity to tell a story about his or her perceptions and experiences of the family. Families can also create family and business time lines and explore their family expectations and myths.
It is interesting to observe that when individuals start speaking about their family and business a very special environment is created. It is not unusual for members to feel that they belong to a group that can understand and relate to their problems; and that for the first time they are sharing their personal experience with other family members.
Retreats can be a very powerful experience for people when they start to share their experiences and feelings regarding their roles in their families, as wife/mother, father/entrepreneur, son or daughter. Within these family group meetings, many issues that are raised can be traced or linked to certain family roles, expectations and family history.
In recent times, Multiple Family Retreats have become increasingly popular. Multiple family retreats involve several families, who do not know each other, getting together over several days. During this period, the families work concurrently on exploring ways in which to open communication channels, resolve conflict and make plans. This community of families working together can be more powerful than a single family group working alone.
In a multiple family group situation, families can share experiences with other family businesses who are familiar with and sensitive to the issues between families and businesses. Involving other spouses, partners and siblings encourages people to listen, understand and respect each other.