March 8, 2018: Ensuring “Fit” By Aligning Interests and Opportunities

By Scott E. Friedman, Andrea H. Vossler, Eliza P. Friedman, and Mary Owen

President Harry S. Truman once observed that “[t]he best way to give advice to your children is to find out what they want and then advise them to do it.”[1]

Unfortunately, anecdotal experience suggests that too many children wind up working in a family business, or in the wrong position in the business, because it is expected, convenient or lucrative—not necessarily because it is a good “fit.” And, while some of those individuals successfully handle their roles in the family business, others simply don’t have the skills, talents, or interests to succeed, much less enjoy their work.

Perhaps this phenomenon is most insightfully captured by Albert Einstein, who is credited with saying that “[e]verybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it’ll spend its whole life believing that it is stupid.”[2]

Particularly in the case of children of family businesses, much like the children of affluent families, they’re “expect[ed] to excel at school and in multiple extracurriculars and also in their social lives. They [may] feel a relentless sense of pressure that plays out in excessive substance use; as the kids stoutly proclaim, ‘We work hard—and we play hard!’ It [may] play out in crippling anxiety and depression, about anticipated or perceived achievement ‘failures.’ It [may] play out in random acts of delinquency—stealing from a friend, shoplifting, defacing property.”[3]

Ongoing research now adds scientific support to the importance of “fit”—and even how to assess it. We talk more about this next week, as we explain the meaning of “flow” and why it matters when we think about “fit.”


[1]. Lydia Dallett, 32 American Presidents Share Their Best Life Advice, Business Insider (Feb. 16, 2014, 10:25 PM),

[2] Melanie Harth, Fishes and Trees: 12 Timely Mindfulness Tips from Albert Einstein, Huffington Post (Sept. 16, 2013),­b­3605534.html.

[3] Suniya S. Luthar, The Problem With Rich Kids, Psychol. Today, (last updated June 9, 2016). For a discussion on raising children in affluent families, see generally Lee Hausner, Children of Paradise (1990).

February 27, 2018: Creating a Written Communication Policy

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

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been discussing science-backed strategies proven to enhance the quality of communication among family members in business together.

These strategies include:

  • Memorializing agreements in writing
  • Sensitizing individuals to the importance of non-verbal communication, including posture, tone of voice, focused attention and even smiling
  • Introducing the practice of appreciative inquiry and
  • Increasing communication driven “positivity ratio”

But in order for these strategies to be effective, they must be formally implemented—which is why we conclude our discussion of constructive communication with a final strategy: establishing a written communication policy that includes the foregoing strategies.

Families might benefit from establishing a formal communication policy that not only establishes regularly scheduled, face to face meetings, with ground rules to help insure attention, such as “no cell phones,” but also that incorporate the foregoing findings from Appreciative Inquiry (AI), as well as insights about positivity ratios, non-verbal communication, and other communication data.

We also emphasize that positive psychology is NOT about ignoring real issues (although, in practice, there might seem to be less of them as increased attention is given to “possibility seeking” and away from “problem solving”). For example, new studies are demonstrating that facing problems head-on, while remaining solution-oriented, increases a sense that one’s behavior matters and improves employee productivity.[1]

Next week, we’ll take a look at “fit” when it comes to employing children in family businesses.


[1] See generally Michelle Gielan, Broadcasting Happiness: The Science of Igniting and Sustaining Positive Change (2015); Michelle Gielan, You Can Deliver Bad News to Your Team Without Crushing Them, Harv. Bus. Rev. (Mar. 21, 2016),


Next Gen Advisors LLC Announces New Name

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Next Gen Advisors LLC is proud to announce that is has just completed an extensive re-branding initiative and today unveiled its new name and logo. The consulting firm will now be known as Delphi21 Advisors LLC.

The new brand identity reflects the consulting firm’s commitment to providing advanced planning strategies and counseling to family businesses, partnerships and other organizations across the United States and Canada.

Scott E. Friedman, Delphi21’s founder and one of the company’s senior advisors, noted that “the new name is intended to better capture the company’s approach to assisting its clients by blending and applying ancient and timeless wisdom along with cutting edge science from the 21st Century, including from fields such as positive psychology, social neuroscience and behavioral economics.” Friedman further observed that the firm’s unique approach “often leads to a richer understanding of the interpersonal dynamics that undergird a business, which, in turn, helps individuals and their organizations flourish.”

The new name is also intended to better reflect the company’s developing recognition across the United States that is being driven by a group of thoughtful, experienced and passionate advisors, including through the addition late last year of Mary Owen as principal and senior advisor in the company. “Mary brings an array of much valued experience and perspective to our clients through her experience as a longtime senior executive for the Buffalo Bills football team and her ongoing work as a Life Trustee of the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation,” said Andrea Vossler, a Delphi21 principal and senior advisor.

“We are excited about all of the progress and recognition we’ve received through our publications, speaking engagements and client work and felt like we should update our branding to better indicate the expanded scope and breadth of our Team’s expertise,” said Owen.

Eliza Friedman, another principal and senior advisor with Delphi21 noted that the company will also be launching a new website soon that will, among other things, better reflect its developing portfolio of publications, speaking engagements, joint initiatives undertaken in collaboration with the University at Buffalo and other institutions, and positive feedback from its clients.

About Delphi21 Advisors LLC: Delphi21, a consulting firm headquartered in Buffalo, New York, specializes in comprehensive business and succession planning for family-owned and closely-held businesses. Our work is informed by decades of experience in business, law and human relations, and differentiated by applying cutting-edge insights from social neuroscience, positive psychology, and behavioral economics. Our unique approach often leads to a richer understanding of the interpersonal dynamics that undergird a business which, in turn, improves its sustainability and growth.

February 7, 2018: Introducing the Practice of Appreciative Inquiry

By Scott E. Friedman, Andrea H. Vossler, Eliza P. Friedman, and Mary Owen

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Without robust communication—and the right kind of communication—relationships can quickly deteriorate. Fortunately, there are a number of strategies informed by science that can help mitigate this issue, including:

  • Memorializing agreements in writing
  • Sensitizing individuals to the importance of non-verbal communication

For more on these strategies, we invite you to visit our previous posts.

Another interesting field in which science is helping to inform how people and organizations can improve the quality of their lives, their relationships and their organizations is based on a process known as Appreciative Inquiry (AI).

AI is premised on the notion that employees are more energized and engaged when asked questions about the positive aspects of their work.[1]

For example, instead of asking “what are we doing wrong?” a manager might ask, “What skill sets do we have in our team that can help with this task?”

A negative question like “What should we avoid this year?” can be phrased positively as, “What do we want to achieve this year?”

AI has been applied in many contexts, including within the field of conflict resolution.[2]

Let’s imagine a client who is unhappy with a deliverable, pointing to a specific element that is lacking in some sense. Instead of dwelling on the negative (e.g. “this work was done poorly”) a manager could turn the situation into a development opportunity (e.g. “what can we improve here to better serve our client?)

Families in business can also benefit from its use in designing constructive agendas and engaging in appreciative based conversations.

We’ll continue on the theme of constructive communication next week, and why positive comments should outweigh the negatives.

[1] See generally David L. Cooperrider & Diana Whitney, Appreciative Inquiry: A Positive Revolution in Change (2005).

[2] See, e.g., Arthur Pearlstein, Pursuit of Happiness and Resolution of Conflict: An Agenda for the Future of ADR, 12 Pepp. Disp. Resol. L.J. 215 (2012).