The Green Jacket Guide to Family Business Surveys

What Can We Learn from the Masters?

Performance Measurement Planning & Strategy Shareholder Engagement

It is that time of year. The azaleas are blooming at Augusta National Golf Club and nearly one hundred golfers are gearing up for their shot at a green jacket in the 88th Masters Tournament.

What the Masters has developed in terms of interest and legacy lies in the unique traditions as well as the initiatives taken on by the Masters Tournament Foundation.  The Masters Tournament Foundation’s primary purpose is to support, develop, and globally expand the game of golf through clear messaging, marketing, and communications across generations of golfers. Their commitment to creating a more accessible and welcoming golf community is critical to the longevity of the sport itself.

It is safe to say people feel welcome to join the golf world. According to National Golf Foundation, a record 3.4 million people played golf for the first time in 2023. For perspective, the previous record of 2.4 million was set in 2000 when Tiger Woods was dominating the scene. When it comes to viewership, the final round of the of the 2023 Masters peaked at over 15 million, up nearly 20% from the 2022 final round.

There is no tournament in all of sports more desirable to attend than the Masters.

From the iconic pimento cheese sandwich and Azalea cocktail to the 9-hole Wednesday Par-3 tournament, it is truly one-of-a-kind. Similarly, family businesses are unique with traditions of their own that drive shareholder engagement.

A shareholder base that is involved and passionate is a critical factor in building a sustainable and prosperous family business. But as family business directors know, maintaining an engaged shareholder base is easier said than done.

Particularly in family enterprises, shareholder bases are often comprised of several generations with varying levels of interest and knowledge surrounding the family business. Reaching every shareholder is a challenging endeavor, but this task is certainly made easier when communication is clear, transparent, and consistent.

Now is a great time to develop a shareholder communication strategy or review the effectiveness of your current strategy. Here are a few best practices we’ve observed among family businesses striving to build or maintain an engaged shareholder base:

Clarity. Less is more. When distributing information to shareholders, a clear and concise memo outlining the need-to-know information is much more digestible than providing performance metrics with a side of financial jargon. Spending the extra time on developing a clear and precise message will be well worth your while, especially when it comes to building trust among a shareholder base.

Consistent Communication. By establishing a consistent (not constant) line of communication, shareholders are likely to feel more engaged and connected to the business. Only communicating with shareholders when there is a polarizing update can be shocking no matter how the message is worded, but maintaining consistent communication may reduce future tensions as shareholders will have the opportunity to keep up with developments along the way.

Transparency. If you are maintaining consistent and clear communication with your shareholders, transparency ought to come easily. Allowing your shareholders an authentic glimpse inside the business will go a long way towards building engagement and support among the shareholders.

While providing clear, consistent, and transparent communication with shareholders is essential to the development of a stable and enduring family enterprise, the message itself may not necessarily be enough.

Shareholders often have varying levels of interest in the business and different communication preferences. Family business leaders must pay attention to identify these preferences.  Doing so will increase the likelihood of shareholder engagement, comfort, and connectedness with the family business.

Bringing together a group of any size is undoubtedly challenging, but nothing a little time and planning cannot fix! The Masters has maintained a focus on the long game by building traditions and interest in the game itself. Family businesses are in the unique position to do the same by cultivating a deeper sense of engagement and legacy among the shareholder base.

If your family business is ready to re-evaluate the preferences and attitudes of your family shareholders, it may be time to give one of our professionals a call to talk about organizing and conducting a shareholder survey.