Fostering Alignment in the Family Enterprise Space: A Q&A with Kathy Bright
It is exciting to welcome Kathy Bright to the Telos team. She brings extraordinary governance knowledge, years of work with diverse Family Enterprises, and a kind, approachable teaching style that makes her a favorite among her students and family business clients. Her technical acumen will make her a fantastic asset to our team, and we’re thrilled to have her on board.
- Judi Cunningham & Mike McGrann
Where did your work with family enterprises begin?
Family has always been incredibly important to me. I started my career in a non-profit organization in Seattle that provided programming for abused and neglected children and their families. I loved this work, but I quickly realized that if I wanted to have a broader impact on individuals and society, I needed to take a more systemic approach.
I focused on strategy and governance during my MBA, and I stayed in the business world after that. I was an administrator and faculty member at UBC’s Sauder School of Business for over a decade, and there I continued to dig into the structural and strategic mechanisms of how businesses, families, and systems work. It was when I began working in the Family Enterprise space that the two threads of my career really came together.
It sounds like your career made a transition into the more traditional business sphere, is this how you see it?
While my career shifted to business-focused work, my early experiences were really fundamental to my perspectives on families and relationships. The threads come together for me in my ethos about moving families in common directions. We can all dig in on our positions, and rather than trying to focus immediately on longstanding points of contention in a family, pivoting the focus to corporate values, achievable milestones, and other areas of strategy and planning help to get everyone moving towards shared goals.
What do you enjoy most about this work?
Working in the family enterprise space allows for an incredible range. I’ve had opportunities to work with institutions and families at all levels of their work. Thinking higher-level in strategic advising with institutions, sitting on boards and thinking through governance, working with advisors on their practice, and engaging with families on the issues and considerations that matter to them most can all happen in a single week.
My opportunities to teach have also been so instructive. Whether it has been teaching MBA students or delivering Executive Education, time in the classroom has been such a wonderful reminder of how education not only builds new skill sets, but helps to build culture and directly leads to deeper understandings of strategy. With families, new languages, frameworks and structures are such important sources of empowerment so they can take control of the management of themselves and their own systems. I am a real advocate for education, and it is a rewarding process to bring concrete tools to advisors, advisory firms, and families.
2020 has been a unique year for many. How have you been thinking about your work in this context?
This year has been a tough one. It feels like the world has been turned upside down. As much as I am acutely aware of all of the difficulty, I have also been thinking a lot about the silver linings. We have had opportunities in the slowed pace to look at some of our core values. And I mean this in a big, societal sense, but also in the individual family and organization sense. More of us are giving more sustained attention to the systemic issues that have plagued our societies for hundreds of years, and thinking at the same time about patterns in our lives that no longer work. This can be so painful, but it is also an opportunity to come to a new alignment. I hope that we can work through this period to create something new and better, in a global sense and within the families and firms that I work with.