Would You Like a Cup of CAFE?

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by Gilda Spitz

The Canadian Association of Family Enterprise (CAFE) is an organization dedicated to helping families that run their own businesses.

Founded in 1983, CAFE celebrated its 25th year of service to the family businesses of Canada in 2008. A not-for-profit organization, CAFE has 14 chapters and about 900 member businesses across the country, including a chapter in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) with over 130 members.

In many ways, a family business encounters the same problems as other businesses. However, some challenges are unique to family businesses – for example, the difficult situation of planning for the orderly succession of management as the original family members age and retire, instead of waiting for a crisis.

In the National Post of May 20, 2008, family business succession consultant Gordon Wusyk said, “The tragedy is approximately 70 percent of family businesses struggle from the first to the second generation.”

CAFE provides a valuable service to people who participate in family businesses, by helping them share experiences and ideas at all generation levels. Emma Rock, Office Manager of the GTA office, explains that more experienced members often serve as mentors to newer members by explaining how they have dealt with common issues.

As years pass, family businesses face the unique problem of dealing with the participation of younger members of the family. CAFE helps family businesses pass on the legacy of their business and values to the next generation.

There are two types of membership – family and associate.

Family membership
According to the CAFE website, your business can join if you can answer “yes” to questions such as:
• Is there more than one family member working in the business?
• Has the business existed for more than one generation?
• Is there the possibility of succession to the next generation?

Associate membership
If you run a business that provides services for family businesses, you can apply for associate membership. For example, financial institutions and advisors, accounting firms, law firms, business consultants, and family advisors find it valuable to belong to CAFE. In the GTA chapter, about 30 percent of its members are associates.

Meetings and Events
One of the most valuable aspects of membership is the ability to attend meetings with people just like you.

There are several types of groups, the most important of which are Personal Advisory Groups and Consultant Advisory Groups. Some chapters have additional groups, such as the Future Leaders Program, which is currently available only in the Southwestern Ontario Chapter.

In all groups, members sign a confidentiality agreement, to ensure that discussions, no matter how frank, can be held without fear.

Personal Advisory Groups
In a Personal Advisory Group (PAG), members receive helpful advice in an atmosphere of mutual trust and support. There are no competing businesses in a group, and confidentiality is extremely important. Any size of family business can reap benefits from a PAG, from a small mom-and-pop store to a large multi-generational business. Meetings occur every four to six weeks and last about three hours.

Lorraine Bauer, Managing Director of the GTA chapter, says that a PAG “provides an opportunity to connect with a group that is already well established.” In addition, working with your own family members all day can sometimes be isolating, and a PAG is a great way to “get out and meet other people.” A recent CAFE advertisement suggests that “a PAG can act as your Personal Board of Advisors, offering a unique bonding experience in a confidential environment.”

The GTA chapter is currently getting ready to launch a new group. “Now is a good time to join,” says Bauer, because groups are tightly-knit and often stay together for years.

Consultant Advisory Groups
In a Consultant Advisory Group (CAG), associate members can meet to discuss matters of mutual benefit in an environment of trust. Participants share experiences and discuss topics such as personal and professional development, client development and business development. There is zero tolerance for breaches of confidentiality.

John Green, CFP, CIMA, who immigrated to Canada from England, is a financial planner and investment analyst, and has been a consultant member of the GTA chapter for about five years. He thinks it’s helpful for family business members to interact with associate members for professional advice. “We all wear two hats in life,” he says, referring to our personal and business lives. When CAFE members wear their personal hat, he explains, they can benefit greatly from the social aspects of their PAG; when they wear their business hat, they appreciate the usable professional advice they receive from associate members.

Other local and national meetings
From time to time, members can attend additional meetings and workshops in their local area. For example, in early 2009, the GTA CAFE chapter hosted workshops on the topics of “Family Business Basics” and “Strategic Thinking and Planning for Entrepreneurs.”

In addition, every two years, CAFE holds a national meeting for members from all over Canada. At the recent symposium in Halifax, members heard excellent speakers on a variety of topics. “Networking is key,” adds Bauer.

In addition to the benefits of attending meetings and discussing common issues, you can receive additional benefits from CAFE, such as e-learning, books, videos, newsletters, and podcasts.

Twice a year, CAFE prints Canadian Family Magazine, available to all members online at no extra cost. A recent issue contained an interesting look at the family business that won the competition for the Family Enterprise of the Year for 2008, a helpful article on the art of balancing your work life and your home life, and advice on how to build employee loyalty.

The cost of CAFE membership varies. Each chapter across Canada provides different services, and adjusts its prices accordingly.

The cost of membership for the GTA chapter is approximately $1,000 per year. This fee includes membership in one PAG or CAG, plus some other resources. Some events, such as breakfast or all-day meetings, might require an additional fee of $50 or $100.
The cost of the national meeting is also extra.

For more information
For more information on the national organization, call 1-866-849-0099, send an email to gta@cafecanada.ca, or go to the website of CAFE at www.cafecanada.ca.

For information on the GTA chapter, go to www.cafecanada.ca/gta.

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