Four Circle Model

Bernie Geiss
Published: May 9, 2022

The world is changing. The issues we face are complex and defy simple solutions plus we can’t escape their impacts. How do we talk about this evolving reality when many of us struggle to deal with it ourselves?

As advisors it’s important to have knowledge and understanding to assist families in exploring these complexities. It requires moving conversations from family-centric challenges to those that impact all stakeholders. How do we start a conversation about a family’s role in addressing issues like injustice, inequity, lack of inclusion and diversity, environmental degradation and climate change? These topics can spark division, but they can be keys to opening conversations that create family unity while helping the global community.

The traditional family business model is focused on building family wealth and continuity for the family, with the idea that wealth and continuity are the measures of success. When family businesses single-mindedly focus on wealth creation and continuity, negative impacts can, and often do, arise.

The well known Three Circle model illustrates the relationship between the three components of the family business system: the business, ownership, and family. It was designed, “to help researchers, academics, managers and families think more clearly about the strengths and challenges of these systems.” Although the Three Circle Model is an excellent tool, it falls short in demonstrating how to overcome the challenges.

One way to start a conversation about addressing those challenges, is to introduce the Four Circle Model™. This model achieves two purposes, the creation of family unity across generations and evolving their system into one of social and environmental sustainability. Our challenge is to find effective ways of inspiring families to start talking about sustainability in all its aspects.

There is an adage, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” In other words, people will set aside their differences when faced with a common threat. The question that advisors can ask is, “What is a common threat?” facing everyone in the system and, “What can be done about it?” The process of finding these answers is critical. It needs to be inclusive, consider diverse stakeholders, be just and equitable. It’s not easy, but the result will inevitably be a powerful common purpose that unifies stakeholders to fight under the same banner willingly and joyfully. It becomes a Unifying Purpose™.

The Four Circle Model creates separation or “Space to Breathe” between the ownership, business and family circles. It operates in a transformational way by inserting this fourth circle of Unifying Purpose. It can lead to a self-generating desire and capability for growth and learning across generations.

The outcome of identifying a Unifying Purpose and developing the Four Circle Model approach within the family business system can be immense. The ripple of “impact” that starts with identifying a Unifying Purpose is part of a global movement towards a triple bottom line purpose that’s growing in strength and adoption. It will positively impact a business’s governance, supply chain, customers, community and the environment, sparking greater sustainability both for the business and the world.

Unifying Purpose, the heart of the Four Circle Model can lead to an enlightened view of continuity that goes beyond the traditional model of unconscious continuity. As advisors we can explore and develop our Unifying Purpose and help clients find theirs. By doing so we elevate our relationships and create a positive impact.

Lost your password? Please enter your username or email address. You will receive a link to create a new password via email.