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Let's Talk Family Enterprise

Dec 9, 2019


Welcome to Let’s Talk Family Enterprise, a podcast that explores the ideas, concepts and models that best serve Family Enterprise Advisors in supporting their clients.



Today we are very lucky to hear from Thayer Willis, author, speaker and practicing psychotherapist, who gives her unique understanding of the pressures of joining the family business.


Thayer was born into the Georgia-Pacific Corporation founding family and brings an insider perspective to helping family members grappling with the decision: do I join the family business or not?


Guest bio

Thayer Willis is an internationally-recognized author and expert in the area of wealth counseling. Since 1990, she has specialized in helping people of all ages handle the psychological challenges of wealth. A member of the founding family of the multibillion-dollar Georgia-Pacific Corporation, Thayer offers an insider's perspective on the challenges that wealthy families face on a regular basis.


Thayer has been interviewed on ABC's Good Morning America and 20/20. Her programs are tailored to individuals and families of affluence, financial professionals, family office advisors and estate planning attorneys.


Key Takeaways

[0:16] Ruth introduces Thayer Willis, her background and publications, and invites her to speak about her own story growing up in a wealthy family.

[7:00] Thayer speaks to the advantages of family businesses, but she also speaks to the pressures of joining them and some of the disadvantages younger generations face.

[12:52] In order to help families grapple with whether or not to join the family business, Thayer lays out a few important steps that advisors can follow.

[16:06] Thayer shares five to six pertinent questions to ask young family members — starting at about 12 years old.

[17:46] Assessments can also be of great use; Thayer lists a few of the ones she has in her tool bag — links below.

[19:28] Going into a family business should never be a default position, everyone has the right to consider what it is they want to do for themselves.

[20:55] Thayer agrees that going to work outside the family business is a very useful step towards deciding if and when they do come into the family business.

[22:23] Ruth takes a moment to summarize Thayer’s recommendations, and Thayer shares a personal story.

[26:29] Thayer shares some books that have made an impact on her.

[28:30] Thayer offers up tips on how to have a stress free holiday.

[32:10] Ruth thanks Thayer for her time and experience and invites listeners to subscribe and tune in for the next episode.


Mentioned in this episode

Let’s Talk Family Enterprise podcast is brought to you by Family Enterprise Xchange


Book: Navigating the Dark Side of Wealth: A Life Guide for Inheritors,
by Thayer Cheatham Willis

Book: Beyond Gold: True Wealth for Inheritors, by Thayer Cheatham Willis






Johnson O’Connor


Thayer’s book suggestions:

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, by Angela Duckworth

Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning, by Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger III, and Mark A. McDaniel


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More about our guest

Thayer Willis’ website