Trusted Advisor to People-of-Accomplishment and Family Enterprise


By Marta Vago on July 8, 2018

The “Golden Goose” Test


Employment                                                                       Yes     No


Entry into the business is based on company

(not personal) need.


Standards and requirements for employment

(education, skills, experience, hours, etc.)

are evenly applied and enforced.


Family members are promoted on the basis

of competence and position availability.


Family members are held accountable through

regular performance reviews.


There are clear and appropriate sanctions for



Compensation                                                                    Yes     No 


Family members receive compensation and

benefits based on being an employee – not

on ownership position.


Family employees are paid “fair market value”

for their positions (salary, bonuses, perks,

benefits, allowances, etc.)


Compensation is based on performance – not



Owners are compensated onlythrough return

on shares.


Family members adopt lifestyles commensurate

with income from employment.        


Ownership                                                                          Yes     No 


Family members buy into the business through

“sweat equity,” stock purchase or both.


Inheritance is differentiated from receiving

ownership shares in the business.


Buy-sell agreements provide for liquidity needs

of shareholders.


Tax-advantaged estate planning places no undue

burden on the business or its management.


Only owners who are in management positions

make operational decisions for the business.



Board of Directors                                                             Yes     No


The Board is active and meets regularly.


“Outsiders” are in the majority.


Members have term limits.


“Outsiders” nominate new members.


The Board evaluates its own effectiveness.



Family                                                                                Yes     No


The family has a life and identity apart from

the business.


The family gets together regularly without

discussing business.


The family has ways outside the business

to support disadvantaged members.


There are explicit mechanisms for handling

disagreements and resolving conflict.


The family celebrates its wins and has fun together.



How to determine the health of your

 family’s “golden goose”


  1. Rating scale for number of eggs in each “basket:”

*  Five eggs:                            a fat and happy goose

*  Four eggs:                          an adequate goose

*  Three eggs:                         a marginal goose

*  Two eggs:                          a very poor goose

*  One egg:                             a goose on its way out


  1. Each “yes” represents one egg.


  1. The number of eggs in each “basket” tells you how well your goose is doing in that area.


  1. Add together the number of eggs from each basket.


  1. Subract one egg for each “basket” that has fewer than three eggs.


  1. The total number of eggs remaining reflects the overall health of your goose.


  1. If all the eggs total 19 or more, fatten your goose to lay 25.


  1. If the total number of eggsis between 14 and 18, your goose is



  1. If there are 13 or fewer eggs total, your goose is “at risk” or dying.