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Family Business continuity

An Offer He Can’t Refuse

This week contained a flashback for me. I was a guest speaker at a University business school, five hours down the highway. There I was, standing before a group of students getting ready to soon begin their careers, much like I was “just” 30 or so years ago.

Invited by two colleagues/friends who teach “Managing the family Enterprise”, I had sent along copies of my favourite book, SHIFT your Family Business, so that the students could be prepared to ask whatever they wanted of its author.

 

Lucky You!

I began by asking the students if they felt lucky (no, not because I was in their presence). To my surprise, heads began nodding, even before I shared my thoughts about why they were in fact quite lucky to be sitting where they were.

I related my story of being in their shoes in the 1980’s, getting ready to work in my family’s business, but doing so without the benefit of a single course related to Family Business.

This was no slight to my alma mater, it was more about the timeframe. I explained that the Family Firm Institute just celebrated its 30th year in 2016, and CAFÉ (Canadian Association of Family Enterprise) also had its 30th recently. This “field” is still quite new.

I also shared one of my favourite stories about my Dad, who had joined CAFÉ in those early years, and his reaction to the great advice he’d heard from the advisors at those earliest CAFÉ events.

It was quite à propos in this setting, as these were undergraduate business students, like I had been at the time, many preparing to join their family companies in the coming years.

 

“We’re not gonna do that”

“You know, these people at CAFÉ”, I related my Dad’s words, like it was yesterday, “they say that you shouldn’t hire your kids right out of school, you should make them get a ‘real’ job first”, he said, as I nodded, hopefully. “Well, we’re not gonna do that”, he continued, patting me on the shoulder.

For effect, I acted it out with a student in the front row.

I also added that not standing up to him and questioning him, and not suggesting that I would like to pursue that option, turned into one of my biggest regrets.

 

Case Study: Corleone Family

The class uses one family business case for the entire semester, and this year’s choice is the Corleone family, of Godfather fame. “Cool!” I thought, as I learned this fact during a call with one of the instructors a week prior.

I really enjoyed doing “my homework”, watching the movies over the weekend so I could contribute to class. I hadn’t seen them in decades, and had forgotten how Vito actually stepped aside, letting Michael take over decision-making without second-guessing him, well before his unfortunate demise.

 

Family Governance

This class also featured a group presentation on Family Governance, and I have to admit that I got a kick out of the fact that the team used a quote from my book on one of their Powerpoint slides, with attribution, and my name spelled correctly.

Last week I wrote about the Queen and Prince Charles, and now the Godfather, what’s next? (Hint: more on Family Governance).

 

Should Have Refused

Back to the title of this post, courtesy of Vito Corleone, likely recognizable to most readers.

The reason I use it here is to underscore that I now recognize that the key word in the sentence is “can’t”.

More and more these days, kids are in fact refusing their parents’ offers to join the family business. To me, that is a good thing.

I should have refused too, but I didn’t. It would have been better for me, and actually better for the whole family, but it did not fit the shorter-term plan of the patriarch.

 

Love of “Business” vs Love of “My Business”

In response to a question from the class, I suggested that I strongly support teaching the “NextGen” about “business”, and even to “love” business, as part of “financial literacy” and to pass along the entrepreneurial family spirit.

But loving “business” and loving “this particular business that Dad started” isn’t the same thing.

Imagine if Michael Corleone had been able to use his great skills in the truly legit ways he had hoped, without the family baggage…

 

 

Succession Planning in Business

A Very Sticky Baton Indeed!

There was plenty of attention on Queen Elizabeth this week, celebrating her sapphire anniversary on the throne. I laughed to myself, thinking about Prince Charles and how he must feel. “Mummy, when do I get my turn?”

If you are unfamiliar with the “sapphire” anniversary, join the club, but that’s probably because not many people make it to their 65th anniversary of anything. Of course not many people get to be called “Your Highness” for their entire adult life either.

 

Sticky Baton Syndrome

Back in 2015, I wrote a Quick Start Guide (whitepaper) called “Sticky Baton Syndrome (ask Prince Charles)”. So this week when we heard about this anniversary, it brought back the plight of this ultimate “heir apparent”, who unwittingly served as my illustrative sub-title

I don’t normally write about the Royal Family, preferring to share my thoughts on family business and business families, but some overlaps with the monarchy are inevitable.

The Sticky Baton Syndrome piece in fact mentioned Charles in the title only, and I chose him because he is the best known “poster boy” for it.

I recall fifteen years ago, when the woman who adorns every Canadian coin and our $20 bill celebrated her golden anniversary, and part of me thought that she should take the opportunity to walk away on top, sort of like some people were hoping Tom Brady would do this week after winning his unprecendented fifth Super Bowl.

But alas, no, she decided to hang on, and who can blame her, well, besides Charles, I mean?

 

Empire versus FamBiz; Career versus Birthright 

Family Businesses are known for their tendency to look at things with a very long-term view, compared to non-family companies who often only look out as far as their next quarterly earning report.

Age 65 used to be the “retirement age”, but 65 years “on the job” is almost unheard of, and when we do hear about it, it’s rarely in a complimentary way.

So how should we look at family business careers and what makes sense? Well every family is different, and each family business leader is too. But part of my answer lies in the word “career”.

What if the one holding the baton thought about their role as though it were a career, rather than a “birthright”?

 

Different Strokes

There is an old maxim about a 75-year life, divided into 3 periods of 25 years, where you start by learning for 25 years, then working for the next 25, and then giving back for 25.

That framework can work for some, though admittedly not that many people can afford to stop working at 50.

This idea that reaching a point in one’s life where there is a shift in focus fits with Andrew Carnegie’s modus operandi as well. He is quoted as saying “I resolved to stop accumulating and begin the infinitely more serious and difficult task of wise distribution”.

A shift in focus is required, and not everyone knows how to properly prepare for it.

My book SHIFT your Family Business STOP working in your Family Business, START working on your Business Family is all about that shift.

 

Dying at your Desk

Some people will actually “die at their desk” and a percentage of those would not have it any other way. I hope that those who are waiting for those folks’ batons fully understand what they are in for, because “business succession via death” has never been considered a “best practice”.

Even the papacy may have finally figured that out, with Pope Benedict actually becoming the first Pope in several centuries to actually retire instead of dying on the job.

 

The “Ideal” Way to Phase Out

Here are some suggestions on what a good situation might look like:

  • Scaling back the number of days worked each week
  • Gradually delegating tasks AND decision-making
  • Giving up the CEO role and remaining Board Chair
  • A gradual transfer of ownership to NextGen leadership

If you can start down each of these roads over staggered timeframes, even better.

A key element reported by those who have done this successfully is that they have something else that they are excited to go to, and that they never feel like they are being forced away from their role.

What are you excited to go to next?

Good Governance Structure for Family Business

Family Governance, Aaaah!

It’s hard to get a handle on “governance” sometimes, and depending on the context, its meaning and connotations can vary greatly.

In some contexts, it’s a pain in the backside. In others, you can’t live without it.

Put me in the “can’t live without it” camp when it comes to family business continuity and family legacy.

Governance in those situations can be tricky, but you really need it, and this post will shed light on that perspective.

 

Institute for Family Governance 

This week I was in New York for the first annual “Institute for Family Governance” conference. The IFG is in its infancy, and came into existence at the crossroads of STEP (Society for Trust and Estate Professionals) and FFI (Family Firm Institute).

Babetta von Albertini, of Withers Consulting Group in NY, the Program chair, is a member of both FFI and STEP, and I first met her at the FFI annual conference in London in 2015.

She is the driving force behind IFG and must be congratulated for pulling off a great kickoff event.

She also announced that the 2nd annual IFG conference will take place on January 25, 2018, and that none other than the legendary Peter Leach of Deloitte UK will be a featured speaker.

 

What the Heck is “Family Governance”? 

“What is Family Governance?” could be the proverbial $64,000 question. But it’s more like the $64,000,000 question, because sometimes size does matter

If your family net worth is in the range of $64,000, please skip the rest of the questions, thanks for your time completing our survey.

If, however, your family net worth is in the $64,000,000 range, perhaps this topic is one you need to be paying attention to.

Okay, let me rephrase that.

If you care what happens to your wealth over the next generation or two (or more), then good governance will be important. If you don’t really care what happens after you die, don’t bother reading past this point.

 

What Happened to “Governance, Ugh!”? 

For longtime readers and fans of my work (Hi Mom!) you may be confused by the title of this blog, which seems to suggest, via the “Aaaah” after “Family Governance” that it’s something good, and which brings relief.

You may be thinking “Hey Steve, how does this square with Chapter 8 of your book, SHIFT your Family Business, which I clearly recall was titled “Governance, Ugh!”?

My answers to this are many, including:

  • Thanks for noticing
  • Yes, it IS available on Amazon
  • Evolution

 

The Evolution of Governance

Back in 2013 when I wrote the book and called that key chapter “Governance, Ugh”, I did so based on my perception that the word actually conveyed that “Ugh” reaction to a large number of people.

I like to believe that the world of Family Business and Family Wealth has evolved somewhat since I wrote it, and based on what I heard in NYC this week, it has.

Even if the “world” has not yet evolved, though, I know that I have. Let me elaborate. I have always known that good governance is essential to creating a sustainable legacy for a family.

I used to be afraid to tell people that they needed “governance”, but shying away from the word made it seem “unspeakable”, which may have conveyed that it was also undesirable..

 

My Own Evolution

When the Institute for Family Governance, came to life, and when I realized that I was excited to discover it, that told me that I have evolved, as has my thinking and my desire to call it what it is.

Yes, we can continue to refer to it as “decision-making”, and “communication” and “structures and processes”, and “how we are all going to get along together” and “formalized rules and regulations”.

At the end of the day, for me, the best word to encapsulate all of these is GOVERNANCE.

 

The Real $64 Million Question

The real question is WHY is it required.

My short answer is:

Because your Wealth and Legacy won’t Preserve Themselves.

Family governance is a must, and it must be custom-developed by your family, for your family.

But it is definitely OK to get help with this. It is even highly recommended to do so.

 

To Be Continued

Watch this space for an upcoming blog:

5 Things you Need to Know: Family Governance.

Coming in February 2017

 

Work With Me, Walk with Me

Work with Me, Walk with Me

Work with Me, Walk with Me

This week’s blog inspiration comes from a training program I attended. Noting it in my “future blog ideas” file, I then let it simmer. It’s ready now, so let’s dig in.

We’re in Ottawa, autumn 2016, at the Canadian Institute for Conflict Resolution, on the first day of “TPN-4”, the final installment of their Third Party Neutral program.

We go around and do intros, wrapping up with our observer, a former student, now volunteering as a teaching assistant.

She details her experience in the field, including some with First Nations communities, during which she “walked with the ‘XYZ’ tribe for four years”.

“Sorry”, I interject, “did you say ‘worked with’, or ‘walked with’?”

Walked with”, she replied.

“OK, thanks, that’s what I thought I heard”, I nodded.

 

Similar, but different

There isn’t a huge difference between the two words, given the context.

Or is there? Of course she worked with them, and that is the way most people would have phrased it. But she chose her words carefully, and I for one noticed.

The biggest thing I appreciated about her word choice is that she was actually describing more than a simple working relationship, it was one where she did much more than regular “brain” or “muscle” work.

But then again, the heart is a muscle too.

 

Journey = Process

To walk with someone suggests some important differences, firstly that the process of helping the client is actually a journey.

Also, when people walk together, there usually is no hierarchy of “you work for me” or vice versa.

I’ve worked with lots of people with whom I never “walked”, and I’ve “walked with” others I never worked with.

Walking with someone suggests that you begin at a certain place and try to go somewhere else, together, hopefully a better place.

You could even leave somewhere and then return, in which case you’re most likely emphasizing something you are doing along the way.

 

“Accompagnement”

Even if you overlook the nuances of “worked” versus “walked”, you still have that other key word, “with”.

In the area of coaching, which continues to make great strides in becoming a mainstream profession, there is a French translation that I love, which also fits this subject.

Some people use the term “Le coaching” in a way similar to “Le marketing”, and others where a French word has never become generally accepted.

I’ve often heard people call it “service d’accompagnement”, that is, “accompaniment”.

That really resonates with me.

I recall one of my coaching leaders at CTI saying that 80% of coaching boils down to two simple (but not necessarily easy) things:

  • Listening without judgement, and
  • Being “with” someone

“Being with”, is very much “accompaniment”.

“Walking with” is accompaniment on a journey.

 

How about a “Guide”? 

Of course when you hire someone to work with you or walk with you, it is rarely just for companionship. Ideally the person can offer you some sort of help, thanks to their experience or expertise.

But there are different kinds of helpers, and it is often tempting to look for “the expert” who can give you the best advice, and then “just tell me what to do”.

In some cases, that’s the ideal way to go. In many others, such as figuring our how to transition your family’s wealth from one generation to the next, just getting experts to tell you “what to do” often leads to sub-optimal results.

 

Guidance helps you get what YOU want

An analogy I like for this kind of work is that of a “guide”. Names like “consultant”, “advisor”, and “coach” each have connotations that bring along some negative baggage and associations to some ears.

I’ve always liked the idea of giving “guidance”, but somehow calling myself a “guide” doesn’t seem to “fit” either.

A good guide “walks with”, helps point out interesting things you may have missed, and keeps you out of places you shouldn’t venture into.

If they’re really good, they don’t even look like they’re working when they are!

They just look like someone who came along for the walk. But how would the journey have been without them?

Who is guiding your transition?

 

2017 Key Questions - Family Business

The KEY Question for 2017

So here we are again at the time of year when the old calendar comes off the wall and the new one goes up. Didn’t we just go through this?

The title of this week’s post comes from a book I’ve been reading, called Finish Big, by Bo Burlingham. I have gotten in the habit of doing my morning workouts while reading instead of watching TV, which has allowed me to cut into my unread books pile.

On my Kindle one recent day, I finished my ride mid-chapter and closed down, and the next morning when I resumed, “The Key Question” was the bold sub-heading that hit me right between the eyes when I rebooted.

Hmmm, I thought, a great and timely blog topic.

 

What IS the Key Question? 

There are SO many questions that we consider every day of our lives, most of them without thinking too much, and many of them of very little consequence.

When you look at the photo accompanying this post, which shows me along with some models hired for photo ops at a friend’s recent office Christmas party, a number of potential questions may come to mind.

I happened to receive this photo by email from my friend the other day, and when I showed it to my daughter, her laughter was all I needed to hear to know that I needed to include it here.

So if the key question is “Why?”, the answer is because I got the pic, I laughed when I saw it, others thought it was funny, so I decided to share it.

If it is a “What” question, however, as in “what is going on in this pic?” the simple facts of “what” along with “where”, “when”, and “who”, have also been addressed, albeit briefly.

“What” and “Why” questions preoccupy much of our lives, but for me, the Key Question for 2017 should be HOW?

I invite you to also consider more “HOW” questions, many of which you may have been subconsciously avoiding.

 

WHAT, WHY, and HOW 

Let’s move this over to the usual subject matter here, that of family legacy.

WHAT you have today, the business, the assets, the wealth, is pretty easy to ascertain factually. You have lots of professional advisors who can help you figure out exactly what you have, in hard numbers, on paper.

WHY you worked so hard to get to where you are, and the sacrifices you made to get here, and the reasons behind many of the tough decisions you made, are mostly things that come from the past, and include many important factors that drove you to succeed.

These WHATs and WHYs are very important, but by themselves, they will not suffice.

 

The Future is HOW

Every family that has worked to develop sufficient assets to be concerned about leaving a legacy, will eventually get to the stage where their main concern shifts to HOW.

How do we keep this going? That’s why professionals who advise such families don’t talk about succession planning, but instead talk about “Continuity Planning”.

HOW are you going to ensure that these assets will hold together into future generations, thereby sustaining your legacy?

These assets are not simply financial assets, by the way, but also less tangible things like human and intellectual capital, and if you haven’t been paying attention to those, the chances of the financial wealth being enough to hold the legacy together will decrease substantially.

 

HOW is a Transition, NOT a Transaction

Many families delay even thinking about these key questions for a variety of reasons; they’re too busy making the pie bigger, they think they will live forever, they aren’t sure where to start, etc.

It is complex stuff, and everyone in the family has their own viewpoint. Many professional advisors also have a hard time getting out of their silo of expertise to give you proper big picture advice.

Future blog posts will talk about creating a Family Continuity BluePrint. We will be getting back to the basics of the Three Circle Model, so feel free to read these refreshers:

Stay tuned to future posts for more on making “HOW” the Key Question for 2017 for your family.  If you are not yet subscribed, please do so here and now!

 P.S. (The facial expression of the handsome guy in the photo seems to convey “How do I get myself out of this?”, doesn’t it?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting started with your family business with the right advice

It’s All about Getting Started

The start icon. Start symbol. Flat Vector illustration

Most of us usually have a pretty good idea of “what to do” in situations, and we think about our motivations to clarify the “why” as well. Today’s post is going to look at the “how and when”, and getting started on the important steps in generational transitions.

Timing can so often be crucial in life; how often have you either just been “in the right place at the right time”, or just missed an opportunity because an open door suddenly shut? Of course there are also occasions when we are too early as well.

For every “early bird” who gets the worm, there is a “second mouse” that gets the cheese. My bias is to move early, and I know that if anyone could ever convince me to try parachuting, I would likely pull the cord too early rather than too late.

In a business family, there is often a desire to have the hard work of a generation carry on into the next, and hopefully to subsequent generations as well.

One of my favourite expressions is “things don’t just happen by themselves”, and maybe that’s because working with these types of families has underscored the importance of taking action.

Inter-generational transitions are complex matters. The more people involved and the larger the asset base in question, the trickier things get. The more complex things are, the longer it will take to get things right.

So the “what” in this case is preparing the inter-generational transition, the “why” is because we want our hard work to benefit future generations of our family, and the “when” is, well, whenever I get around to it (!?).

Hopefully you caught the problem in the previous sentence.

As mentioned above, my bias is that it’s better to start too soon than too late. Complexity can slow things down more than you can ever imagine, and when important questions come up, and they always do, more time to get things right is very helpful.

When is the right time to start?

Sometimes you just know, and sometimes you need a push. Divine inspiration is not always forthcoming.

The two main generations, let’s call them NowGen and NextGen, don’t always see eye to eye on the timing.

In many cases the NextGen pushes for action but is met with resistance by the NowGen, but it can also be some variation of the reverse situation. Sometimes the NowGen is met with disinterest from the rising generation.

The biggest causes of delaying action on these key matters are: fear of conflict, fear of mortality, not knowing how to begin, not having anyone in charge of the process, and being too busy with more urgent matters.

Fear of Conflict

“We can’t talk about that, because it will cause a rift”. If that is your case, are you assuming that the underlying issue will just go away, or that the kids will figure it out after you’re gone?

Better to talk about it and smooth over any potential conflict while we can still modify whatever we have planned and explain all decisions. If you suspect conflict, getting out in front of it is better than the ostrich approach.

Mortality

Talking about sex never got anyone pregnant, and talking about money never made anyone rich, so talking about your eventual death is not going to kill you either.

Get over it. If you are equating your exit from certain roles in your business with your death, that is another issue, and there are ways to deal with that too.

How/Where to Begin

Start talking about the subject and ask questions of other family members to get their ideas about what the future might look like when the next generation is in charge. Listen, and then ask more questions, and listen some more.

Who’s in Charge?

If you are reading this and liking what you see, then please go and take charge of the process. Then bring someone in from the outside who will help keep you on track.

Too Busy Putting Out Fires

Not everything that seems “urgent” is that important. Prioritize, delegate. Learn to work on what is truly important to the big picture.

You probably should have started a while ago, so get moving already.

 

How to stay Calm in Family Business situation

“Calm-Fident” Advice for your Family

Sometimes the right word for something doesn’t exist, so we need to make one up. Okay, we don’t actually need to, but it can be a useful exercise.

On sports radio last week, a commentator was talking about a certain hockey goaltender and how his calm performances had helped his team get their season off to a good start. Right after uttering the word “calm”, he moved on to the fact that the team was quite “confident” playing in front of him.

That was when the “word” calmfidence sort of hit me, and it also fit nicely with some of the personal work that I continue to do, trying to become and even better advisor to legacy families.

(When I Googled “calmfidence”, I learned that while it certainly is not very popular or well known yet, I am not the first one to use it. If you also decide to do this, please say hello to Juneous for me.)

 

Bowen Family Systems Theory

Let’s get back to the idea of calmness as a key ingredient to helping a family. I am now into my third year of studying Bowen Family Systems Theory (BFST), and it has been eye opening to say the least.

I have already vowed to write a book on Bowen Theory as it applies to family business and wealth, because I have yet to find the book that I was hoping to find when I first took an interest in BFST.

That book is still in my plans, but it will be a couple of years away at best.

As any “amateur” Bowenite can tell you, there are eight concepts in BFST, and as some of those will surely note, being “calm” is not one of them.

So where do I think I am going to go with this? I am glad you asked.

 

Anxiety versus Calm

One of the over-riding issues that Bowen talked about throughout the eight concepts is anxiety.

When Bowen spoke of “Differentiation of Self”, which we might more simply call “emotional maturity” today, he regularly noted that those who are more differentiated (i.e. mature) can and do function well, even during times of anxiety.

Those with lower levels of differentiation or maturity will have their everyday functioning impaired during times of high anxiety.

Anyone who is part of a business family will certainly recognize that family discussions can be anxious times, and are often far from calm.

 

Bring an Outsider Inside

Advisors will preach to any family who will listen, that it is important to have an external person at the table to help them with these discussions, especially when important subjects like succession are on the agenda.

Most families prefer to keep things private, not wanting to air their laundry to an outsider, and also often assume that they alone are going through their particular difficult family situation.

They also recognize that an advisor who suggests bringing in an outsider is being self-serving, you know, like the barber who hints that your hair is getting a little long.

 

Bring in some Calm-Fidence

So here is where I want to bring things back to calmfidence.

When an outsider to your family enters the scene, there are two ways to quickly evaluate whether or not they will ultimately be useful to the family. You guessed it, they are “calm” and “confidence”.

This outside resource should bring a calm presence, no matter how much anxiety there is in the room, whether that anxiety is actually on the table, or hidden behind an elephant somewhere.

After a couple of meetings with the advisor/consultant, the family (or at least a significant portion of it) will begin to feel much more confident that they are on the right track.

But what if they are not calm, and the family does NOT feel more confident, you ask? Simple. Get someone else!

 

Too Important to Ignore

You’ve probably heard “the biggest investment most people make in their lives is buying a house.”

Families with a business, wealth, and a legacy to pass on are not “most people” though, and this is the biggest issue that they will ever face.

Inter-generation wealth transfer is not easy, and getting the whole family on board is the toughest part.

Find someone who gives you the CALMFIDENCE to get it done properly. Keep trying until you find them.

 

 

 

How to Choose a Family Business Consultant

There are many factors to consider when you are looking to find the kind of help that many business families eventually require. This usually arrives around the time that the family realizes that their leading generation will someday need to make way for the rising generation.

Most will have an inkling that they will need to do “something, someday”, long before they actually start to act upon those feelings, and that’s only natural.

 

Structural Issues

Often the impetus to act will come from a business advisor of some sort, like an accountant or a lawyer. In any inter-generational transfer, there are plenty of legal and structural issues that will need to be taken care of, for obvious reasons.

What remains less obvious to many, is that the legal and structural “paperwork” is only the beginning. These official documents deal mostly with the “what”, but very rarely get into the crucial details of the “how”.

If this is all news to you, there are dozens of other blog posts on this site that you can read to get my drift. For those who are already on board, I will now segue into the thrust of this post, about how to choose your family business consultant.

 

Don’t Allow Family Issues to Get Lost

Here are my Top 5 things to consider before deciding on who is best suited to helping you with these crucial matters:

 

  1.    Overlap of Business and Family

 Does the person that you are going to engage, to help lead your transition, truly understand that most of the key issues that you will be facing involve both the business AND your family?

A business focus without understanding the family issues is no better than a “family therapist” focus with no understanding of business and wealth.

 

  1. Business > Family       OR       Family > Business?

Do they come from a background where they naturally lean toward business solutions, or from one where family harmony is the driving force?

Which is more important to them, which is more important to you and your family, and is it the same for both? Should it be the same, or should there be a counter-balance? Some semblance of balance should not be overlooked.

There is no right or wrong here, but you need to comprehend this point.

 

  1.    Do they LISTEN, and to WHOM?

So many professionals who work with business families are used to taking orders form one PERSON (the boss) and the rest of the family are merely an afterthought.

When advising a business family, ideally the FAMILY is the client. That is a huge leap, and one that is never easy to make.

Some advisors don’t get this, and some can understand it in theory but find it impossible in practice. Beware the “yes man” advisor.

 

  1. Beware: “I have THE solution for YOU”

Recycling is great for your garbage, not so much for your family legacy. If your consultant arrives with lots of “ready-made” solutions that they have used with others in their experience, please ask LOTS of questions

Buying a suit off the rack is okay, but a plan for YOUR family’s legacy should be custom-made for YOUR family.

 

  1. There is no “Free Lunch”

Good professional advice is not free, and shouldn’t be either. Some providers, usually in the asset management space, will promise to do many things for their wealthy clients “for free”.

There is not necessarily anything wrong with this, IF you understand and accept the terms and conditons that go with that.

Buying based on “low price” is not recommended either, but understanding HOW advisors are compensated should not be overlooked.

 

IFEA “Seal of Approval”

In Canada, over the past several years a few hundred people have been through the multi-disciplinary Family Enterprise Advisor program and a couple of hundred have then gone on to become “FEA” designates.

As one of them, I have a certain bias, and look at the letters “FEA” as kind of a “seal of approval”.

The field is evolving and many professionals are trying to find ways to capitalize on the huge demographic wealth transfer that is now underway.

All FEA designates have been through a thorough program and a rigorous certification process.

Please do your homework, and choose well.

 

Updating your FamBiz Vocabulary

Families have been around seemingly forever, and some family businesses go back centuries, but the words we use to describe and discuss matters in the field continue to evolve.

Family business as a field of study is still in its first handful of decades, and interest in it continues to grow.

Today I want to add my personal take on a few of the more important concepts, while hopefully updating some definitions for 21st century realities.

After each, there is a link to a previous post in which the subject was also discussed in this space.

 

“Family Continuity”

Families typically hate discussing “succession planning”. Well, nobody wanted to buy “death insurance” either, so, “Life Insurance” was born, and has become an undeniable success.

So it shall hopefully be for “Continuity Planning” too. It is far more pleasant to think about, talk about, and plan what is going to “continue” (i.e. stay the same) than it is to plan for things “after I die”.

I use “Family Continuity” rather than “Business Continuity” because while the famiy and the business are intertwined, my preferred focus is on the family. I will leave the business continuity matters to other professionals, who are in abundant supply.

See: “Say Goodbye to Succession Planning”

 

“Enterprising Family”

Most family businesses start small, and as the business grows, more family members can become involved. Other lines of business may follow, as well as more of a focus on the family than on any one business. The family business morphs into a “Business Family”

As this Business Family attitude and behaviour takes hold, in another generation or so, if all goes well, there is a critical mass of assets and people to become what many aspire to be, a multi-generation Enterprising Family.

Many families dream of this, few will achieve it. But you can’t get there if you don’t understand this first.

See “Family Business” Versus “Family Wealth”

 

“Family Legacy”

There are many definitions of legacy. I like to think about it as “what will we be known for and remembered for”. I say “we” because I strongly feel that it takes a family, through multiple generations, to truly carry out a legacy.

See “Family Business HR – Human Resources, or Human Relations?”

 

“Family Alignment”

If you want the family legacy, getting the family aligned is a key. Getting them all aligned requires dialogue. Notice I did not say “monologue”?

Two-way conversations, over an extended period of time (months and years) to get everyone on the “same page”, are a must.

There are roles and responsibilities for everyone in an enterprising family, and the clearer these are, the better. But they cannot be dictated from above.

Family alignment must be developed from within.

See “Family Alignment”

 

“Family Continuity Blueprint”

One of the best ways to get everyone on the same page, is to literally get everything on one page.

I have developed a “Family Continuity BluePrint” to do just that. I have shared it on a limited basis with others working in this space, and the feedback is overwhelmingly positive.

It is my own derivation of the “Business Model Canvas”, designed just for enterprising families, who are concerned with building lasting continuity, to ensure their legacy.

See “Planning your Dreams and Dreaming about Plans”

 

“Multi-Disciplinary Fluency”

Of course any good plan will need qualified advisors to help set it up and to execute it. Combining family, business, and ownership means that it is unlikely that a one-size-fits-all advisor will be found.

Your best bet may be to find one person with the “multi-disciplinary fluency” to hold it all together (thanks to Dean Fowler for coining the term, and John A. Warnick for helping propogate it)

See “Take My Advice: Don’t Take My Advice”

 

“Trusted Advisors”

This overused term has almost become meaningless. If you don’t trust them, they should not be your advisor. If you are ever concerned that the advice they are giving you serves them more than you, that’s a huge red flag.

See “The Value of a Trusted Family Business Advisor”

 

Conclusion

Once you have made the decision that you are an enterprising family, and you want to work on family continuity, to ensure your legacy, that’s a big step.

Then it’s time to work on family alignment, using a BluePrint, to get everyone on the same page, literally. Getting help from advisors with multi-disciplinary fluency is key, and so is making sure that their first concern is your family, NOT selling you a product or pleasing their boss.

Ready to start?

 

Family Business Decision Making

Putting the Consent into Consensus (Part II of II)

Family Business Consultant - Family Meeting Facilitation - Wealth manager

Writing this blog every weekend is truly cathartic for me, and I love doing it, but it offers its share of challenges too.

Last week’s post ended a bit abruptly for my liking, as I was trying to complete my point about consensus being impossible without consent, but realized that I was leaving too many important things unsaid.

Being my own editor and publisher has its advantages, though, so simply adding a “part 2 of 2” is an easy way out.

We left off looking at how getting the consent necessary for family consensus can be tricky and time consuming, but if you care about this subject at all, you probably already know that.

This week I want to add three key aspects to the ideas already put forth. They are: Offering an Informed Choice, We > Me, and Progress > Perfection.

 

Informed Choice

If I ask for your consent to do something minor, and you already trust me due to some prior common experience or interaction, chances are good that you will quickly go along.

If we change that from something minor to something major, it is more likely that you will take your time before consenting.

If we now add in some complexity to the equation, hesitation on your part will surely increase further.

As I wrote in 2014 in “The Importance of Offering an Informed Choice” very often families will have their lawyers draft extensive documents to formalize family structures, but the families never actually sign them. The most frequent reason noted is disagreement, but that usually masks a lack of true understanding.

If you want me to sign an agreement, you better make sure that I am comfortable doing so, and that means, first and foremost, that I acutally understand what I am agreeing to.

If I don’t feel informed or if I don’t feel like I had any choice, my reluctance will skyrocket.

 

We > Me

Now we are getting into a whole different area, but a doozy nonetheless.

As I covered last year in “Successful Planning: Who Should Be Involved?”, it is important for all stakeholders to have a say in matters.

Ideally, the family figures out what THEY want (They, plural!) and then “Once they know what they want to accomplish, they THEN engage the advisors to fine-tune the details of HOW they will write it up.

Somewhere along the way, everyone needs to come to the realisation that there is no “Me, or I” in family continuity, it is all about We.

If you don’t get past this one, well, good luck with building consensus.

 

Progress > Perfection 

This point is very much related to the conclusion of last week’s piece, in that all of the questions of building consensus for lasting inter-generational family continuity require patience, realistic expectations, and time.

As long as it is more “Two steps forward, one step back”, than “One step forward and two steps back”, consider it progress. If you are expecting perfection AND getting it done quickly, you are setting yourself up for disappointment.

It is not because your advisors are no good, or not trying hard enough, this stuff is complex AND important, and we are dealing with emotional subject matter.

Now, if you feel like you are blocked, it is high time you bring someone in from the outside to help bring some perspective and an unbiased viewpoint or to kickstart things forward again.

Last fall, as I wrote in “Understanding AND Agreement, you need everyone to understand things, AND agree to them. If either is missing, there will be a problem.

 

Recap

Getting consensus is not easy and it takes time. People need to be fully informed of what the stakes are for them, and there needs to be an overall understanding that the WE of the family is more important that any one person’s stake.

Lastly, if you are hoping to wrap everything up quickly, you are surely fooling yourself. This is not a straightforward process, it never is. But you can get through it, and it is worth it in the end.