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Having Conversations (Not just communicating)

I often harp on the need to communicate well. That means doing it clearly and often, among other things. Communication takes many forms, especially with today’s technology. The many forms help with the frequency, but unfortunately they have not done much to help with clarity.

In business families and their family businesses, communication becomes especially important. When people relate to each other through the business AND through the family, the relationships tend to become more complex.

With this complexity can come a multitude of potential problems and misunderstandings that stem from human emotions.  An effort to communicate regularly and clearly can often help to minimize problems, but sometimes the emotions alone can inhibit the desire to make the necessary efforts.

I love to send emails, and I often spend a great deal of time composing them to ensure that I am sending all the information that I want, and getting my message across just the way I want it to be received.

I regularly send text messages on occasions where the information is particularly timely and brief. But in many cases there is no better way to communicate that to just talk to people.

In some ways, having conversations is becoming a lost art. Who has not witnessed people sitting at the same table in a restaurant, each one looking at their phone, without anyone saying a word.  Sometimes they even text the people sitting at the same table!

The subject of conversations came up often at a recent workshop that I attended on business strategy for family businesses. Our instructor repeatedly used the expression “have the conversation”. On the second day, when he said it for about the twelfth time, it hit me.

The first day of the course, each time I heard “have the conversation”, my brain translated it into “communicate”, because that was my term. To me he was preaching the same communication gospel that I often harp on.

But there was much more to it. Not only is having a conversation a subset of communication, it is also one of the most often overlooked.

And in addition to being a hugely important part of communication, “having the conversation” was also the term our instructor was using to hammer home another point, and it is the point that I want to hammer home here.

All too often there are important subjects that should be discussed, but they are put off, due to the combination of two major impediments. People are either:

Too busy taking care of more urgent matters, and/or,
Not comfortable talking about “those subjects”

HAVE THE CONVERSATION.  Sometimes you need to concentrate on the important things, not just those that seem urgent.

And get over the discomfort. The hardest step is usually the first. Start the conversation slowly if you have to, but be open to keeping it going. You have to be able to leave your comfort zone to make progress.

In a ten minute discussion with any family-business person , I could come up with five areas where conversations should be taking place but are not.

What are you waiting for? The time is never perfect. Don’t make me come over there! (Although I will if you ask).

Steve Legler “gets” business families.
 
He understands the issues that families face, as well as how each family member sees things from their own viewpoint.
 
He specializes in helping business families navigate the difficult areas where the family and the business overlap, by listening to each person’s concerns and ideas.  He then helps the family work together to bridge gaps by building common goals, based on their shared values and vision.
 
His background in family business, his experience running his own family office, along with his education and training in coaching, facilitation, and mediation, make him uniquely suited to the role of advising business families and families of wealth.
 
He is the author of Shift your Family Business (2014), he received his MBA from the Richard  Ivey School of Business (UWO, 1991), is a CFA Charterholder (CFA Institute, 2002), a Family Enterprise Advisor (IFEA 2014), and has received the ACFBA and CFWA accreditations (Family Firm Institute 2014-2015).
 
He prides himself on his ability to help families create the harmony they need to support the legacy they want. To learn how, start by signing up for his monthly newsletter and weekly blogs here.

Transitions, Part 2: Recognition

Last week we looked at some definitions surrounding transitions, and this week we move into the recognition stage.  Next week we will wrap up the topic with a look at propositions surrounding transitions.

We all remember watching cartoons where the Coyote chased the Roadrunner all over the place and ended up in very precarious situations.  Sometimes he would accidentally end up going over a cliff, but he would remain suspended in mid air for quite some time before ultimately falling to his demise.

The turning point, of course, was that he looked down. Once he recognized that he was no longer on solid ground, gravity took over and he would begin hurtling towards the ground.

Now we all know that animated cartoons can make anything seem to happen regardless of how possible it is in real life. But the point that I want to make is that recognition is an important step in just about any transition.

Let’s go back to last week’s blog, where we looked at how the different people involved in a transition each have their own perspective.  Each of their recognitions of the transition is different, and may have come from an event, a decision, or a realization.

So not everyone recognizes transitions at the same time or in the same way. But it is only AFTER everyone recognizes the transition can it be properly understood in a way that everyone is on the same page.

In the same way as a doctor cannot begin to cure what ails you before she knows what illness you are suffering from, it is very difficult to move through a transition in the most productive and useful way before you recognize the transition.

And since business family transitions almost always affect several people, it is important for each of them to recognize the transition as well. Given their differing perspectives, it becomes key to get everyone to a more-or-less “common recognition” of where things stand.

I began with an unstated assumption that the goal is for the transition to proceed as smoothly as possible. In the interest of seeing that goal through, communication with all parties that are key to achieving a smooth transition is paramount.

Some leadership is required in order to get most families through major transitions. Sometimes the leadership all comes from those who are part of the family. Other times, non-family members of the business can be major players. Sometimes a facilitator can be quite useful.

Last week’s examples of the sale of a business, the passing of a founder and the appointment of a successor, all have several things in common. In my view, the most important is that they all affect several parties, and the cooperation and understanding of most or all of those parties is crucial to ensuring a smooth and successful transition.

Last week’s definitions help set us up for the recognition stage, but this week was more about making sure that everyone involved gets to a shared recognition of the transition. So now that everyone involved is “on the same page”, we can move into the proposition stage, which we will look at next week.

Steve Legler “gets” business families.
 
He understands the issues that families face, as well as how each family member sees things from their own viewpoint.
 
He specializes in helping business families navigate the difficult areas where the family and the business overlap, by listening to each person’s concerns and ideas.  He then helps the family work together to bridge gaps by building common goals, based on their shared values and vision.
 
His background in family business, his experience running his own family office, along with his education and training in coaching, facilitation, and mediation, make him uniquely suited to the role of advising business families and families of wealth.
 
He is the author of Shift your Family Business (2014), he received his MBA from the Richard  Ivey School of Business (UWO, 1991), is a CFA Charterholder (CFA Institute, 2002), a Family Enterprise Advisor (IFEA 2014), and has received the ACFBA and CFWA accreditations (Family Firm Institute 2014-2015).
 
He prides himself on his ability to help families create the harmony they need to support the legacy they want. To learn how, start by signing up for his monthly newsletter and weekly blogs here.

Transitions, Part 1: Definitions

Today’s blog will be the first of three parts on the subject of Transitions. We will start by looking at some “definitions”. Part 2 will be about “recognition” of transitions, and we will wrap up in a couple of weeks looking at the “proposition” aspects of transitions.

So we have definition, recognition and proposition.

Transitions take on various forms in many of areas of life and nature, but we will be concentrating on business families and the transitions that often affect them, which need to be handled properly in order to avoid unnecessary complications.

Now just because we are starting out with definitions, does not mean you need to define a transition before it can begin. In fact, many transitions begin regardless of whether anyone thinks of them as such.  But it does help to define things before looking into the details.

We will look at 3 elements that can be precursors to a transition: Decisions, Events and Realizations. These three elements look different to different people in the family, because no two viewpoints are the same.

Let’s look at three examples (yes, 3 again), the sale of a business, the death of a founder, and the appointment of a successor.

The head of a family business, let’s say the founder, sells the business. Most outsiders focus on the sale, or the event, and look at how it affects them. For the employees who were not aware that anything was taking place, their transition begins with the event.

But before the event took place, there was a decision to sell, which could have involved other members of the family, or some of the employees. It also likely began, though, with a realization. This could have been realizing that this was a good time to sell, that there was no likely internal successor, or even that the stress of running the business was more than it was worth.

In the example of the death of the founder, in the case of an accident, the event is surely front and center. However, if there was an illness involved, there was a realization stage and whatever decisions did or did not result from the diagnosis. A severe illness will usually trigger some decisions and action that stem from the realization that things need to be addressed.

Following the death, the remaining family members inevitably face a series of decisions, as well as certain realizations, not all of which are positive.

Appointing a successor to head the next stage of the business also involves all three elements. The identification of the successor is a large decision that usually results from a number of realizations. For someone who wished to become the successor but was not chosen, the transition often begins as a realization that can be difficult to swallow.

For the successor, the event quickly sets off their transition, and their ensuing decisions will result in realizations for others, and then their decisions, and so on.

I know that I have thrown a lot of stuff at you here, and my hope is that we can make use of some of this terminology to help understand aspects of transitions that are often overlooked.

Next week we will tackle the recognition stage, which will attempt to look at a transition once everyone involved has hit the realization stage, while understanding how the events and decisions involved have different effects on everyone.

And not surprisingly, we will see that there are some unanticipated issues that can come back to haunt us if we don’t think things through in advance.

Steve Legler “gets” business families.
 
He understands the issues that families face, as well as how each family member sees things from their own viewpoint.
 
He specializes in helping business families navigate the difficult areas where the family and the business overlap, by listening to each person’s concerns and ideas.  He then helps the family work together to bridge gaps by building common goals, based on their shared values and vision.
 
His background in family business, his experience running his own family office, along with his education and training in coaching, facilitation, and mediation, make him uniquely suited to the role of advising business families and families of wealth.
 
He is the author of Shift your Family Business (2014), he received his MBA from the Richard  Ivey School of Business (UWO, 1991), is a CFA Charterholder (CFA Institute, 2002), a Family Enterprise Advisor (IFEA 2014), and has received the ACFBA and CFWA accreditations (Family Firm Institute 2014-2015).
 
He prides himself on his ability to help families create the harmony they need to support the legacy they want. To learn how, start by signing up for his monthly newsletter and weekly blogs here.

Grey Cup not so grey after all

I spent Grey Cup weekend in Toronto with my son, who became a teenager on Saturday. His birthday always falls around Grey Cup time, and since this year was the 100t h  GC game and our Alouettes looked like a good bet to make it this year, I decided to buy tickets way back in May.

Tickets secured, I booked a hotel just two blocks away from the Rogers Centre, knowing we would be in the heart of the action. I booked flights into Billy Bishop airport right near downtown so we could get back early enough on Monday to make sure he would not miss too much school.

We looked forward to the trip all summer and fall, but then the unthinkable happened. The arch-rival Toronto Argonauts upset the Als in the eastern final a week before the big game. Ugh. Not only would our team not be there, we would be in Toronto watching Toronto play for the Cup.

Oh well, we might as well make the best of it, right? We were looking into the activities that we could enjoy on Saturday afternoon and all day Sunday, since the game was not scheduled until 6 PM on Sunday.

So after getting to our hotel Saturday around 2 PM, we went across the street to Gretzky’s restaurant for some chicken and ribs , and got a bit of the Grey Cup experience of people from all over Canada coming together for a good time, a great many of them wearing their team jerseys over a number of layers of warm clothing.

I had heard of this tradition and seen clips on TV, but it was pretty cool to be a part of it. We had not been sure about wearing our Als jerseys when we first set out, but after our lunch we headed back to our hotel room and dressed like so many others, proudly wearing our team colours, despite our team’s absence from the big game.

Alright, off to the activities. We had heard about the Grey Cup train that had made its way all across Canada, containing a whole museum of Grey Cup displays and memorabilia. We could have seen it a month or so earlier in Montreal, but figured why not wait to see it in Toronto, since we would be there for the game. Well, someone had the bright idea of ending the cross-country train trip a week before the game.

Oh well, no Grey Cup train. At least we could check out the Adrenaline Zone where they had an urban zipline near City Hall. It was now late Saturday afternoon and pretty cold out, so we decided to put that off until Sunday, since we would have the whole day to kill anyway.

I guess the same geniuses that were in charge of the train schedule were also in charge of the Adrenaline Zone, since it turned out that it closed down on Saturday.

Sunday turned out to be a pretty uneventful day, a great deal of it spent in our hotel room watching NFL games and waiting for the big game.

I felt pretty bad for my son about how lame this whole trip was; no Alouettes, no Grey Cup train, no Zipline. Oh well, we could still hope for the Calgary Stampeders to beat the Argos and make it all worthwhile.

Of course it did not work out that way. The hated Argos won the game handily. The final score was 35-22, but it was not even that close.

So the entire weekend felt like a huge disappointment. But then something interesting happened, and it came from an unexpected source. From my teenage son. He looked at me with a big smile and said, quite simply, “Hey, can we go to next year’s Grey Cup?”.

The grey mood that I had been in suddenly disappeared. The Grey Cup weekend that had seemed to go so poorly was not such a big deal. It was still a heck of an experience, and so what if the right team didn’t win.

After all these years of trying to teach him some useful lessons, could he possibly be starting to teach me some?

Steve Legler “gets” business families.
 
He understands the issues that families face, as well as how each family member sees things from their own viewpoint.
 
He specializes in helping business families navigate the difficult areas where the family and the business overlap, by listening to each person’s concerns and ideas.  He then helps the family work together to bridge gaps by building common goals, based on their shared values and vision.
 
His background in family business, his experience running his own family office, along with his education and training in coaching, facilitation, and mediation, make him uniquely suited to the role of advising business families and families of wealth.
 
He is the author of Shift your Family Business (2014), he received his MBA from the Richard  Ivey School of Business (UWO, 1991), is a CFA Charterholder (CFA Institute, 2002), a Family Enterprise Advisor (IFEA 2014), and has received the ACFBA and CFWA accreditations (Family Firm Institute 2014-2015).
 
He prides himself on his ability to help families create the harmony they need to support the legacy they want. To learn how, start by signing up for his monthly newsletter and weekly blogs here.
Family Business Consultant - Family Meeting Facilitation - Wealth manager

Family Business or Business Family?

What’s the difference between a family business and a business family?  Are they really different, or just two ways of saying essentially the same thing? I like to think that the main difference is on the emphasis on each word, depending on the situation.

A family business is a Business first and foremost. Often in the early years the founder will call it a family business, even if he or she is the only fulltime family member working there. They are, after all, doing it for the family. As things progress, the spouse and children sometimes end up joining in, with the next generation getting their feet wet in the summers of their teenage years.

At this point, it becomes more of a true family business, and slowly but surely, as the size of the enterprise grows and the involvement of family members increases, all of a sudden there are more than business issues to consider, but family ones as well.  Welcome to the world of the business Family.

There usually is not a “threshold moment” when a family business becomes a business family. Sometimes one member of the family notices it before others. Often the founder can be the last one to make the realization that they have entered into a new paradigm.

Back in the 1980’s, my father decided to join CAFÉ, the Canadian Association of Family Enterprise. It offered him the chance to interact with other business people who were encountering similar situations in both their businesses and their families.  He made some great connections with other family leaders that lasted for many years, past the point where most were even involved in their businesses.

So you might think that he realized that the family part was important, but that may not be entirely correct.  Like many founders, it was his business, and everything he did was done his way. At least that was the way we saw it. But that was fine, it was his money, his effort, his risk, we were actually content to go along for the ride.

Simply joining an organization like CAFÉ does not automatically make you pay enough attention to the family part of the equation.  It often does not come naturally to an entrepreneur, who will usually be preoccupied with other, seemingly more important tasks.

But the family is always there, somewhere in the background, or maybe some members in the foreground too, and the family issues can come along and overtake the business issues at a moment’s notice.

If things stay small, and few family members rely on the business for their livelihood, things usually remain relatively simple. But as the business grows in size and scope, and as more family members become involved in one way or another, complexities inevitably set in.

When things get complicated, I usually stress the importance of communication. I always prefer to over-communicate in order to minimize the potential for misunderstandings. Many business owners don’t seem to find the time to take care of the family communications, as they are often too busy tending to the business communications.

Family meetings, where everyone is present, can go a long way to keeping everyone on the same page. I will always suggest that these meetings involve only the immediate family members (no spouses or significant others).

Most families do not start having these meetings until they approach a significant event or transition.  Better late than never. But once you set up the framework, the family members will usually actually look forward to the meetings and the realization that everyone now has the same story, and knows where things stand.

It is hard enough to solve all the business problems that can come up, trying to stay ahead of the family issues with regular meetings can at least minimize the important family aspects that need to be dealt with, not ignored.

Steve Legler “gets” business families.
 
He understands the issues that families face, as well as how each family member sees things from their own viewpoint.
 
He specializes in helping business families navigate the difficult areas where the family and the business overlap, by listening to each person’s concerns and ideas.  He then helps the family work together to bridge gaps by building common goals, based on their shared values and vision.
 
His background in family business, his experience running his own family office, along with his education and training in coaching, facilitation, and mediation, make him uniquely suited to the role of advising business families and families of wealth.
 
He is the author of Shift your Family Business (2014), he received his MBA from the Richard  Ivey School of Business (UWO, 1991), is a CFA Charterholder (CFA Institute, 2002), a Family Enterprise Advisor (IFEA 2014), and has received the ACFBA and CFWA accreditations (Family Firm Institute 2014-2015).
 
He prides himself on his ability to help families create the harmony they need to support the legacy they want. To learn how, start by signing up for his monthly newsletter and weekly blogs here.

Are They Only Telling You What You Want To Hear?

I don’t often start these blog posts with famous quotes, but lots of smart people do that, so why not give it a go? Earlier this week, I was reading one of the daily letters to which I subscribe, The King Report, by Bill King out of Chicago. He finished his daily piece with this:

“When you want to help people you tell them the truth. When you want to help yourself, you tell them what they want to hear.”  -Thomas Sowell.

I immediately printed out that page, highlighted the quotation, and put it aside to eventually use as a blog topic. I showed it to my partner Tom, to my wife, and to my kids. The more I read it, the more I liked it. Let me explain why.

I believe that too many people fall into the group of those who will be more likely to put themselves first and tell you what you want to hear rather than tell you the truth. In the case of wealthy and powerful people, it happens even more often.

My father was a very tough boss, but he was fair. He would often say that he did not have to give people hell, he just had to tell them the truth. And yes, sometimes the truth did hurt. He was very animated and loud, and when it was your turn to hear the truth, you could be sure that others overheard it as well.

As easy as it might have been to try to “protect” ourselves and drift into more of a “tell him what he wants to hear” mode, that would have just make things worse.
The people who worked for him who were willing to give him their true opinion were the ones he counted on the most.

When I showed Tom the quote, it immediately brought back all kinds of memories for both of us. We were two of the people who worked for him the longest, and he relied on us for a variety of things. Occasionally he would tell us that if all we did was agree with him, he really wouldn’t need us. We would make ourselves redundant if we were simply “Yes-Men”.

Having spent so many years in this type of relationship with our boss has had many benefits for both of us. We shared the truth with him, and we got plenty of truth back. The exchanges were often spirited and loud, but always positive, about moving closer to the best decision or course of action, and no lingering hard feelings.

We would offer an opinion, get shot down, roll with the punches and continue the debate. The eventual decision sometimes ended up looking a lot like the ones we suggested, and we knew we had a hand in directing the proper outcome, even if we never heard “hey, you were right”. We knew. He was the boss, he was at the top, he was the one ultimately responsible for whatever we decided.

These days sometimes I will go on a rant about something when talking with Tom, and he will usually just sit there and smile. It is usually only mock anger, and it comes across more as a schtick than anything else. But it brings back memories of working for someone with so much energy and passion, who was not afraid to let his feelings show.

Tom will laugh off my mock anger and remind me that after the number of times he got sh*t from “The Big Guy”, anything that I could throw at him would seem like a light breeze after a tornado.

All that to say that we both have plenty of experience in telling people the truth, even when it contains elements that they do not really want to hear. It is essential to what we offer our clients, because they are likely to have too many of the other types of advisors already.

Steve Legler “gets” business families.
 
He understands the issues that families face, as well as how each family member sees things from their own viewpoint.
 
He specializes in helping business families navigate the difficult areas where the family and the business overlap, by listening to each person’s concerns and ideas.  He then helps the family work together to bridge gaps by building common goals, based on their shared values and vision.
 
His background in family business, his experience running his own family office, along with his education and training in coaching, facilitation, and mediation, make him uniquely suited to the role of advising business families and families of wealth.
 
He is the author of Shift your Family Business (2014), he received his MBA from the Richard  Ivey School of Business (UWO, 1991), is a CFA Charterholder (CFA Institute, 2002), a Family Enterprise Advisor (IFEA 2014), and has received the ACFBA and CFWA accreditations (Family Firm Institute 2014-2015).
 
He prides himself on his ability to help families create the harmony they need to support the legacy they want. To learn how, start by signing up for his monthly newsletter and weekly blogs here.

What the heck is a Heritage Delegate?

When Tom and I set out to name our new venture, we spent a considerable amount of time trying to include just the right mix of elements in our name. We ran through all sorts of combinations before settling in on TSI Heritage Delegates and Associates.

Since we have begun to get our name out there, I must admit that the name does not necessarily roll of the tongue as easily as some of the others we had considered, but we don’t really mind that either. Personally, I do like it quite a bit, even if it does require a bit of an explanation. Or maybe it’s because it requires an explanation.

We consider ourselves very specialized in terms of the market we serve, i.e. business families, especially those that are in transition mode. With such a specific target market, we really wanted to include the proper words to reflect both to WHOM we are offering our services, as well as HOW we can operate and act for those families.

Let’s start with Heritage. The definition we have included, both on our home page and on the reverse of our business cards is: Property passed down from preceding generations by reason of birth; a tradition. This pre-supposes that there is sufficient property, along with the corresponding complexity, to warrant special attention and advice.

We go on to add a few synonyms, again both on the home page and our cards: Legacy, Estate, Patrimony, and Inheritance. Not everyone needs to be concerned with such issues. The average person who may seek help to figure out how to set aside enough money to retire is already well served with plenty of hungry advisors available from a multitude of providers in that market. While we may be able to help guide some people in that area, we do not offer any special experience or expertise in serving that type of clientele.

That covers the WHO we are best able to service. But now we come to the word that is most likely to raise eyebrows when people see or hear our name, Delegates. So here again we provide both a definition and some synonyms to help lay out the way we our positioning ourselves to potential clients.

We use the straightforward definition  “Person of trust designated to act for or represent another”. As synonyms we have: Agent, confidant, deputy, stand-in, substitute. Most family business founders who have become successful enough to accumulate significant assets could probably point to a number of key factors that allowed them to succeed. I am willing to bet that most had some special skill or field of knowledge, and as their business grew they needed to be able to delegate.

One of our biggest challenges is to have these successful business people understand that they should spend the time and make the necessary efforts to make sure that they take care of their heritage, or legacy, in order to ensure that the things that they worked so hard for will continue to serve them and their families both now and long after they are gone.

Many do not know where to begin, or they may not be anxious to get into the detailed work necessary to do it properly. We believe that by finding trusted advisors to whom they can once again DELEGATE, as they did in building their businesses, they can undertake the planning and make the decisions necessary in this important area of their lives.

As for our Associates, these are the variety of specialists in their respective fields to whom we turn, together with the wealth owner, in order to execute the plans we worked out together.

So to answer the question in the title, a “Heritage Delegate” is someone who has experience and expertise in dealing with heritage issues, who is also a person of trust, to the point where they are trusted enough to act for another.

In dealing this way, the wealth owner is relieved of many of the arduous details, giving them peace of mind and allowing them to enjoy their life, knowing that their affairs are being handled in the way they planned, and with two confidants just a phone call away to discuss any questions or new challenges.

As for the TSI part of our name, if you go to our FAQ section of our website, the last question deals with the TSI part of our name. Some day I will write a blog about this as well.

Steve Legler “gets” business families.
 
He understands the issues that families face, as well as how each family member sees things from their own viewpoint.
 
He specializes in helping business families navigate the difficult areas where the family and the business overlap, by listening to each person’s concerns and ideas.  He then helps the family work together to bridge gaps by building common goals, based on their shared values and vision.
 
His background in family business, his experience running his own family office, along with his education and training in coaching, facilitation, and mediation, make him uniquely suited to the role of advising business families and families of wealth.
 
He is the author of Shift your Family Business (2014), he received his MBA from the Richard  Ivey School of Business (UWO, 1991), is a CFA Charterholder (CFA Institute, 2002), a Family Enterprise Advisor (IFEA 2014), and has received the ACFBA and CFWA accreditations (Family Firm Institute 2014-2015).
 
He prides himself on his ability to help families create the harmony they need to support the legacy they want. To learn how, start by signing up for his monthly newsletter and weekly blogs here.