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Simple vs. Easy. How a Facilitator Can Help

Life is full of simple truths. So many things are so simple to explain and so simple to grasp, in theory, that you would think that everyone would live carefree lives.

But many people make the mistake of believing that “simple” is the same thing as “easy”. It is very easy to fall into that trap. So let me attempt to forever dispel that notion from your mind.

Let’s start with an area of my life with which I have struggled virtually my entire life.

From a very young age I can remember going shopping with my mother for clothes and hearing the saleslady inform her that they did not have these clothes in my size, or that we should look for something in the “husky” department.

Today I prefer to shop in stores that specialize in Big & Tall, since I can actually spend time choosing clothes that I like, as opposed to what they have that might fit me.

The point is that losing weight is a simple concept. Eat less, exercise more, and VOILÀ! If only it were so in real life. Yes, it is simple. But that doesn’t make it easy.

When we move over to the field of business, and specifically family business, there are so many simple things that you can do to make you business grow, make more profit, have a balanced life, keep everyone in the family motivated and happy. Yes, there are many simple things that you can do.

Very few of these simple things are also easy to put into practice. So let’s go back to the weight analogy. My last blog dealt with ignorance, so let’s tie that in too. I have learned a lot about nutrition in the last year since my doctor recommended that I see a nutritionist. I now understand a lot more about the subject, and she has taught me many tricks that have actually started to help me move in the right direction.

But one of the keys is that she always makes sure that we schedule a follow-up visit so that I do not forget that I am somehow accountable to her, since I know that I will be seeing her again in a couple of months. In this way, she is kind of my coach, keeping me on track.

My doc has also mentioned that he may recommend a personal fitness trainer to work with me in a similar way with respect to the exercise part of the equation. We are not there yet, but I already clearly understand where most of the benefits would come from, and that is the follow-up and accountability aspect.

So I have already used the term “coach” and “trainer”, and they both work in their respective fields. Now I want to bring in the term “facilitator”, since it actually has some use and acceptance in the field of family business advising.

During a recent course on facilitation we discussed the term and I happened to mention that the root word “facile” is actually the French word for “easy”. I thought it was a no-brainer (it’s good to speak more than one language!) but the reaction from the others illustrated that I was clearly in the minority.

The dictionary app on my phone does not have an entry for facilitator, but for the verb facilitate, we see: to make easier or less difficult; help forward (an action, a process, etc.) To assist the progress of (a person).

If you have an “A-Ha” moment here and realise that you could use a facilitator in your life your business, or your family, I felicitate you, but that is another French word for another day.

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.

If Ignorance is Bliss, What’s Oblivion?

I am often prone to thinking about abstract concepts, and lately my brain seems to be in overdrive in this area.

Hopefully, I will be able to tie things up into something relevant and useful for those who are interested in business families and the succession issues that they face. Ultimately, that is the goal of this blog.

We have all heard that ignorance is bliss. What that statement means to me is that sometimes when you are unaware of something (usually something bad), you are actually happier than you would be if you were aware of it.

Say you are in a foreign country where you do not understand the language. You pass a sign that says that you have just entered a dangerous area. Assuming you survive, would you have been happier knowing that, or remaining ignorant of the fact?

Now being ignorant of too many things is not necessarily wonderful either, in fact, the term “Ignoramus” is not usually used for flattery.

We are all ignorant of many things, due to the simple fact that no person can know everything. Some people act like they know everything, but that is another subject. They don’t. Nobody knows everything.

But there is another form of ignorance that is slightly different, and it is oblivion. To be “oblivious” is to be unaware. It is not a lack of knowledge of a subject in general, but a lack of realisation in a particular situation.

I get frustrated when I shop in stores with narrow aisles. I like to move quickly, find what I need, get in, and get out. But there are always (well not always, but it seems like always) oblivious people in my way. They stand in the middle of the aisle, sometimes with a shopping cart left in a spot that makes them even harder to get around, and they seem to be there to thwart my progress.

That kind of oblivion (the word “obliviousness” seems better in some ways, but is really not very elegant to say) is relatively benign.

My father was less ignorant than most people. If a subject interested him, he could study it quickly and get a deeper knowledge than many who were much more familiar than him.

But oblivion? Wow, what a difference. Maybe it was his entrepreneurial nature, always moving forward, always focussed on getting something done. Too much focus on one topic almost lends itself to being unaware of other things going on around you at the same time.

How many business families can relate to this one? Dad is hard at work, building the business for his family. What other things is he missing? Anyone? Bueller? Anyone?

So if ignorance is bliss, what is oblivion? It could also be bliss, but my take is that it creates blind spots in some family areas that should not be neglected. And those who are in the family do not always find it easy to confront Dad about these subjects. They have learned that it is best to stay out of his way.

So what do you do if you are in a business family with an oblivious older generation? What is the point of even bringing it up, he probably won’t even listen. Right? You may be surprised.

Start. Start somewhere. Anywhere. Get together and talk in a group. Start conversations about how things are being done and how that affects everyone else. Bring in someone from outside the family if you need to.

Ignorance can be solved by knowledge. Oblivion requires awareness. Too many people are doing too many things while UNAWARE of the unintended consequences of their actions. They need to be made aware, to shake them out of their oblivion. It is never too early to start.

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.

Nothing Succeeds Like Succession

Succession is a huge subject in the realm of family business. It is literally a subject about which complete books have been written. I just want to touch on one particular aspect of it here, because it is too often overlooked.

A lot of time and effort is usually required in order to make sure that a succession is well planned and executed. The process often takes years, as it should when you think about all that is at stake.

When you are looking at your family business and how you are going to hand it over to the next generation, getting it right so that the business will contine to be successful for generations to come is complex and fraught with all kinds of potential stumbling blocks.

Last year I wrote a blog about the difference between “family businesses” and “business families”. There are important distinctions here, and this is precisely where the complications come in.

My premise is that far too often, a great deal of effort is placed into making sure that the business succession is successful, and very little effort is made into making sure the family succession has been handled effectively.

Maybe it is because the business is easier to look at in quantitative terms. The business is still profitable, is still growing, and is still a leader even after the next generation has taken control. Wonderful and congratulations, it is not an easy accomplishment and likely took a great deal of planning and effort to make it so.

I only hope that everyone in your family sees it as the success that the professionals who helped make it happen do.

I believe that the succession of the business is wonderful, but only if it does not happen at the expense of a successful succession of the business family.

This week I listened to an interview with James E. Hughes Jr., who is seen as a guru in the field of family wealth preservation and whose books are now at the top of my reading list. He makes a distinction between the transfer of wealth and the gift of wealth.

The parallel that I am drawing is that the transfer is that of the business, whereas the gift is more about the whole family. Hughes has seen his share of situations where the transfer was emphasized and likely seen as a success by most, but the gift was not made in a fashion anywhere near its potential.

I am still very much a neophyte in the space of family business consulting, as I have only recently begun moving away from managing my own family office and into helping other business families with their transition and succession issues.

But when I hear veterans of the space, or read their books, or follow their courses, I am very much inspired that I have found my sweet spot. I have lived many of the situations that they speak about either through my own family or my wife’s, or through others who work with family businesses on a regular basis.

Too often people are guided by professionals who are well-meaning and knowledgeable, but whose solutions have negative consequences that just aren’t understood. It is relatively easy to find specialists to help you save taxes or set up a trust for your grandchildren.

What is harder to find is someone to help you work through all these proposed solutions and examine their consequences to your FAMILY first, and then only your business.

I believe that the success of your succession should be viewed first by your successors’ ability to succeed. Whether the business is even involved at all at that point should be a secondary consideration.

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 3: Propositions

Over the last 2 weeks we looked at transitions from a couple of different perspectives. We began by looking at some definitions, talking about how transitions are usually the result of a decision, an event, or a realization.

We expanded on that last week, looking at the recognition stage, where the many stakeholders involved each have their own individual points of view, and how most transitions really get acknowledged once a majority of those involved actually recognize that they are now in a transition stage.

This brings us to the Propositions stage, which I like to call the “so what are we gonna do about it?” stage. In the same way that a doctor cannot begin to cure you before knowing what ails you, it is only after the recognition has taken hold that you can move forward into the most important part of all.

Those who know me well will not be surprised to see where I am going with this when I get to the main point here: The key to successfully managing this stage of the transition is communication.

My default strategy in just about everything I do is to always OVER-communicate rather than under-communicate (my wife can attest to this, it drives her crazy).  But when you are in a transition stage, as opposed to more of a status quo period, it becomes even more important to communicate.

I called this the proposition stage, because once we all recognize that we are in a transition, we need to make sure we manage it in the best way possible.  Since we have already mentioned that a number of people are usually involved or at least affected, it stands to reason that their points of view need to be understood at least, and preferably also acknowledged and even incorporated into the way forward.

In fact, communication is a key thread that runs throughout this transition discussion.  Let’s go back to the first part of this. If the transition was kicked off by a decision, communicating the decision is an important step. Great care should be taken to ensure that the decision is communicated in the right way, at the right time, and as broadly as necessary.

If it is driven by an event, communicating the news of the event also needs to be done the right way, insofar as possible. And when a transition comes about as a result of a realization, you can be sure that better communication could have sped up that realization in some way.

The recognition stage is also clearly one where communication is a key component. We talked about how recognition was not just an individual thing, but more about how various stakeholders come to understand that things were no longer status quo, but that they had now moved into a transition.

At the proposition stage, communication can be looked at a bit differently. The decision-maker needs to ensure that they have all the information necessary, and they therefore should have done the necessary communicating to obtain that input.

Once they have everything they need to decide where they now want to go and therefore what the next step(s) should be, proper communication will also help to create the proper feedback loop to ensure that things proceed smoothly going forward.

Transitions are often quite complex to navigate. By breaking them down the way we have in these three blogs, we have tried to look at them in smaller pieces and provide a sort of framework to help discuss things. And the reminder to consider the importance of communication throughout the process will also prove to be helpful in managing your family transitions.

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.

Is this what you were looking for? Part 2

Qualities

Last week we looked at the kinds of services that a multi-family office can provide for families that have significant wealth and the complexities that inevitably come along with that wealth.

This week, we will look at the qualities of the people who typically work in a multi-family office, and try to contrast those qualities with those who earn their living in more traditional roles in the wealth management industry.

Let’s start with group of adjectives that should apply to anyone that you would hire for just about any task: responsive, reliable, honest and sharp. This is pretty basic stuff here, and anyone who is missing any of these qualities will not last long in this or any field.

Now we will add collaborative, loyal, understanding and proactive. These go into the kind of relationship that the family should be looking for, which often require a deeper level of working together and the attitude they would expect from their advisors.

A family looking into working with a multi-family office should also be concerned with the following: transparency, integrity, judgment and empathy.  The professionals you want to deal with when looking after your family wealth need to have all of these attributes in order to be successful and provide the kind of service that is required at this level.

Many of the qualities that I have listed thus far could be considered “motherhood” statements, but I think that they are still important considerations. But now we will kick it up a notch and look at things that become truly important in a family wealth context, and areas where traditional wealth managers may fall short.

Knowing what the head of the family wants without being told (reading their mind) is something I have heard stated a few times. Acting like a part of the family even when you are unrelated, putting the client’s needs before your own, and being ahead of them when thinking through multi-generational issues, are also the kinds of attributes one should look for.

The last batch of qualities I want to bring up are part of the high standards of ethics and professionalism people should look for. Independence of thought and treating the family wealth in the same way they would their own should be part of the picture too.

The most successful family office pros value the process over any product, and the service over any sale.

I believe that wealth owners owe it to themselves and their families to have their family wealth treated in a comprehensive way, by objective advisors who take the time and make the effort to get to know them and their families.

If you have advisors on your side who have all the qualities we have looked at in this blog, you should consider yourself on the right track towards handling your family’s wealth needs for many years to come.

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.

Is THIS what you were looking for?

Part I: Services

I recently joined a LinkedIn group for Family Office professionals, where I have come across some interesting stuff, including a discussion thread that has been ongoing for over a month. The thread started with a question, “As an advisor to a family office, what are the most valuable services and qualities that you can offer that family?”

I cut’n’pasted parts of the best replies into my notes, but many mentioned both services AND qualities. So today I will focus on the services, and save the qualities for a future blog post.

I have organized the services into 5 general groupings, and I will go through them in a systematic way, starting with services applicable to most people, to those that are more typically found in family wealth scenarios.

Advice and guidance are the first category, general enough. As for the family aspect, one member added the qualifiers “dynamic, circular and holistic”. So people are looking for advice, and in a family context, it can get more complex.

The next group looks at the role of coordinator or facilitator. Partnering and communicating are also part of this area. The complexities surrounding family wealth require gathering expert advice from a variety of specialists, and someone needs to keep everything coordinated and make sure everyone knows what their roles are and how the pieces of the puzzle are supposed to fit together.

The next category is that of preserving and protecting wealth. Risk reduction is part of this as well. In contrast to people who concentrate on trying to grow their investments, those who have attained a certain level of wealth will often do well to switch to a mindset of conservation and making it last without squandering it.

The fourth category of services that families look for is a gatekeeper. This is someone to whom the family can refer those who come to them with “great investment ideas”. The wealthy are often targets of schemers and dreamers who would like to find a deep-pocketed investor. Those who do not wish to be bothered can institute a simple policy in which they refer these types to their advisor as a first step.

The other side of the gatekeeper role is to provide valid alternatives in which to invest. Not only should they weed out undesirable places to put money, they must also be able to suggest useful types of investments that are not necessarily available to everyone, and which can be very appropriate for families concentrating on a longer time horizon.

And this brings us to the final service area, and the one that applies to almost every family wealth scenario:  a multi-generation viewpoint. The younger generations have their own human and intellectual capital, and the advisor should be able to help educate them about handling their family wealth and see that their perspectives are not forgotten.

As the family office business model becomes more prevalent, these are the types of services that more and more wealthy families will be seeking. Many traditional wealth advisors are moving to create the type of advisory service to meet these needs. I believe that it is much easier said than done.

At TSI Heritage, we believe that getting all of these services under one roof will be hard to find for all but the wealthiest families. For those intrigued by the service offerings, it is good to know that a decentralized alternative exists for the “moderately wealthy”.

Is THIS what you were looking for?

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 Can You Learn from a FOX? Part 3

Open Architecture? Isn’t that a Computer Term?

This will be the third and final blog post on ideas that came out of the recent Family Office eXchange workshop that we recently attended in NYC. In my latest post, I mentioned that this term through me for a bit of a loop when I first heard it during the personal intros that all the participants were asked to make.

A man was describing the Multi-Family Office that he worked for, and was proudly stating that they were 100% “open architecture”. I recognized that phrase, having heard it in the past, but I was pretty sure that it had something to do with computer programming.

Putting it into the context of what the man was saying, and hearing it again a couple of other times later that first morning, it began to make sense to me. But the surprising part for me was not that this firm was 100% “open architecture”; it was that any other firm would NOT be. Let me explain.

This man was right to be proud of his firm, because their policy was to offer their clients all sorts of investment products and services, offered by all sorts of companies. That sounds great, and it is. But what, then, do other firms do? This sounds like a great idea, offering your clients choices, allowing them to pick and choose various investment products and services from every possible vendor.

But that is my point. It is so obvious to me, and hopefully anyone reading this, that this is the way that advisors can best serve the needs of their clients.  So why doesn’t everyone do it?

My father used to say that there are really only two reasons to do something: for love, or for money. When some advisor suggests that you invest in the financial products that just happen to come from the same employer that they work for, do you think that they are doing it for love? Me neither.

The move to open architecture is long overdue, but it is proceeding at a snail’s pace. A Google search of the term landed me on the website of a large US trust company, which had a brief document that talked about the use of open architecture by trustees.

“Conflicts of interest often occur when institutions offer only proprietary (in-house) products”. It also spoke of “clients’ uneasiness over lack of objectivity”, and ended with a statement about a new definition of the term “trusted advisor” that “provides the best advice possible without limitations on choices of investment options”

That document was dated less than a year ago. What took you so long? Then I came across a recent issue of Barron’s magazine with a story on the subject. It noted that some firms started offering open architecture  “Ten or more years ago”, but that others are just getting around to it.

Unfortunately for Canadians, many investment trends seem to take a while to reach across the border. A bit like multi-family offices. But they do go well together. We don’t have any products to sell, so it’s a no-brainer for us.

Back to my dad again: “Selling is reducing your inventory. Marketing is solving the customer’s problem.”  Personally, I hate selling, and I always have. The only thing we are “selling” now is our services, which, when you think about it, is really marketing. We know that there are people facing the same sorts of situations and problems that we have dealt with for years.  And we know that we can help solve them.

I always did like marketing better than selling.

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.

Getting to Know You

I consider myself a bit of a political junkie, so the current election in Quebec is a lot of fun for me to watch.  The TV debates take on huge importance since many casual observers choose whom to vote for based solely on this very limited exposure to what the candidates have to say. The debates are a key opportunity for voters to get to feel like they “know” the person for whom they will eventually cast their ballot.

Of course watching someone on TV for an hour or so is not really the best way to get to know someone, but in this case, it is often sufficient, insofar as it often confirms feelings that we already have based on other information that we have read or discussed with family and friends.

On a more personal note, we do have some relationships in our lives where getting to know the people that we deal with is much more important, especially when it comes to dealing with issues involving our loved ones and our finances, and the long term aspects of these key areas of our lives.

As parents it is normal to want to meet our children’s friends, teachers, coaches, etc. When it comes to our money, we like to think that we know the people who are managing things for us, but in many cases the bond is actually quite superficial.

Sure, when you open an account for any kind of investment, you spend a lot of time filling out forms with all sorts of information about yourself, including your net worth, your risk tolerances, and other tidbits that put you in some sort of risk profile. These forms have all become mandatory over the past decades because some investors were badly treated by “professionals” somewhere along the line.

So governments imposed KYC rules, (“Know Your Client”) which are supposed to stop brokers from loading up a widow’s account with speculative positions that could end up sending her to the local food banks and thrift shops once these investments go sour.

The relationships we have with those who manage the things that are most important to us work both ways, of course. We like to think that the people who are working for us are trustworthy and that we know them well. But they should also know as much as possible about us if they are to do a proper job for us. Depending on circumstances though, this is not always easy or possible.

When entrusting someone with important tasks and assets, it is always nice to feel like you understand the character of the people that you are dealing with. When you deal with someone who was recommended to you by someone you trust, that can be helpful, compared to just finding someone from the phone book.

So all this brings me to these blog posts that I have been writing here for the past few months. I try to write them using simple terms and language, so that even my preteen kids can understand them. And for the most part they do. I know, because I ask them to read them and then tell me if my thoughts are clearly expressed and if they understand what I have written.

They often ask me “who reads these blogs?” My honest answer is, “I don’t know”.
I then add that I am much less concerned with wide distribution of my messages than the ability to provide a deep understanding of what kind of person I am.

Tom and I are offering our services to what is admittedly a narrow segment of society: families with significant assets who are dealing with how they want those assets to serve the members of their families for the long term. Nobody is going to hire us before they have a very good feeling about who we are, how we think, what is important to us, how we work, and how we communicate.

As I have told my kids and anyone else about this blog, I want anyone to be able to come to our website and spend 20 minutes or 3 hours and just read these blog posts that we are writing.  I like to think that after anyone spends a bit of time reading these, they will have a pretty good idea who they are dealing with.

We trust that most people will get the impression that we are “two real square guys”, as my father would have put it. Yes, kids, that was meant to be a compliment in the “old days”.  Back to politics for a second, your grandfather also suggested to people NOT to go into politics, because then “even your friends with think you are an A**hole”.

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.