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Liquidity Events in a FamBiz: Pros and Cons

Liquidity Events in Family Business

Part 1 of 2 – The Pros

 

The expression “liquidity event” is not necessarily well understood among the general population. Let’s take a look at it from the Family Business point of view.

Essentially, a liquidity event takes place when the owners of a business, in this case a family, sell a substantial portion of their business (either shares OR assets) to an outside party, for cash or another form of asset that can more readily be turned into cash quickly.

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5 Things you Need to Know: Family Inheritance

Family Inheritance Advice - How to avoid problems

Family Inheritance

While few people actually relish thinking about the details of the inheritance they will leave their family when they die, most do spend at least some time wondering how to make sure that things will go well among their heirs.

We’ve all heard of families where relationships were harmed, sometimes beyond repair, as the result of how this important question was dealt with. If you do not want to be one of THOSE families, please read on.

Also note that these are five things everyone should know and understand, but that doesn’t make them an exhaustive list of important considerations, or even a “top 5 list” for every family situation. This blog should never substitute for legal advice for your unique family situation.

 

  1. Big or Small, the same issues arise

You don’t have to have a net worth in the gazillions to be affected by the potential negative fallout from poor decisions in this area.

Siblings have been known to never speak to each other again as the result of parental decisions that were made that surprised everyone, even in cases where the inheritance barely covered the cost of the funeral.

Rule 1: Don’t assume that there isn’t enough to worry about

 

  1. A WILL is Key

It should go without saying that every adult needs a will. Unfortunately, statistics show that many do not.

Many people who don’t likely assume that they have plenty of time to take care of it, you know, “later”. There are cemetaries full of people who guessed wrong on the question of exactly when they were going to die.

You need a will, and it really should be current. A good rule of thumb is to review it every five years.

Rule 2: Make sure you have a legal will, no excuses!

 

  1. A Will is NOT Enough

Now if you have your will in place and are thinking you are in the clear, well, sorry, we still have (at least) 3 more items here!

You have decided to leave certain assets to certain people in a certain way, and it’s all written up legally in a will. Here is the important question: do the people who will inherit your assets KNOW what they will be inheriting?

At least some form of basic communication is absolutely essential. If you haven’t already done so, please make sure that everyone understands what is going to happen. If you can let them all know together, at the same time, even better.

Letting them assume, and having different people understand different versions of it is a sure recipe for trouble.

Rule 3: Your heirs should know what is coming

 

  1. “Pre-Mediation” Can Make Sense

When a dispute goes into mediation, parties are brought together, and along with a neutral third party, they examine everyone’s interests and work towards a satisfactory conclusion.

The idea of pre-mediating is to put the scenario on the table with the parties before it actually comes into play.

The main point is that if you leave things to your heirs in the way you planned, AND that will cause problems after you are gone, why would you not want to re-adjust while you still can?

If this idea scares you, then that is a sign that yours is actually precisely the kind of situation that could most benefit from this.

Rule 4: Play out the details while you still can

 

5 “Surprise” is NOT a Good Thing 

I have heard Tom Deans (author of Willing Wisdom) speak several times. He describes the sound that many lawyers tell him they’ve heard from at least one surprised heir at the reading of many a will.

It is difficult to convey in writing, but imagine a gasp with an audible “aaargh” or “euhhhh”.

That surprised sound from any of your heirs is NOT what you should be going for.

Rule 5: Let your family grieve and celebrate your life, not shake their heads in disbelief.

 

If you know someone who should be thinking about these questions but may have been avoiding them, please feel free to forward this to them. You will both be glad you did.

 

Getting Dirty without Getting Stung

Getting Dirty without Getting Stung

Two Kinds of People

There are two kinds of people in the world, those who don’t mind getting dirty, and others who would rather just stay clean.

That’s an oversimplification, but let’s just roll with it. If forced to classify myself as one or the other, I am quite OK with being in the dirty group.

This week I was involved in organising an annual fundraising dinner at a non-profit where I have been volunteering for the past seven years.

During the evening, I had the pleasure of presenting an award to someone I have worked closely with from my first day there.

 

Dirty versus Clean

The award was named for a colleague volunteer of ours who passed away last year. The three of us had spent many a Thursday afternoon getting dirty together, distributing food in the organisation’s food bank.

It struck me that few of our fundraiser “committee people” or those who attend our evening events ever actually see the day-to-day workings of this community charity, much less get involved “on the ground floor”.

Likewise the people who come and volunteer in various capacities during the day are not those who typically come out for the evening events.

There are exceptions, but in general there are the “blue collar” types who don’t mind getting dirty, and “white collar” types who prefer to stay clean. One group contributes time and effort on the ground, the other supplies donations and connections at a higher level.

 

We need both types

Everyone who helps out is needed and appreciated, I’m not making judgements here, and all contributions are welcomed and gratefully received. My point is that most people feel at home in one group, but not both.

Likewise, in the realm of family wealth, advisors who work with legacy families exhibit a similar dichotomy, but from a slightly different angle.

Some work directly with the family members, while other professionals work in other specialized fields and bring particular expertise to the table for those families, but don’t typically meet all family members.

 

Content versus Process

On the content side, lawyers draw up shareholder agreements, insurance specialists create the best combination of policies to take care of tax liabilities, and advisors craft perfect estate plans, yet seldom interact with the actual family members whom they ultimately serve.

On the process side, we understand family dynamics, facilitation, mediation and coaching. Many come from a psychology background, and are more akin to blue collar, ground floor, and “it’s OK to get dirty” types.

The content/transactional advisors work mainly for firms of professional partners, who specialize in knowing the laws and regulations and have a knack for creating structures and documents that are used by the family as part of the estate planning process. To me, these folks are more akin to “white collar”, upstairs, and “I prefer to stay clean” group.

Once again, both groups are important, absolutely needed, and thankfully available to serve the family. There is a symbiotic relationship here, but who is serving whom?

 

Really Feeling It

In the charity example, the daytime staff and volunteers see the benefits of their work first hand. Those who come out only for the fundraising events are often told of what goes on, and they are often amazed but never really “feel” it.

Most advisors to families will recognize proverbial hornet’s nests in family situations and steer clear of them, not wanting to get stung, nor leave the family in worse shape.

Working closely with the family members, doing much more “process” work, I see the hornet’s nests too, but I don’t necessarily run away from them, instead I often prefer to point them out.

I am not suggesting that the content people get involved in the process stuff, but if they better understood the implications their work has on their ultimate clients (the whole family) they could do an even better job.

 

Connecting the Two

When donors come out to a charity event, we try to show them how important the work is that we do for the end clients.

Those who bridge these gaps, in charities and in families, are always necessary, yet not always appreciated. But we will always do it, because it feels so good and so right to make these important connections.

We don’t mind getting dirty, and we are not afraid to get stung.

 

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?

 

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Sweet Secluded Rendez-Vous

Creating Pathways for families

rendezvous2016_archive

As I hinted last week, I will attempt to review my experience at my third trip to Rendez-Vous, the annual get together of the Purposeful Planning Institute.

A couple of months back when I attended the annual CAFÉ Symposium, I recapped my trip with a “Top 10 List” of the event. For Rendez-Vous, I’ve decided on 2 “Top 5 Lists”.

The Top 5 of the sessions I attended, will be followed by a Top 5 of the best things about attending Rendez-Vous, from my own biased perspective, of course.

 

Top 5 Sessions 

 

  1. Collaboration Day

Rendez-Vous (R-V) officially got under way on Wednesday evening, but this year there was something new in the mix, and many attendees took advantage of it.

Preceding the usual R-V was another conference called Fusion Collaboration (FC), aimed at introducing more technical practitioners (lawyers and CPA’s) into the purposeful work that attracts others to R-V.

The final day of FC was dubbed “Collaboration Day”, and through keynotes, break-outs and an interactive video case with roundtable discussions, lots of valuable lessons were learned on just what it takes for various professionals to work together on solving real family issues for clients.

 

  1. Helping or Hurting

Karen Laprade and Kyle Harrison’s breakout session once again did not disappoint, evident by the fact that they ran over time yet not a single person noticed or even looked at the door.

The real life case stories they shared, and the input that they asked for and got from everyone was just the type of interaction and collaboration that you really only get at Rendez-Vous.

 

  1. FRED Talks

A take-off on “TED Talks”, a series of five tight 18-minute talks from a variety of experts shed light on everyting from addiction to widows finding love again, to ways that Millenials are changing how families communicate.

 

  1. Jaffe & Grubman on Cultural Differences

Dennis and Jim presented work on the three dominant cultural styles around the world, and talked about how global families have to deal with new realities arising from differences in how things play out in a home culture when the rising generation is exposed to other cultures through education and marriage.

 

  1. Gratitude

The opening keynote on Thursday by Robert Emmons was about how gratitude is so important to success and happiness, yet it costs nothing. In fact, the more you give, the more you usually get back.

And he wasn’t just making stuff up, he has a PhD in this, and shared ways to demonstrate and share our gratitude, and hopefully make that a lifelong habit.

 

 

Top 5 Reasons to Attend

 

  1. Welcoming Vibe

From the first time I attended Rendez-Vous, the vibe was what hit me. This is not a conference where experts with big egos pontificate to the wannabes, it is the opposite of that.

Every single attendee and presenter has always been more than open to talk about the issues that we all face in helping families achieve better results with their planning.

 

  1. Community

As this was my third year in a row attending, I am now at the point where I truly see and feel the community aspect of PPI, which dovetails with the welcoming vibe.

Everyone seems to share my feeling that we need to spread the message to the masses, and nobody is trying to “corner the market” because there will be plenty of work for all of us when a majority of families recognize the importance of this work.

 

  1. Dutch Treat

Small groups of attendees go to a restaurant and chat about whatever they want, and really get to know each other. This adds so much to the camaraderie of the event.

 

  1. Collaboration Unifies everything

It becomes clear that PPI is all about getting professionals from various fields to collaborate in service of their family clients.

 

  1. Jay Hughes

How could I not mention Jay Hughes? PPI’s first Laureate, and most deservedly so, Jay was present throughout, and I have rarely met a kinder, more humble man.

Thanks to Jay and John A. Warnick, PPI continues to spread its influence and grow. See you at Rendez-Vous 2017. Get off the fence, be there.

 

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When your Greatest Desire is also your Greatest Fear

Growing and sustainable family business

This week I was privileged to be invited to a lunchtime speech by David Lansky of the Family Business Consulting Group. Lansky is based in Chicago, but being a Montreal native, the good folks at Pembroke Private Wealth Management invited him to speak to their clients in Montreal and Toronto.

His presentation was entitled “Family Wealth Continuity”, and I went into it fully expecting to nod my head up and down throughout, and he did not disappoint. I am not a big “note taker” when I attend presentations, preferring to be fully attentive lest I miss something while I am jotting stuff down.

Occasionally though, someone will say something that I just have to write down, and then it almost always gets turned into a blog post.

So here is, from page 10 of his Powerpoint deck:

“What benefactors most want…they also most fear.”

Wow. I had never heard anyone put it that way. Let’s walk our way through this a bit.

People work hard to create wealth for their family. We all know many families who have done an extraordinary job of doing just that. We don’t often ask them why, because the answer seems so obvious.

They work for their wealth so that their family can be happy, have nice things, live in a safe place, go to nice places, have access to great healthcare, and lots of smiliar reasons.

They want their children to have a great life, and very often they don’t want their kids to have to work as hard as they did.

So far, so good. Somewhere along the way, though, especially in families who have done a really good job of creating more wealth than they could ever use in several lifetimes, some doubts creep in, and these parents start too worry about leaving their kids too much money

This brings back a memory of a great quote I recall from a CAFÉ Symposium a couple of years ago. Mike “Pinball” Clemons, a CFL Hall of Famer and winner of Grey Cups as both a player and head coach said, “Make sure that your family members are the beneficiaries of your family business, NOT its victims”.

Sometimes there is “too much wealth”, sometimes there are disputes between family members, sometimes both of these things are present, along with a host of other complicating factors.

Unfortunately, the fact that wealth can be a blessing or a curse will always be with us.

I have been running several questions through a model that I am working on to help explain and simplify things, and its basic elements are What, Why and How.

Allow me to try to demonstrate not only my thoughts on this important topic, but also use the three-stage model.

We start by looking at the What, i.e. what we are trying to do, in simple terms. We are trying to pass our wealth down to our children.

Now, we need to step back and ask ourselves Why we want to do this. So we talk about the things I mentioned off the top, having nice things, living in a nice place, making sure our kids don’t have to worry about money, etc.

Now comes the hard part, the How. At this point we have to look into the future and step forward and figure out all of the details around How we can do What we want to do, and have these details be aligned with the Why we want to do them.

My main point is that families can and do pass wealth down to their children without the fear that other families experience.

The major difference with the families who do that well and many others is that they are very careful with the How, and they take the time to talk with the entire family about the What, and the Why, and the How.

It is not always easy to have these critical conversations, but having them is what separates the successful families from the ones where the fear is justified.

It can be done, but it doesn’t just happen by itself. But then again, nothing important ever does.