Posts

Coming Out of the Dark

It was about this time last year that Tom and I started to seriously discuss the business venture that has now become TSI Heritage. Quite a few things have changed for me as a result, but I wanted to share one in particular.

You see, as the head of a Single-Family Office, I preferred to keep a very low profile. When people find out that you manage family money, a few things happen.

Typically, many form an instant opinion about you, not unlike the Steve Forbes scenario that I discussed in last week’s post.  But still others instantly see you as the perfect recipient to their great sales pitch, for whatever financial product that they just happen to be peddling.

So for those reasons, and a few others, keeping a low profile was the way to go for me. And I did not mind. Some of the people who know me may think of me as an extrovert, but I honestly feel more like a natural introvert, so laying low also works with my personality.

So what changed? Well, all of a sudden, now that we decided to offer family-office services to other families, not only can I no longer lay low, I actually have to “sell” myself, and the services that Tom and I now provide to other families.

It is as if I had been hiding, and am now forced out of the dark and into the bright light, saying “Look at me, I can help!” Ugh!

I have always preferred the soft sell, whichever side of the table I happen to be on. When people come on too strong with their sales pitch to me, my guard immediately goes way, way up, and I am usually turned off for good. Now that I am the one who needs to be the pitchman, I certainly prefer the soft sell even more.

In fact, when we started, I told Tom that I wanted to be so exclusive with our service offer that we should only accept clients who were prepared to beg us to take them on.

Obviously we are not that stringent in evaluating potential clients, but it is quite clear that in order for a relationship such as this to work long term, it needs to be a good fit for both parties.

With this venture as in all others, I continue to prefer to crawl before walking and then to walk before running.  So, marketing-wise, my preference has been to go slowly as well.

We set up our website in order to explain our thinking and our proposition.  There will be a few changes to the site coming soon as well, and one change will be to highlight the blog section, as it has become the liveliest part of the site.

Tom and I have also become quite active on LinkedIn, which is a very useful networking tool, more so than I had imagined. If you work in any business or professional capacity and you are not yet on LinkedIn, I strongly encourage you to not only sign up, but to really get into it.

There are plenty of other things that continue to evolve in our venture, and we look forward to moving things forward in 2013. As for coming out of the dark, I understand that the first year is the hardest, so you can expect to hear more from me. But I promise to stick with the soft sell.

 

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.

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.

Peace of Mind Has Many Forms

This week I had the “pleasure” of undergoing my first colonoscopy. Thankfully, it was really no big deal, and even more importantly, nothing was found and I don’t have to have the procedure again for five years. The biggest benefit is the peace of mind that I now have, assured that there is nothing to worry about.

This is just one small example of taking care of your affairs so that you minimize the number of things that you need to be concerned about.

Whenever I get a renewal notice for an insurance premium, I usually feel a sense of relief when I make the payment, knowing that I am good for another year of not having to think about it, and knowing that I am covered in case something bad happens.

As a parent, you never really stop worrying about your children, but as they get older and learn to be more self-reliant, there is great satisfaction in seeing them overcome what used to be obstacles.

Just knowing that they now know how to swim, ride a bike safely, can go to the bathroom by themselves in a public place or walk to the corner store and get something for you, are all stages that they go through, and each provides their parents with a little bit more peace of mind in knowing that they can be trusted with their independence.

On the other end of the life spectrum, elderly parents often need to be cared for, and surely finding a place with caring staff, good facilities and enjoyable activities serves to provide peace of mind when that time comes.

In between the times in our lives when we have other people worrying about things for us, there is the part where we are responsible for looking after ourselves. What can we do to make sure that we maximize our peace of mind during those years?

I have already touched on a few of the areas. The colonoscopy is a small part of the making sure that you are being properly followed by medical professionals who will hopefully be able to spot anything early enough to be treated. Insurance is something that falls into another category; if you don’t have a go-to person for your insurance needs, you probably should have one.

Of course I would be remiss if I did not talk about the importance of making a will, and keeping it up-to-date. The whole subject of how much you tell your family about what is in the will is too big a subject to be properly treated here, and it will be the subject of a future blog post.

For now though, you should know that I am usually in favour of more communication and not less, so as to minimize the potential for misunderstandings.

Making sure that more people fully understand your wishes can go a very long way to making sure that things will be taken care of the way you want them to be.

Making your family aware of your wishes is the first important step. The second is making sure that at least one or two other, non-family people are aware is the second step. Having a notary and/or a trusted advisor on board can provide you with more peace of mind than anything else.

The problem is that these are not subjects that most people enjoy talking about. But if you think about the added peace of mind that you will feel once you have taken care of everything, maybe that will help you get moving.

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.

Great Expectations

The London Olympics came to an end a few days ago, and watching the results over the two weeks, I found it fascinating to note the differences in the happiness of some of the medal winners compared to others.

It might seem normal that a gold medal winner would be happier than the winner of the silver, who in turn would be happier than the recipient of the bronze.

But there are of course many more things at play. For example, someone who had been expected to bring home gold would be disappointed with anything else, and someone who was not even on anyone’s radar for medal contention would likely be thrilled with a bronze.

Then there are differences in what country you represent. The USA team and many of their fans seem to believe that if you do not win the gold, then you are simply an also-ran. In contrast, Canadians almost always take great pride in taking home the Bronze.

So, is there anything wrong with this picture? We can all look at these differences and draw our own conclusions. Personally, I have no problem with any of them, as they are debatable, explainable, and rational in their own ways. What they all come down to in the end, of course, is the level of EXPECTATION.

Of all the things that go into one’s happiness, I believe that one’s expectation level plays a huge role, larger than most people would even think to believe. I want to break this down into three areas: 1) self-expectations, 2) family/friends/colleagues, and 3) outside of our control.

We have the most control over our own personal expectations, but some people take this to the extreme and are too hard on themselves when they fail to live up to some of their hopes and dreams. I can still picture some of the Olympians crying on the podium because they were not on the top step. Again, that is neither good or bad, just an observation. Perhaps they would not have even made the team if they did not have such focus and belief in their ability to shoot for the top step.

Obviously the other extreme of not having high enough expectations for yourself can have consequences that lead to disappointment as well. If you never push yourself to achieve anything, or think that you are not good enough to accomplish anything worthwhile, then you are not likely to achieve of accomplish much at all.

As for those people around us, anyone who has children knows how important it is to instill in them some kind of desire to find areas in their lives where they can focus on achieving great things, and encouraging them to do their best. We set up an expectation level in them, which goes a long way into how they grow up and where they should focus their priorities. How we help them deal with failures along the way also shapes them in fundamental ways. Helping them revise their expectations based on their abilities as they grow up becomes one of the most important tasks of any parent.

Outside of our immediate family there are other family members, friends, and coworkers that we deal with on a regular basis. Without getting into too much detail, let me just say that having realistic expectations with respect to what they can and will do for us is important if we do not want to continually be disappointed. There is a limit to how much control you can exert on most others.

When it comes to employees or professionals, however, I believe that it is important to raise the expectations bar. If you are paying people, you need to hold them accountable for what you are getting in return for the money you shell out. Often easier said than done, since there are usually negatives that arise from making changes in these areas, but constantly paying people who never seem to stop disappointing you will surely wear you down in the long run.

Lastly, there are the things over which we have no control, or at least very little. The weather, the economy, the stock market, and politics all come to mind.  I don’t think there is any better way to end this blog than with the serenity prayer, which summarizes many of my feelings:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

Amen to that!