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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.

What Does a Sounding Board Sound Like?

Everyone has heard the one about the tree that falls in the forest with nobody around to hear it. Does it make a sound? Probably. Does it make a difference whether it makes a sound or not? Not really.

But what about a person who has ideas about what they think they should do, but doesn’t have an impartial, knowledgeable resource to bounce these ideas off?

Surely they would like to make sounds by talking to a trusted advisor, who would hear their ideas and provide arguments for and against their plan, as an unbiased person who is not billing them by the tenth of an hour, or a yes-man just trying to keep his job.

An ideal sounding board has a combination of qualities that are not always easy to find in one person.  And someone who might be a good sounding board in one situation may be a bad fit in another. So finding the right match is even more difficult.

A person who has successfully run their own business for many years must be good at dealing with all sorts of people, on a variety of subjects, and in many different situations. But it can be a lonely job.

This is why groups like the Young Presidents Organization and Canadian Association of Family Enterprise have had some success. They are a place where these company leaders can exchange with others who operate at their high level.

But these relationships also have their limits, since these contacts may not relate well to your industry or there may even be competitive reasons not to exchange too much information.

While running a company, most CEO’s will develop a good rapport with their CFO, since they are involved in so many important decisions. Or in a family business, the founder may develop a great working relationship with one or more of their children who they are grooming to one day replace them. Unfortunately, these kinds of relationships do not always survive a business transition.

One problem that we have seen on numerous occasions is with business owners who have sold some, most, or all of their operating businesses. Once they get over the divestiture, they are now in a new and different realm, and they are not always sure to whom they should turn.

Selling a business rids you of a whole slew of problems and worries, but it also creates new situations and new realities that need to be dealt with. As I have heard it put nicely, someone who is comfortable running a $25 million company, may not be as comfortable managing $25 million of proceeds after the sale.

So what does a sounding board sound like? It probably says things like this: “are you sure that you want to go in that directions?, “have you thought about doing it like this?” , “okay, sounds pretty good, but what about ____ ?”, “let me talk to someone I know who has done something similar so I can get some ideas about how to go about it”.

People who are good sounding boards are not necessarily easy to find, but they do exist. You just have to know where to look. We would be happy to discuss this subject with those seeking this kind of resource, so we can get started on the most important component in such a relationship: trust.

Once you have a trusted advisor (or two) to use as a sounding board, you will not want to give them up.

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.

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.