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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.

Stan Did Things Differently

Yesterday I went to a funeral. Like most people, I really don’t like going to funerals, and certainly even fewer people actually look forward to them. But they always make me think, often about subjects that we don’t think about as often as we should.

A funeral brings together so many people from so many different parts of the person’s life, and even then the assembled crowd will likely only represent a small portion of the people whose lives one touched in some way.

The one I attended yesterday was a bit different for me in that I did not see a single familiar face, and not one person there knew me either. That made it easier in some ways since the tears that I witnessed were all those of strangers. But it was also more difficult, as my misery had no company.

I have attended funerals of people I had never met before, most often in cases of family members of friends or acquaintances, where my presence was out of respect for the person that I knew who had lost a loved one. But yesterday was the opposite. The man who passed away, “Stan”, was the only one I knew. I knew a bit about his family, but I had never met them.

Stan was a business associate that I had known for several years, and we had worked together on a couple of very important occasions. I liked Stan as a person and respected him as a businessman. That we had spoken recently and planned to meet for lunch sometime soon made it even harder to deal with his passing.

Our paths had crossed a number of times and he always stayed in touch. When I saw his name on my called ID, I always answered with a smile on my face, and in my voice. When we met face to face, it was also with mutual smiles and a firm handshake.

So as I sat there in the chapel listening to the words and hymns, I started to wonder what it was that made me enjoy Stan’s company and respect him as a person. And it should come as no surprise that the things that came up were just about all things that we have in common.

Stan did things differently. He was not “just another _______”. He had a lot going for him and did not see things the way most people did. He did not feel the need to be just like everyone else, even when fitting in would have made his life easier.

He was smart and stubborn, but in a good way, as far as I was concerned. He earned my respect because I understood that when he represented me, I knew that he was concerned for me first. I loved that about Stan. But unfortunately that made him an exception. I truly believe that the world would be a better place if there were more people like Stan.

Stan’s niece started off the eulogy reading a text written by her father, Stan’s younger brother. Just seeing him from afar, it was clear why he had asked his daughter to speak for him. We all heard of their great childhood memories growing up together and some of the silly stories that always do wonders for brightening the mood at these otherwise sad events.

Stan’s daughter spoke next. She fought back her tears courageously as she talked about what a great father he was and how much she and her brother looked up to him. I had never met Stan’s children, but having known him it was not hard to tell that they were his flesh and blood.

I hope that what they learned from him will stay with them for a long time. Look around you at those you will leave behind some day, waaaay off in the future, we hope. Don’t take things for granted. And don’t be afraid to do things your own way.

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 2

Transactions Vs. Transitions

My last blog was about the FOX workshop that Tom and I attended in NYC a little over a week ago.  I ended it off talking about the “discovery” process, which can be summarized as follows: If you want to get somewhere, first you need to figure out where you are now.

It all sounds so simple, but as I often say, simple does not always mean easy. In fact, it rarely does.  What does help to do difficult things, though, is to have them explained in simple terms. I pride myself on being able to do that.

One of the major themes that came through at the FOX conference was that advisors in our business are sought after in times of transition.  It is also at these times that our value to our clients is most apparent.

The transition we most often associate with family businesses is succession. It is one of those subjects that seems to get put off, for a couple of major reasons. Number one is that the founder is too busy running their business to “waste” time on such things. The second reason is that it is not as easy as it sounds.

It is simple to say that you should have a succession plan, but not easy to come up with one and put it in place. But succession is just one of the major transitions that come up, and unfortunately most of the other transitions suffer from the same “sounds simple, but isn’t easy” reality.

At the conference the attendees related stories about selling a business, divorce, remarriage, illness, death, children entering or leaving the business, family disputes, reconstituted families, placing people in nursing homes and even in rehab. We pretty well ran the gamut of things that can happen to a business or wealthy family.

The point I want to make here is that at times like these, it is reassuring to be assisted by people who help you focus on the big picture. These are major events, and often major transitions in the evolution of the family.
Many advisors look at only one small portion of the picture, and that is usually fine as well. But allow me to bring in the other word from the title of this blog: Transactions. A transaction is simply a one-time event.

You buy 1000 shares of a stock in your account, and you get a transaction slip. You go to your notary to sign a document to sell a property, it gets recorded, you get an invoice; more transactions.

These transactions are usually handled by specialists who handle these types of transactions every day, all day long. You cannot expect them to have the big picture view to advise you when it comes to the transitions in your life.

It is not always easy to find the kind of advice that you are looking for. Trust is a HUGE issue, as it should be. But right along with trust is objectivity. Yes, objectivity.

An objective advisor is someone who helps you decide what to do and how to do it, without regard to how he/she (the advisor) can benefit. Please do not forget about this when deciding whose counsel to take.

I will deal with that in my next blog, where we will get into another new term that we came across at FOX, that of Open Architecture.  It took me a minute or two to figure out what the others were talking about when they used that term, and I needed to explain it to Tom at the coffee break.

I will put up a blog on the subject in the coming week. I hope it will be informative, and as usual, I will try to keep it from being technical.

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!