My Notes from a Great Keynote
The Family Firm Institute recently held its annual conference in Chicago, and the subjects covered were enough to fill out my blog calendar for the next few months. But today I’ll concentrate on just one session.
The main FFI conference wrapped up Friday, and then Saturday featured a one-day “research and education” session. I’d never stayed for the extra day before, but the lunchtime keynote alone made it well worth staying.
An Industry Pioneer
The speaker was none other than Craig Aronoff, one of the founders (in 1994) of the Family Business Consulting Group (FBCG) as well as a past President of FFI.
FBCG has been a leader in the field of family business advising and they are held in high esteem by just about everyone connected to this profession.
They’re a leading producer of great content as well, which actually brings me to the first of the three points Aronoff made that I want to share with you today.
Aronoff noted that business families have different ways that they deal with their challenges, and that those who actually hire an outside family business consultant are just a small minority.
The ones who do hire such a specialist are in effect opting for “private lessons”, as he nicely put it.
You can learn to play a musical instrument in lots of different ways, especially with today’s technology. Some people will just go to Youtube and find some instructional videos, while others will hire a teacher to come to their home and offer private lessons. (My analogy, not his)
He went on to actually put some numbers out there, estimating that only somewhere between 2 and 4 percent of family businesses hire family business consultants.
I wouldn’t know where to begin to try to figure out what the number is, but given Aronoff’s experience in a leading position in the industry, I’m inclined to give his numbers plenty of credence.
If so few business families are reaching out and hiring specialists to give them “private lessons”, then what about the rest of the families?
What About Everybody Else?
I guess that the other 96-98% of families try to meet their challenges “on their own” and with help from their other professional advisors from various fields (law, accounting, tax, psychology).
I would hope that more and more of those families are at least benefiting from the ever-increasing amount of great content that is being created and shared in the burgeoning family business space.
When I entered this field, I reflected on how many families I could realistically work with directly during the next 25 years of my career, and I had trouble getting to triple digits.
But that only includes families for whom I would be their provider of the “private lessons”.
Between writing, speaking and teaching, I have the potential to be a resource to so many more families.
Values: Guide & Goals & Glue
One final note on my take-aways from what Aronoff talked about.
(I should also note that the main subject of his talk was research and its relevance to the field of family business, which I’ve decided to ignore in this blog, since it’s not my area of interest or expertise.)
He quickly mentioned the importance of values to family businesses. (Please see: FAMILY BUSINESS: HOW DO VALUES FIT IN? for my take on this issue).
He noted that from his perspective, values provide the 3 G’s:
The Guide, The Goals, and The Glue.
As a fan of anything that helps people understand and remember important concepts, I found this noteworthy.
The Glue and the Grease?
I’ve had a blog idea about glue stuck in my head for a few years now, involving “Glue and Grease”, but I’ve yet to find the substance in nature or industry to complete the analogy.
What I try to bring to families who hire me is a bit of both; glue to help keep things together, but also grease that keeps things running smoothly.
Any engineers or creative types out there who think of a substance that fits this analogy can look forward to a hat-tip and shout out from me for sharing ideas for that blog.
I remain available for private lessons for select families, and I will continue to add and share content to this fascinating field.
Note: Last week this space featured its first ever Guest Blog. Unfortunately I was a less than perfect host for my guest, and when I posted her piece I accidentally dropped a few paragraphs in the middle of it. It has now been corrected, and can be found here: Lessons Learned from Women in Family Business