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Transparently Trustworthy Transitions

Once again I begin with a mouthful of a headline. Three big words, and loaded words at that. Let’s look at each one individually.

Transitions are periods of time during which you go from one state to another. Transparency is doing things openly, where you do not hide anything from anyone. Trustworthy is an adjective we use to describe things that we trust, or have confidence in.

Now let’s combine the words into pairs.

If something is transparently trustworthy, it is because the people affected have confidence in what was done because they could see it happen openly.

If a transition is transparent people see it happening and can follow along with the process through its various stages.

And if you want your transition to be trustworthy, it is much better if it is done done transparently.

Let’s look at a few examples, all about men who started and ran family businesses, and the transitions that they faced as they got older. The transitions involved the businesses and the wealth they created, and the impact that those had on their families.

We will start with “Peter”.  Peter has two children, both of whom worked in his businesses at times. He has been winding down some of his companies over the past few years, but currently no other family members work for him. He seems to be transitioning himself into retirement mode, but has not spoken about his plans with his children.

His children are his heirs, but remain out of the loop as to what his plans are. They don’t really know what to expect, and they seem to get along much better with their mother. But since Peter has been divorced for many years and now lives with another woman, there is a lack of knowledge and trust in what Peter will do with his wealth.

Then there is Robert. He built a business in which all 4 of his children worked as teenagers. His oldest son worked there as the heir apparent, but about a dozen years ago Robert received a generous offer for the company and sold it.

Since cashing out, the children, now into their mid-fifties, have continued to live their lives as before, expecting an eventual inheritance. Now into his 80’s, Robert is experiencing quite a few signs of dementia.

The family seems to recognize that this is a transition in which they must become involved, but there does not seem to be much urgency, and they are unsure of how to go about it. I strongly suggest that they do everything as transparently as possible, so that everyone will have confidence in the results.

Then there is Stewart. He built a business and sold the operations when he was in his 50’s. His son worked in the business, and continued to take care of the real estate and other revenue-producing assets.

When he was diagnosed with cancer, he went home and wrote detailed instructions for his wife and three children to follow after he passed away. He called a famiy meeting to explain everything. After he passed away, the family began holding annual meetings during which they make major decisions by consensus.

You must first recognize that you are in a transition stage, and then figure out how you will move through it. When you share the information and the process with those who are affected by it things go more smoothly.

You do not have to ask for permission from your heirs to handle your assets the way you see fit, but you should understand that transparency in your actions will breed trustworthiness in the results.

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.

Having Conversations (Not just communicating)

I often harp on the need to communicate well. That means doing it clearly and often, among other things. Communication takes many forms, especially with today’s technology. The many forms help with the frequency, but unfortunately they have not done much to help with clarity.

In business families and their family businesses, communication becomes especially important. When people relate to each other through the business AND through the family, the relationships tend to become more complex.

With this complexity can come a multitude of potential problems and misunderstandings that stem from human emotions.  An effort to communicate regularly and clearly can often help to minimize problems, but sometimes the emotions alone can inhibit the desire to make the necessary efforts.

I love to send emails, and I often spend a great deal of time composing them to ensure that I am sending all the information that I want, and getting my message across just the way I want it to be received.

I regularly send text messages on occasions where the information is particularly timely and brief. But in many cases there is no better way to communicate that to just talk to people.

In some ways, having conversations is becoming a lost art. Who has not witnessed people sitting at the same table in a restaurant, each one looking at their phone, without anyone saying a word.  Sometimes they even text the people sitting at the same table!

The subject of conversations came up often at a recent workshop that I attended on business strategy for family businesses. Our instructor repeatedly used the expression “have the conversation”. On the second day, when he said it for about the twelfth time, it hit me.

The first day of the course, each time I heard “have the conversation”, my brain translated it into “communicate”, because that was my term. To me he was preaching the same communication gospel that I often harp on.

But there was much more to it. Not only is having a conversation a subset of communication, it is also one of the most often overlooked.

And in addition to being a hugely important part of communication, “having the conversation” was also the term our instructor was using to hammer home another point, and it is the point that I want to hammer home here.

All too often there are important subjects that should be discussed, but they are put off, due to the combination of two major impediments. People are either:

Too busy taking care of more urgent matters, and/or,
Not comfortable talking about “those subjects”

HAVE THE CONVERSATION.  Sometimes you need to concentrate on the important things, not just those that seem urgent.

And get over the discomfort. The hardest step is usually the first. Start the conversation slowly if you have to, but be open to keeping it going. You have to be able to leave your comfort zone to make progress.

In a ten minute discussion with any family-business person , I could come up with five areas where conversations should be taking place but are not.

What are you waiting for? The time is never perfect. Don’t make me come over there! (Although I will if you ask).

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.

“I didn’t have time”. (What it really means)

Just about everyone I know has too many things going on and not enough time to get everything done. I am not sure if it is worse now than it was in the past, but it sure seems that way.

If everyone were simply a self-contained organism, without any interactions with others, this would not really pose a problem. If you got 8 out of 10 things done on your to-do list today, and I only accomplished 4 of my 7 items, no big deal.

But few if any of us live lives without interactions with others, and the resulting inter-dependencies are at the root of many potential conflicts. When you do not get back to me about something (failing to complete just one of the things you were supposed to do), the result could be that I am unable to take care of a few of the items that I was hoping to get done.

In many ways, life is all about managing our priorities, and it seems that the less we need to rely on others, the simpler life becomes. Unfortunately it just is not possible for most of us to run our lives without having to depend on anyone.

So we try to find people who are dependable. Over time, if you weed out the less dependable ones and bring in some more of the dependable type, things should get simpler for you. But what happens when you have depended on someone for a long time and now they have let you down?

I am currently in a situation where I have worked with someone off and on over many years, and things have always gone well, until recently. You see, this man has had some recent changes in his life that have forced him to reorganize things and re-assess his priorities.
As for the area of his life that impacts mine, I had assumed that despite the changes he has faced, the work he did with me would continue to be a high enough priority for him, so that he would continue to do a great job insofar as I was concerned.

But I am now learning that I was probably wrong. Lately when I send him an email or leave him a voice message, I wait several days or even weeks before getting a response. I often end up following up an email with a call or a text before he gets back to me.

The excuse that invariably comes up in such instances is “I was going to get back to you, but I didn’t have time, because of such and such and I was busy dealing with so-and-so”.  Ugh. Yeah, it is probably true, in some respects. But what does it really mean?

Well it reminds me of a relationship book that became popular a few years ago called, “He’s just not that into you”. It was aimed and women who lament the fact that after what they felt was a great first date with a guy, he often did not follow up.

What it means in your work life when these things happen to you is similar. Yes, give someone the benefit of the doubt. Once. Maybe twice, assuming the relationship was good and has been in place for a long time. (And assuming the explanations are believable and acceptable).

But what it means to you in practice is that this person’s priorities have changed, and you had better realize quickly that you are no longer as close to the top of the list as you were before. So you would probably do well to start to plan your next move without having to rely on that person.

The sooner you start to realize that there is a new reality in place and that you need to make some changes, the sooner you can start to regain control of the situation.

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.

Je blogue, tu blogues

Aujourd’hui j’ai décidé de faire quelque chose de nouveau avec mon blogue.  Après avoir écrit une trentaine de blogues en anglais,  je vous propose celui-ci en français.

Quand nous avons lancé notre entreprise il y a un peu plus d’un an, nous avions plusieurs décisions à prendre concernant nos communications marketing,  dont celle de la langue utilisée.

On ne se cachera pas le fait que Tom et moi sommes des “anglophones”, mais c’est un mot que je trouve assez négatif dans le contexte actuel au Québec.  Comme la plupart des professionnels qui oeuvrent au Québec, nous sommes tous deux assez bilingues.

Notre langue de communication entre nous est l’anglais, mais à tous les jours nous échangeons dans les deux langues, et je trouve cela normale.

Pour notre site web, étant donné que nous sommes plus à l’aise en anglais, nous l’avons conçu en anglais, et nous avons payé pour le faire traduire en français par des professionnels.  Si nous aurions décidé de le faire en français ou de le traduire nous-memes, le résultat aura été moins élégant.

Et quand est venu le temps de partir le blogue, je me suis lancer dedans en anglais pour commencer. Dès la journée que j’ai mis mon premier blogue sur le site web, je me suis demandé si la traduction de chaque blogue serait une bonne idée.

Les réflections à ce sujet n’étaient pas si simples que certains le croiraient. Voici quelques-uns:

Y-a-t-il un client potentiel pour nos services que déciderait de ne pas nous engager parce que j’écrit mes blogues uniquement en anglais?
Est-ce que je devrais prendre la peine de faire traduire chaque blogue en français?
Est-ce que je pourrais simplement passer le texte de chaque blogue dans un programme de traduction gratuit sur le web?
Est-ce que c’est “légale” au Québec de faire un blogue sur un site bilingue où la plupart des textes sont écrits en anglais seulement?

Nous avons opté pour la solution qui nous semblait la plus simple. Je continuerais d’écrire en anglais. Avec le temps, nous verrions si des changements seraient bénéfiques ou nécéssaires.

Nous voici déjà plusieurs mois plus tard, et la question me dérange encore. Je crois que j’y pense un peu trop, mais c’est dans ma nature de me soucier des ce genre de question.

Personnellement, je ne sais pas pourquoi il existe encore des commissions scolaires anglophone et francophones au Québec. Tous les enfants devraient apprendre les deux langues, et au Québec plus d’emphase devrait se mettre sur le français.

Je suis né en 1964, donc je commençais l’école durant le temps de a crise de la FLQ. Mes parents, immigrants allemands qui avaient appris l’anglais en arrivant à Montréal dans les années 1950, avaient décidé que leur fils devrait s’inscrire à l’école française (mes deux grandes soeurs ayants déjà commencé l’école dans le système anglais).

En septembre 1970 j’étais le seul enfant anglophone inscrit à l’École Ste-Odile à Cartierville. J’ai commencé la première année avec un vocabulaire de zéro mots.  C’était une des meilleures décisions qu’auraient pu prendre mes parents.

Tout cela pour dire que je suis capable d’écrire des blogues en français.

Et quand j’ai mentionné des blogues français à ma fille, qui est en 6ième année à l’école et qui reçoit de très bonnes notes sur son bulletin en français (comme dans toutes les matières, d’ailleurs), elle s’est tout de suite offerte pour faire une révision de mes textes avant que je les mette en ligne.

J’espère que je n’aurai pas trop de corrections à faire…

À la prochaine, probablement en anglais, mais éventuellement encore en français aussi.

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.

Transitions Part 3: Propositions

Over the last 2 weeks we looked at transitions from a couple of different perspectives. We began by looking at some definitions, talking about how transitions are usually the result of a decision, an event, or a realization.

We expanded on that last week, looking at the recognition stage, where the many stakeholders involved each have their own individual points of view, and how most transitions really get acknowledged once a majority of those involved actually recognize that they are now in a transition stage.

This brings us to the Propositions stage, which I like to call the “so what are we gonna do about it?” stage. In the same way that a doctor cannot begin to cure you before knowing what ails you, it is only after the recognition has taken hold that you can move forward into the most important part of all.

Those who know me well will not be surprised to see where I am going with this when I get to the main point here: The key to successfully managing this stage of the transition is communication.

My default strategy in just about everything I do is to always OVER-communicate rather than under-communicate (my wife can attest to this, it drives her crazy).  But when you are in a transition stage, as opposed to more of a status quo period, it becomes even more important to communicate.

I called this the proposition stage, because once we all recognize that we are in a transition, we need to make sure we manage it in the best way possible.  Since we have already mentioned that a number of people are usually involved or at least affected, it stands to reason that their points of view need to be understood at least, and preferably also acknowledged and even incorporated into the way forward.

In fact, communication is a key thread that runs throughout this transition discussion.  Let’s go back to the first part of this. If the transition was kicked off by a decision, communicating the decision is an important step. Great care should be taken to ensure that the decision is communicated in the right way, at the right time, and as broadly as necessary.

If it is driven by an event, communicating the news of the event also needs to be done the right way, insofar as possible. And when a transition comes about as a result of a realization, you can be sure that better communication could have sped up that realization in some way.

The recognition stage is also clearly one where communication is a key component. We talked about how recognition was not just an individual thing, but more about how various stakeholders come to understand that things were no longer status quo, but that they had now moved into a transition.

At the proposition stage, communication can be looked at a bit differently. The decision-maker needs to ensure that they have all the information necessary, and they therefore should have done the necessary communicating to obtain that input.

Once they have everything they need to decide where they now want to go and therefore what the next step(s) should be, proper communication will also help to create the proper feedback loop to ensure that things proceed smoothly going forward.

Transitions are often quite complex to navigate. By breaking them down the way we have in these three blogs, we have tried to look at them in smaller pieces and provide a sort of framework to help discuss things. And the reminder to consider the importance of communication throughout the process will also prove to be helpful in managing your family transitions.

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.