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Another Round of CAFÉ?

Saturday night, June 8, 2013. The place to be was the Sheraton Conference Center in Toronto. The occasion? CAFÉ’s annual Family Enterprise of the Year Awards (FEYA).

CAFÉ (Canadian Association of Famliy Enterprise) is celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2013, and I recently joined as an affiliate member, given my renewed interest in the family business area. I had not realized that CAFÉ began in 1983, but found it interesting because my previous involvement with them was in the mid-80s, as they were just getting started.

At that time I was the second-generation (G2) son who was about to enter the family business, and someone got my father interested in CAFÉ. That was where he learned the importance of getting the family more involved, even those who did not work in the business.

He actually set up a family retreat, which I remember mostly because it was the only one we ever had. Not that it went badly, but running the company was more urgent, and nobody stepped up to make sure that the event became a regular part of our calendar.

We learned a few things from CAFÉ, not all of which were applied, of course. I vividly recall Dad telling me about how they recommend that kids work somewhere outside the family business for at least 3 to 5 years before even being allowed to come into the family company. Made sense to me, but Dad felt it did not apply to our situation.

So back to the FEYA event on Saturday.The best part of any CAFÉ gathering is the sharing of stories. Family businesses are all unique, yet there are always things that you can learn from others, especially how they have handled the intersection of the family with the business.

The three finalist families were all in attendance, each with about a dozen or so people there, representing two or three generations. They each had a little speech prepared, as well as a great video that the CAFÉ folks obviously put a great deal of effort into producing.

Not surprisingly, the families were all very thankful that they had become involved in CAFÉ, as the interactions had helped them figure out some things that they would not likely have picked up anywhere else. The stories were all very different, but each was touching in its own way.

A key benefit for families who join is the PAG (Personal Advisory Group) network. My father referred to his as his “CAFÉ Buddy group”. They used to have regular meetings, alternating whose family/company they would discusss. It became an informal board of sorts, where he could share stories, ideas, and problems with others who were undergoing many similar issues.

Even after selling our operations, he continued to meet with his PAG. After he passed away, a couple of his former PAG friends invited me to their annual Christmas gathering, which was really cool, as we spent the time reminiscing and sharing stories about him.

CAFÉ can be very powerful. Unfortunately, it is not nearly as powerful as it could be. That is not meant to be an insult, as I know that the board is working hard at making CAFÉ become an even more important part of the family business scene in Canada. They had just concluded some board meetings and were quite pumped at what they were working on.

There was even a bit of talk about Quebec and its lack of presence in CAFÉ. How could they find ways to get more invloved there? Apparently there was a new member from Quebec who was keen on helping mobilize things.

That would be me. If you are in Quebec and also interested in “another round of CAFÉ”, please reach out to me, and let’s see where we can take this

J’imagine que mon prochain blogue sera en français et devrait toucher sur le même sujet, mais du point de vue québecois. À la semaine prochaine…

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.

Spreading the Gospel vs. Cornering the Market

One day not long ago I was speaking to someone who had organized a “maker space”, which is a place where kids and teens can go to play around with stuff and make things. With 3-D printing becoming more mainstream, these spots are starting to pop up in various places.

During our discussion, it became clear that the people who run these types of operations are very cooperative with each other and like to help each other out by sharing what works for them.

I found myself combining a couple of metaphors into my explanation of what was going on. “You’re not trying to corner the market, you’re spreading the gospel”, I summarized. He agreed.

The next day somebody was explaining his current project to me over lunch. He was involved with a group of people that were developing an accreditation process for a particular type of professional, which does not yet exist.

He mentioned that they were collaborating with other organisations in other areas and that that was quite helpful to the cause. I found myself saying to him, “Well yeah, you’re not trying to corner the market, you’re trying to spread the gospel.” He also agreed.

Now I don’t know about you, but when I find myself uttering the same phrase two days in a row in two completely different circumstances, I remember it. I started to think that I might be on to something.

It seems to me that there are more and more people who are working at spreading gospels than cornering markets these days. Is it just my imagination?

Maybe it is because I am now involved in a service business and not selling a product. Maybe it is the social networks that I am plugged into. Maybe it is society with more Gen Y’s entering the workforce who work more collaboratively.

My father used to tell me that his father used to tell him that you can carry more sand in your hands with both your palms open than you can with clenched fists. For me, open and transparent has always been a more comfortable way to do things, so spreading the gospel is a much easier way for me to live my life.

The gospel that is now driving me is all about family business. They are very different from other businesses. There are no two the same. That makes them interesting to me.

But the more of them I see, the more I see missed opportunities. The fact that you have a business and a family interacting can have so many positives, but just as many negatives.

I feel like I can see the negatives so clearly sometimes and that I can help families to take the steps necessary to avoid some of the negatives and even turn some of the negatives into positives.

I will try to spread the gospel of getting business families to recognize that they need to look at their families separately from their businesses. Too many people concentrate so much on the business to the detriment of the family.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Maybe they just need someone to point it out to them. But few people from inside the family are comfortable doing that.

I will not try to “corner the market”, since there seems to be plenty of work to be done. I will try to spread the gospel that stepping back and looking at the family as a family should not be overlooked. Who is with me?

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.

Québecois, mais aussi canadien, et nord-americain

Je suis né à Montréal en 1964. Mes parents, étants arrivés au Canada durnat les années 1950, ont appris la langue de la majorité du pays, l’anglais. Chez nous, en plus d’un dialecte de l’allemand, c’était en anglais qu’on se parlait.

En septembre 1970, j’ai commencé ma première année à l’école Ste-Odile, à Cartierville, en français. Mes grandes soeurs, elles, étaient à Transfiguration of our Lord, en anglais. J’ai pleuré tout l’été, sachant que je serai forcé à débuter mes études dans une langue que je ne connaissait pas.

Avec une quarantaine d’années de recul, je constate que c’était une bonne décision de la part de mes parents. Mon père était homme d’affaires, et il voyait que pour son fils, ça serait pas seulement un atout, mais une nécessité d’être bilingue au Québec. La crise d’octobre qui est survenu à peine un mois plus tard lui avait confirmé la pertinence de sa décision.

Revenons au présent. La réalité est que le fait d’être bilingue (ou même multilingue) est un plus. Je n’entrerai pas dans le discours de certains, qui craignent la disparition du français au Québec, je n’y crois pas. Je reconnais leur passion, mais je ne suis pas de ceux qui croient que c’est en mettant des restrictions sur les autre langues qu’on fait la promotion de la nôtre.

Aujourd’hui je suis marié avec une francophone aussi bilingue que moi, et nos deux enfants sont encore plus bilingues que nous. Nous bénéficions des cultures des deux côtés, et même encore un peu de celle de mes parents immigrants.

Mais encore plus que la culture, je remarque d’autres différences entre les Québecois et le reste de l’Amérique du Nord. Je parlerai d’un seul secteur, mais je suis certain qu’il existe des parallèles dans plusieurs autres.

Dans le domaine des entreprises familiales, dans les années 1980, notre compagnie s’est joint à CAFÉ, le Canadian Association for Family Enterprise. Cette organisme existe toujours partout au Canada, sauf au Québec.

Au québec depuis quelques années le CIFA (Centre International des Familles en Affaires) existe, mais autant que son but est d’aider les familles en affaires, son rôle ne réunit pas les familles comme membres, qui peuvent ensuite s’entraider, ce que CAFÉ a toujours bien fait.

Sur le côté éducation, je suis présentement inscrit au FEAP (Family Enterprise Advisor Program). Ce programme développé par l’University of British Columbia, est maintenant administré par IFEA (Institute of Family Enterprise Advisors). En plus du UBC, le FEAP sera bientôt offert en Alberta, en Ontario à Western et à Dalhousie à Halifax. Montréal? Pas encore.

Mais agrandissons l’échelle encore une fois. Au États-Unis le FFI (Family Firm Institute) existe depuis 1986. Cet organisme est dédié à tous les professionnels qui font affaires avec les entreprises familiales. Il existe un chapitre au Canada, en Ontario, sans surprise.

Le monde devient de plus en plus petit. Il y a plusieurs bons modèles ailleurs qui pourraient être copiés ici au Québec, mais nous n’avons pas nécessairement l’échelle pour garantir leur survie.
Par contre, pour ceux qui parlent anglais, ce monde est aussi ouvert à eux. J’en profite. J’espère que d’autres feront pareil. Le monde est petit, mais il est aussi grand.

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.

Nothing Succeeds Like Succession

Succession is a huge subject in the realm of family business. It is literally a subject about which complete books have been written. I just want to touch on one particular aspect of it here, because it is too often overlooked.

A lot of time and effort is usually required in order to make sure that a succession is well planned and executed. The process often takes years, as it should when you think about all that is at stake.

When you are looking at your family business and how you are going to hand it over to the next generation, getting it right so that the business will contine to be successful for generations to come is complex and fraught with all kinds of potential stumbling blocks.

Last year I wrote a blog about the difference between “family businesses” and “business families”. There are important distinctions here, and this is precisely where the complications come in.

My premise is that far too often, a great deal of effort is placed into making sure that the business succession is successful, and very little effort is made into making sure the family succession has been handled effectively.

Maybe it is because the business is easier to look at in quantitative terms. The business is still profitable, is still growing, and is still a leader even after the next generation has taken control. Wonderful and congratulations, it is not an easy accomplishment and likely took a great deal of planning and effort to make it so.

I only hope that everyone in your family sees it as the success that the professionals who helped make it happen do.

I believe that the succession of the business is wonderful, but only if it does not happen at the expense of a successful succession of the business family.

This week I listened to an interview with James E. Hughes Jr., who is seen as a guru in the field of family wealth preservation and whose books are now at the top of my reading list. He makes a distinction between the transfer of wealth and the gift of wealth.

The parallel that I am drawing is that the transfer is that of the business, whereas the gift is more about the whole family. Hughes has seen his share of situations where the transfer was emphasized and likely seen as a success by most, but the gift was not made in a fashion anywhere near its potential.

I am still very much a neophyte in the space of family business consulting, as I have only recently begun moving away from managing my own family office and into helping other business families with their transition and succession issues.

But when I hear veterans of the space, or read their books, or follow their courses, I am very much inspired that I have found my sweet spot. I have lived many of the situations that they speak about either through my own family or my wife’s, or through others who work with family businesses on a regular basis.

Too often people are guided by professionals who are well-meaning and knowledgeable, but whose solutions have negative consequences that just aren’t understood. It is relatively easy to find specialists to help you save taxes or set up a trust for your grandchildren.

What is harder to find is someone to help you work through all these proposed solutions and examine their consequences to your FAMILY first, and then only your business.

I believe that the success of your succession should be viewed first by your successors’ ability to succeed. Whether the business is even involved at all at that point should be a secondary consideration.

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.

Three Peas in a Pod?

In a blog post a couple of months back I mentioned that LinkedIn was becoming a really good resource for me. It continues to be a treasure trove of information and contacts.

I recently discovered a LinkedIn group called “Business Succession Planning Group”, so I joined and it did not take long for it to pay off. A group member from Minneapolis, Daniel Kurth of Human Performance LLC, made a post to the group that caught my eye.

I will use the key point of his message as the starting point to my blog this week. He introduces us to the “Three P’s of Transitioning Owners”.

Without further ado, they are: Paycheck, Purpose, and Place. Kurth’s thesis is that the exiting owner will only readily move on from the business once he has been able to replace those three P’s that the business has been providing.

Anyone who has ever worked in a business where the owner does not seem to be ready and willing to even entertain the thought of retirement can probably identify with at least one of these P’s being a major factor in the hesitation.

If the business has been successful for a number of years, the paycheck should be easy enough to replace. There is an entire industry of financial advisors and insurance product reps that will gladly help the future retiree ensure that monthly income to spend is replaced in a satisfactory way.

Let’s skip ahead to the last P, Place. Keeping and office, setting up a new office somewhere else, or simply getting into a new routine of meeting friends and colleagues somewhere on a regular basis, are all ways that people have gone about making sure that they “get out of the house” after retiring.

I really think that the toughest P to replace after selling or passing down a business, or even retiring from any job really, is Purpose.

I remember some friends of my parents who had 9-5 jobs who said they were looking forward to retiring, but once there, it almost drove them crazy. Somehow sleeping in, reading the paper, going for a walk, etc. can only cut it for so long.

For type “A’s” like most business owners and entrepreneurs, I wouldn’t give it more than a week or two before they would start going stir crazy. Folks who disliked their jobs look forward to retiring from the “grind” and they have trouble, imagine those who have a company they built to inspire them every day when they wake up.

Their business is often the driving purpose of everything, and has been for a long time. It cannot simply be switched off overnight. It can’t be expected to work that way. In theory, sure; in practice, no.

So for all those who want to help encourage someone to think about retiring some day, sooner rather than later, I suggest that you help them replace that P, the sense of Purpose that the business gives them.

Whether you are the succeeding generation waiting to take over, or the spouse who would rather spend more time together or take longer vacations, this is the place to concentrate your efforts.

But do not expect things to happen quickly. Start early and try to help them find hobbies, causes, worthwhile organisations, boards of directors, anything that can get them excited and where they can put their skills, energy and desire to good use.

There are surely other purposes that can slowly but surely become more and more important in their lives, and eventually allow them to exit the business because they have found a new sense of purpose. If they don’t get there, they might stay around forever.

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.

Blame it on Cinderella

This week I attended the CFA Institute’s Wealth Management conference in Boston. It’s an annual event that will be in L.A. next year, but since this time it was so close to Montreal, I figured it was worth the five-hour drive to hear the great speakers they had lined up.

The conference was really good in so many ways, and I was having trouble deciding which of the 12 presentations I would use as the inspiration for this week’s blog.

As I was driving home through the White Mountains of New Hampshire and the Green Mountains of Vermont, something happened that made me push the conference topics to the back burner.

It wasn’t something that I saw though. It was something that I heard, on the radio.  When I have a long drive I always worry about falling asleep at the wheel, although it is much less of a problem for me lately, since I started sleeping better every night thanks to my CPAP machine.

To make sure that I stay awake while driving, I have a strong preference for talk radio. My wife and kids can’t stand talk radio, but I was alone, so it was a great chance to catch up on what Rush Limbaugh and the like were talking about on the US airwaves.

But when you are driving through the mountains and trying to listen to the radio, staying on any one station for more than 15 minutes is often a challenge. So what ends up happening is that every few minutes, I just hit the search button until something comes in with a strong enough signal.

Now besides talk radio, the other thing that usually keeps me awake is country music. I can’t say that I am a huge fan, but I have very eclectic tastes in music, and with country music the lyrics are usually such that you can sing along to any song even though you have never heard it before.

It’s hard to fall asleep when you are singing. And given the choice between listening to talk radio or listening to me sing in the car, I can tell you that my family would likely learn to LOVE talk radio. But I was alone, so country music it would be, at least for a song or two.

That was when Stealing Cinderella came on. I thought I recognized the singer’s voice, but it turns out that he just sounded like most other country singers, and I couldn’t even tell you his name now without googling it. But the lyrics really got to me.

It’s about a guy going to his girlfriend’s father’s house to ask for permission to marry her. Do guys still do that? I don’t know, but a little over 20 years ago, I did it. So the song brought back instant memories, especially the reaction I got from my father-in-law, who wished me luck but (wrongly) assumed that his daughter was not the marrying type.

But then the song goes on to describe the family photos that are placed all over the living room, including many of the little girl as she was growing up, riding her first bike, jumping on the bed, and of course playing Cinderella.

Now it was the heartstrings of the father of the 11-year-old daughter that were being tugged on. Yikes, where the heck did the time go?
In 30 seconds I went from reliving the experience of asking for the go-ahead to marry one man’s “Cinderella”, to fast-forwarding who knows how many years to some guy coming by and trying to steal MY Cinderella.

I know, she’s only 11, but ten years ago she was 1 and it feels like it was yesterday. And in ten years she will be 21 and who knows what future awaits her.

Too much to think about. Better stay off the Country Music stations and stick to talk radio.

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.

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.