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How to Choose a Family Business Consultant

There are many factors to consider when you are looking to find the kind of help that many business families eventually require. This usually arrives around the time that the family realizes that their leading generation will someday need to make way for the rising generation.

Most will have an inkling that they will need to do “something, someday”, long before they actually start to act upon those feelings, and that’s only natural.

 

Structural Issues

Often the impetus to act will come from a business advisor of some sort, like an accountant or a lawyer. In any inter-generational transfer, there are plenty of legal and structural issues that will need to be taken care of, for obvious reasons.

What remains less obvious to many, is that the legal and structural “paperwork” is only the beginning. These official documents deal mostly with the “what”, but very rarely get into the crucial details of the “how”.

If this is all news to you, there are dozens of other blog posts on this site that you can read to get my drift. For those who are already on board, I will now segue into the thrust of this post, about how to choose your family business consultant.

 

Don’t Allow Family Issues to Get Lost

Here are my Top 5 things to consider before deciding on who is best suited to helping you with these crucial matters:

 

  1.    Overlap of Business and Family

 Does the person that you are going to engage, to help lead your transition, truly understand that most of the key issues that you will be facing involve both the business AND your family?

A business focus without understanding the family issues is no better than a “family therapist” focus with no understanding of business and wealth.

 

  1. Business > Family       OR       Family > Business?

Do they come from a background where they naturally lean toward business solutions, or from one where family harmony is the driving force?

Which is more important to them, which is more important to you and your family, and is it the same for both? Should it be the same, or should there be a counter-balance? Some semblance of balance should not be overlooked.

There is no right or wrong here, but you need to comprehend this point.

 

  1.    Do they LISTEN, and to WHOM?

So many professionals who work with business families are used to taking orders form one PERSON (the boss) and the rest of the family are merely an afterthought.

When advising a business family, ideally the FAMILY is the client. That is a huge leap, and one that is never easy to make.

Some advisors don’t get this, and some can understand it in theory but find it impossible in practice. Beware the “yes man” advisor.

 

  1. Beware: “I have THE solution for YOU”

Recycling is great for your garbage, not so much for your family legacy. If your consultant arrives with lots of “ready-made” solutions that they have used with others in their experience, please ask LOTS of questions

Buying a suit off the rack is okay, but a plan for YOUR family’s legacy should be custom-made for YOUR family.

 

  1. There is no “Free Lunch”

Good professional advice is not free, and shouldn’t be either. Some providers, usually in the asset management space, will promise to do many things for their wealthy clients “for free”.

There is not necessarily anything wrong with this, IF you understand and accept the terms and conditons that go with that.

Buying based on “low price” is not recommended either, but understanding HOW advisors are compensated should not be overlooked.

 

IFEA “Seal of Approval”

In Canada, over the past several years a few hundred people have been through the multi-disciplinary Family Enterprise Advisor program and a couple of hundred have then gone on to become “FEA” designates.

As one of them, I have a certain bias, and look at the letters “FEA” as kind of a “seal of approval”.

The field is evolving and many professionals are trying to find ways to capitalize on the huge demographic wealth transfer that is now underway.

All FEA designates have been through a thorough program and a rigorous certification process.

Please do your homework, and choose well.

 

Updating your FamBiz Vocabulary

Families have been around seemingly forever, and some family businesses go back centuries, but the words we use to describe and discuss matters in the field continue to evolve.

Family business as a field of study is still in its first handful of decades, and interest in it continues to grow.

Today I want to add my personal take on a few of the more important concepts, while hopefully updating some definitions for 21st century realities.

After each, there is a link to a previous post in which the subject was also discussed in this space.

 

“Family Continuity”

Families typically hate discussing “succession planning”. Well, nobody wanted to buy “death insurance” either, so, “Life Insurance” was born, and has become an undeniable success.

So it shall hopefully be for “Continuity Planning” too. It is far more pleasant to think about, talk about, and plan what is going to “continue” (i.e. stay the same) than it is to plan for things “after I die”.

I use “Family Continuity” rather than “Business Continuity” because while the famiy and the business are intertwined, my preferred focus is on the family. I will leave the business continuity matters to other professionals, who are in abundant supply.

See: “Say Goodbye to Succession Planning”

 

“Enterprising Family”

Most family businesses start small, and as the business grows, more family members can become involved. Other lines of business may follow, as well as more of a focus on the family than on any one business. The family business morphs into a “Business Family”

As this Business Family attitude and behaviour takes hold, in another generation or so, if all goes well, there is a critical mass of assets and people to become what many aspire to be, a multi-generation Enterprising Family.

Many families dream of this, few will achieve it. But you can’t get there if you don’t understand this first.

See “Family Business” Versus “Family Wealth”

 

“Family Legacy”

There are many definitions of legacy. I like to think about it as “what will we be known for and remembered for”. I say “we” because I strongly feel that it takes a family, through multiple generations, to truly carry out a legacy.

See “Family Business HR – Human Resources, or Human Relations?”

 

“Family Alignment”

If you want the family legacy, getting the family aligned is a key. Getting them all aligned requires dialogue. Notice I did not say “monologue”?

Two-way conversations, over an extended period of time (months and years) to get everyone on the “same page”, are a must.

There are roles and responsibilities for everyone in an enterprising family, and the clearer these are, the better. But they cannot be dictated from above.

Family alignment must be developed from within.

See “Family Alignment”

 

“Family Continuity Blueprint”

One of the best ways to get everyone on the same page, is to literally get everything on one page.

I have developed a “Family Continuity BluePrint” to do just that. I have shared it on a limited basis with others working in this space, and the feedback is overwhelmingly positive.

It is my own derivation of the “Business Model Canvas”, designed just for enterprising families, who are concerned with building lasting continuity, to ensure their legacy.

See “Planning your Dreams and Dreaming about Plans”

 

“Multi-Disciplinary Fluency”

Of course any good plan will need qualified advisors to help set it up and to execute it. Combining family, business, and ownership means that it is unlikely that a one-size-fits-all advisor will be found.

Your best bet may be to find one person with the “multi-disciplinary fluency” to hold it all together (thanks to Dean Fowler for coining the term, and John A. Warnick for helping propogate it)

See “Take My Advice: Don’t Take My Advice”

 

“Trusted Advisors”

This overused term has almost become meaningless. If you don’t trust them, they should not be your advisor. If you are ever concerned that the advice they are giving you serves them more than you, that’s a huge red flag.

See “The Value of a Trusted Family Business Advisor”

 

Conclusion

Once you have made the decision that you are an enterprising family, and you want to work on family continuity, to ensure your legacy, that’s a big step.

Then it’s time to work on family alignment, using a BluePrint, to get everyone on the same page, literally. Getting help from advisors with multi-disciplinary fluency is key, and so is making sure that their first concern is your family, NOT selling you a product or pleasing their boss.

Ready to start?

 

Family Business Decision Making

Putting the Consent into Consensus (Part II of II)

Family Business Consultant - Family Meeting Facilitation - Wealth manager

Writing this blog every weekend is truly cathartic for me, and I love doing it, but it offers its share of challenges too.

Last week’s post ended a bit abruptly for my liking, as I was trying to complete my point about consensus being impossible without consent, but realized that I was leaving too many important things unsaid.

Being my own editor and publisher has its advantages, though, so simply adding a “part 2 of 2” is an easy way out.

We left off looking at how getting the consent necessary for family consensus can be tricky and time consuming, but if you care about this subject at all, you probably already know that.

This week I want to add three key aspects to the ideas already put forth. They are: Offering an Informed Choice, We > Me, and Progress > Perfection.

 

Informed Choice

If I ask for your consent to do something minor, and you already trust me due to some prior common experience or interaction, chances are good that you will quickly go along.

If we change that from something minor to something major, it is more likely that you will take your time before consenting.

If we now add in some complexity to the equation, hesitation on your part will surely increase further.

As I wrote in 2014 in “The Importance of Offering an Informed Choice” very often families will have their lawyers draft extensive documents to formalize family structures, but the families never actually sign them. The most frequent reason noted is disagreement, but that usually masks a lack of true understanding.

If you want me to sign an agreement, you better make sure that I am comfortable doing so, and that means, first and foremost, that I acutally understand what I am agreeing to.

If I don’t feel informed or if I don’t feel like I had any choice, my reluctance will skyrocket.

 

We > Me

Now we are getting into a whole different area, but a doozy nonetheless.

As I covered last year in “Successful Planning: Who Should Be Involved?”, it is important for all stakeholders to have a say in matters.

Ideally, the family figures out what THEY want (They, plural!) and then “Once they know what they want to accomplish, they THEN engage the advisors to fine-tune the details of HOW they will write it up.

Somewhere along the way, everyone needs to come to the realisation that there is no “Me, or I” in family continuity, it is all about We.

If you don’t get past this one, well, good luck with building consensus.

 

Progress > Perfection 

This point is very much related to the conclusion of last week’s piece, in that all of the questions of building consensus for lasting inter-generational family continuity require patience, realistic expectations, and time.

As long as it is more “Two steps forward, one step back”, than “One step forward and two steps back”, consider it progress. If you are expecting perfection AND getting it done quickly, you are setting yourself up for disappointment.

It is not because your advisors are no good, or not trying hard enough, this stuff is complex AND important, and we are dealing with emotional subject matter.

Now, if you feel like you are blocked, it is high time you bring someone in from the outside to help bring some perspective and an unbiased viewpoint or to kickstart things forward again.

Last fall, as I wrote in “Understanding AND Agreement, you need everyone to understand things, AND agree to them. If either is missing, there will be a problem.

 

Recap

Getting consensus is not easy and it takes time. People need to be fully informed of what the stakes are for them, and there needs to be an overall understanding that the WE of the family is more important that any one person’s stake.

Lastly, if you are hoping to wrap everything up quickly, you are surely fooling yourself. This is not a straightforward process, it never is. But you can get through it, and it is worth it in the end.

 

The Value of a Trusted Family Business Advisor

Putting the Consent into Consensus (Part I of II)

Sometimes things that are right under our noses are the hardest to see. Few people are immune to this, although many act as if they are.

In the interest of leading by example, I usually cherish the opportunity to share things that strike me, but which seem so obvious in retrospect that I am actually nearly ashamed to admit them.

This week’s post is about how business families make decisions together. When the founder starts a business, it is not unusual for most decisions to be made in the six inches or so between the founder’s ears.

One of the “fun” parts of family businesses, and the business families who own and manage them, is that as the business makes its transition to the following generation, the number of decision-makers often increases.

And therein lie many of the major issues that these families face, as they wrestle with how the group of people who own and manage the business will decide together, communicate, and solve problems together, as the business and assets of the family move from one generation to the next.

With large groups of people, voting is frequently an option that gets explored, and is often adopted in one form or another. This works well in politics, sometimes.

In a family business, or in any family that co-owns and/or co-manages assets together, voting has a lot of potentially negative consequences. Advisors to families in these situations will usually recommend that the family work toward more of a consensus model instead.

Now we are getting back to my embarrassing admission. I always assumed that consensus meant a decision that everyone agreed to. While that is not completely wrong, it is far from being a good definition.

If I were explaining it to a kindergarten class, it might fly, but I usually deal with a crowd that is a little older, and better educated. Interestingly, my epiphany came on a college campus.

Ever since I began doing college campus tours with my son these past few months, I have heard many college admissions folks talk about what makes their institution unique.

We sat in on sessions at some small Pennsylvania colleges that have a Quaker tradition, and during one of these (Haverford, if I recall correctly) they spoke about the consensus method of decision-making on campus.

The presenter explained that consensus is working on finding a decision that everyone could and would consent to, even if it weren’t their first choice.

OMG, you mean consensus comes from consent?!? Aaaaaggghhhh! Had it really taken me 52 years to figure this out? Well, yes. But I am really glad that I did, and not just because I got a blog subject out of it.

The devil, of course, is in the details. It is all well and good for me to talk about how much better consensus decisions are, but if families don’t understand what is really involved in achieving them, how much good will come of it?

Interstingly, most of the conclusions I will now present are ones that re-occur frequently in my blogs and my discussions with families.

Here goes:

Simple vs Easy

Consensus is simple to explain, especially with my “revelation” that getting people’s consent is how it works. But simple does not equal easy, as in “easy to do”.

 

Happens by Itself, NOT

My oft-repeated “things don’t just happen by themselves” applies here too. It may be easy to get everyone to consent to the idea of making decisions by consensus, but that will often be the last decision on which consensus comes quickly.

 

Communication

A common thread in families where things run smoothly is good, frequent, clear, open communication. Enduring consensus is nearly impossible without it.

 

It Takes Time

Everyone always seems to be in a hurry. But good, lasting decisions take time. Time to talk, time to think, time to listen, time to reconsider, time to caucus, time to research, time to sleep on it, time to invite outside opinions.

The decisions that last generations are the ones that all stakeholders have consented to.

We will look into some of the details in Part II next week.

 

 

Creating Pathways for families

Sweet Secluded Rendez-Vous

rendezvous2016_archive

As I hinted last week, I will attempt to review my experience at my third trip to Rendez-Vous, the annual get together of the Purposeful Planning Institute.

A couple of months back when I attended the annual CAFÉ Symposium, I recapped my trip with a “Top 10 List” of the event. For Rendez-Vous, I’ve decided on 2 “Top 5 Lists”.

The Top 5 of the sessions I attended, will be followed by a Top 5 of the best things about attending Rendez-Vous, from my own biased perspective, of course.

 

Top 5 Sessions 

 

  1. Collaboration Day

Rendez-Vous (R-V) officially got under way on Wednesday evening, but this year there was something new in the mix, and many attendees took advantage of it.

Preceding the usual R-V was another conference called Fusion Collaboration (FC), aimed at introducing more technical practitioners (lawyers and CPA’s) into the purposeful work that attracts others to R-V.

The final day of FC was dubbed “Collaboration Day”, and through keynotes, break-outs and an interactive video case with roundtable discussions, lots of valuable lessons were learned on just what it takes for various professionals to work together on solving real family issues for clients.

 

  1. Helping or Hurting

Karen Laprade and Kyle Harrison’s breakout session once again did not disappoint, evident by the fact that they ran over time yet not a single person noticed or even looked at the door.

The real life case stories they shared, and the input that they asked for and got from everyone was just the type of interaction and collaboration that you really only get at Rendez-Vous.

 

  1. FRED Talks

A take-off on “TED Talks”, a series of five tight 18-minute talks from a variety of experts shed light on everyting from addiction to widows finding love again, to ways that Millenials are changing how families communicate.

 

  1. Jaffe & Grubman on Cultural Differences

Dennis and Jim presented work on the three dominant cultural styles around the world, and talked about how global families have to deal with new realities arising from differences in how things play out in a home culture when the rising generation is exposed to other cultures through education and marriage.

 

  1. Gratitude

The opening keynote on Thursday by Robert Emmons was about how gratitude is so important to success and happiness, yet it costs nothing. In fact, the more you give, the more you usually get back.

And he wasn’t just making stuff up, he has a PhD in this, and shared ways to demonstrate and share our gratitude, and hopefully make that a lifelong habit.

 

 

Top 5 Reasons to Attend

 

  1. Welcoming Vibe

From the first time I attended Rendez-Vous, the vibe was what hit me. This is not a conference where experts with big egos pontificate to the wannabes, it is the opposite of that.

Every single attendee and presenter has always been more than open to talk about the issues that we all face in helping families achieve better results with their planning.

 

  1. Community

As this was my third year in a row attending, I am now at the point where I truly see and feel the community aspect of PPI, which dovetails with the welcoming vibe.

Everyone seems to share my feeling that we need to spread the message to the masses, and nobody is trying to “corner the market” because there will be plenty of work for all of us when a majority of families recognize the importance of this work.

 

  1. Dutch Treat

Small groups of attendees go to a restaurant and chat about whatever they want, and really get to know each other. This adds so much to the camaraderie of the event.

 

  1. Collaboration Unifies everything

It becomes clear that PPI is all about getting professionals from various fields to collaborate in service of their family clients.

 

  1. Jay Hughes

How could I not mention Jay Hughes? PPI’s first Laureate, and most deservedly so, Jay was present throughout, and I have rarely met a kinder, more humble man.

Thanks to Jay and John A. Warnick, PPI continues to spread its influence and grow. See you at Rendez-Vous 2017. Get off the fence, be there.

 

Facts versus Opinions and Assumptions

Hand holding a Facts 3D Sphere sign on white background.

Opinions disguised as Facts

This week I was participating in a monthly online group meeting with colleagues who are all Bowen Family Systems Theory enthusiasts, and one of them made a statement that immediately struck me as “blog-worthy”.

She was talking about her family of origin (the one in which she grew up) and when referencing her father, she attributed the description “someone who stated a lot of opinions as though they were facts”. Wow, I thought, that sounds like my Dad!

This got me thinking about the characteristics that helped my father become successful, which included his “don’t take no for an answer” approach to life, his self-confidence, and his ability to size up a situation quickly and develop a plan of action.

When I think of what helped make him a great businessman, these are some of the attributes that made him who he was. Even though I am certain about them, that doesn’t mean that my assertions qualify as “facts”. They are, quite simply, my opinion.

I am less prone to act quickly, preferring to observe matters, take in various details of what I see and hear, and then take my time before deciding if any action is warranted. Perhaps it’s just my nature, or maybe part of it comes from the fact that I usually feel like I have the luxury of time to think.

Looking back at my Dad and his own upbringing and the circumstances under which he built his business, for the first 50-some years of his life, I doubt that he ever felt like he could afford to think about taking his time.

 

Important succession character traits

When business families start to look at the questions surrounding succession of their business and who should be involved, the ways that the different generations consider these issues start to come into play.

An entrepreneurial business founder who started a company, and against all odds built it into a sizeable organization, will likely have many of the traits that my father had, including an action-orientation that leaves little time to consider various opinions about important matters.

The character traits that will help ensure that the company and the family will continue to prosper into the next generation, however, are likely to be quite different.

If the number of people involved increases from one generation to the next, as it often does, then the ability to consider the opinions of all stakeholders will likely become a factor going forward.

Sometimes the hard-charging founder will have a child who is literally a “chip-off-the-old-block”, and they will usually be seen as the “heir apparent” early on, with the thinking that what was important for the business in one generation would continue to be key in the next.

The problems with that line of thinking include:

  • The skill sets involved in growing a business from the ground up, versus those of maintaining it, are sometimes quite different;
  • Technology changes over a few decades can be considerable;
  • The main group of concern may no longer be the company, but may well have shifted to the family.

 

Expert Opinions are still Opinions

There is no simple answer to these questions of course, but as an advisor to families who are faced with business and wealth transition situations, I can affirm that the most successful plans come after consultation with the stakeholders.

The leading generation often seeks the input of trusted advisors, all expert in their particular domain, like legal, tax, or accounting. These experts are also prone to offer up their opinions cleverly disguised as facts, which makes them seem incontrovertable.

When a family gets the experts involved before including the family, a plan is usually presented to the family after it has been made, as a “fait accompli” (note that “fait” is French for “fact”).

The opinions of those for whom the plan was made, usually the children, will not have been considered (at least not their true opinions). More likely the parents will have made assumptions about what was best for them, without asking.

When you look at how often “assumptions” and “opinions” get treated as “facts”, you can understand why so many family business transitions fail.

Stick to the facts.

Parenting & Family Business Leadership

Many people throughout history have worn both the “family-business-leader” hat and the “parent” hat simultaneously.

A certain percentage of them have excelled in both roles, some have been much better at one than the other, and still others never really mastered either.

Of course there are plenty of areas where the things one does in one area will undoubtedly have an effect on the other, because it is virtually impossible to separate the roles completely.

And just as I noted above, where some people excel at both, others at neither, and many at one at the expense of the other, the same can be said about certain actions that one takes while playing these roles.

There are many trade-offs where it seems clear that working late and missing your kid’s soccer game is a plus for the business and a minus for the family, or the reverse is true if you leave early to make it to the game but don’t finish that important order.

I like to think that the best thing that I can do as a family business advisor is to point out the situations that are in fact a lose/lose, and help families avoid them, and also point out the possible win/win situations, and help families exploit those.

It sounds simple when put that way, but simple and easy are NOT synonyms.

Interestingly, the two examples of the lose/lose variety that arise most often are opposite sides of the same coin, and they have to do with how we treat our kids and value their input.

On the one hand, there are lots of examples of parents who spoil their children with easy, high-paying jobs, with low expectations of performance. This is not great business leadership, nor is it great parenting.

The other side of that coin also occurs rather frequently, and it looks like this: The kids work really hard, are underpaid, are ready to take over the business, but they are never given the reins, because the parents are not ready to let go. Once again, the business suffers, and so does the family.

It all comes down to finding the correct balance, just like Goldilocks. We don’t want the porridge that is too hot because it will burn our tongue, and the cold porridge is just, well, yucky.

So what is the secret to finding that balance? Part of it is simply recognizing that you are playing both the role of the parent and of the family business leader. But that clearly isn’t enough, because as we just saw, you can actually screw up on both simultaneously.

Besides recognizing that you are playing two roles, it is important to think about your perspective, and to compare and contrast that perspective in two major ways.

First, look at the way you are acting in the two roles from a TIME perspective, and think back to when you were the age that your children are at now, and how you were treated and would have wanted to be treated.

Then look ahead to when your children will be at the age you are at now, and consider your relationship with your parents. If that is too extreme, think back ten years, and then ten years ahead.

After doing the time perspective exercise, simply take a moment to reflect on how you see things, and imagine how the other family members see things from their point of view, today. I will guarantee that if you ask them if they see things the same way that you do, you will be in for at least one or two surprises.

The key word in that last sentence is “if”, as in “if you ask them”. In my experience, few family business leaders will actually take the time to ask their children how they see things.

Yes, I know that you are the one running the show, and all your hard work is what got you here. Congratulations.

But do you have the courage to ask your children how they see things? You may be surprised with what you learn.

 

Life Is Finite. Deal with It.

Sometimes a provocative title just feels right. This one came to me last week, upon learning of the death of a one-time friend of who passed away a few weeks ago.

This brought to two the number of friends in their early 50’s that I lost in 2015, and I was a bit shook up by the news. Both were men for whom I had a great deal of respect and admiration, and both left a few teenagers fatherless.

As a father of two teens, in my early fifties, I feel like there is something here for me to think about, write about, and do something about. I have already started the thinking, and I am currently doing the writing, soon will come the time to start doing the doing.

I know that few people like to be told what to do, so I long ago tried to abandon that method of persuasion. And while I appreciate the importance of thinking, contemplating, and planning, that will only take you so far. The results anyone gets in life usually come back to the ACTIONS that they have taken.

In December of each year, my executive coach, Melissa, encourages her clients to think of one word that they will use to guide them for the next year, kind of like a theme to pursue. Last week I emailed her to tell her that my word for 2016 will be ACTION.

Please notice that I did not title this blog post “Life is finite, think about it”, or “Life is finite, write about it”. I specifically chose the expression “Deal with it”, for a couple of reasons.

The first reason is that it is meant to be provocative, and be noticed. But more than that, I hope that people will take the actions required to properly deal with the reality that everyone’s days on earth are numbered.

“Deal with it” has become almost a throw-away line, akin to “get over it”, and there is also that element that I am going for. But I am also hoping that the action of dealing with it will begin to happen, at least for some of my readership.

Since last summer, Tom, my long time friend and the brother I never had, who also plays the role of non-family member of our family council, has been pestering me about updating my will. Initially, it was, “yes, after the summer, when the kids are back in school.” He continues to pester me, but that is on me, not him.

They say that leaders go first, so I am hereby committing to undertaking my personal will review and updating in 2016-Q1, and until such time as I have completed it, I shall not push others to do so. I do promise to write again about the experience, in ways that can hopefully again encourage others to follow suit.

In the meantime, if you have not yet picked up and read “Willing Wisdom”, by my friend Tom Deans, that is as good a place to begin as any. Deans believes, as I do, that not only should your will be up-to-date, but that its contents should be shared with the family.

Sometimes people refer to themselves as “thought leaders” (kinda makes me laugh sometimes), so I will try to be an “action leader” on this.

Let me leave you with one major thought: Talking about sex never got anyone pregnant, and talking about money never made anybody rich (or poor, for that matter). So can we please stop acting like talking about death will kill you?

Ideally, after you die, your family will be sad and they will miss you. The grief should be plenty for them to deal with. Please take the time to make sure that everything else is in order, and spare them having to also deal with a big mess that you could have (and should have) taken care of in advance.

If you are fortunate enough to be part of a family that owns a business or has significant wealth, then this is even more important.

Now is the time to Deal With It.

 

Procrastinating or Preparing?

Procrastinating or Preparing?

Most weeks I write my blog post on Saturday, and sometimes even on Friday. I am just starting to write this post on Sunday, and the late NFL games are already on, so I am clearly behind schedule.

The title of this piece is “borrowed” from the name of a report that EY (Ernst & Young) just published, but I changed the order of the words.

It would be nice if I could honestly say that I put off writing this in order to really “feel” the procrastinating part, but that would be disingenuous on my part. I just plain did not feel inspired, and I had other things to take care of. I even went and visited my mother.

Why is it always so easy to put off doing important things? Well lots of times it’s because we are too busy doing things that seem more urgent. It really is an easy trap to fall into.

Hey, my Mom’s computer mouse died, and I am kind of her go-to tech guy, and she deserves to be able to use her computer whenever she wants to, so I had to go and install a new mouse for her, like, today.

Back to the EY report, which is called “Preparing or Procrastinating” and which is all about “How the world’s largest family businesses undertake successful successions”, as the secondary title says.

They surveyed over 500 of the largest family businesses in a total of over 20 countries and asked them how they handle the important task of succession. They worked with researchers from Kennesaw State University, who have a strong reputation in Family Business.

From their survey results, they have compiled a number of separate reports, and they are all available on their website. They have really been doing a nice job in this space with great content lately. I guess that with over 200,000 employees worldwide, it should not be unexpected that they put out high quality stuff.

This report talks about some of the things that successful families are doing to make sure that the generational transfer of the business is done well.

They list four main things that their survey respondents had in common, the assumption being that if these big family businesses did these things, and succeeded in becoming big businesses, then a lot of smaller family companies could benefit from following in their footsteps and emulating them.

I won’t get into all four of their points, but want to highlight the first one: Clearly define who is responsible for succession.

This is my favourite because it is not that obvious. If you don’t think that succession is YOUR responsibility, then you really aren’t procrastinating, you’re just being ignorant or oblivious.

But succession doesn’t just happen by itself, and it is not an event, it is a process. And ideally a long process. And someone needs to make sure that the proper preparation takes place.

It turns out that Board of Directors, at 44%, came out on top in the survey, as far as succession responsibility is concerned. This was followed by “owners/family council” at 23%, and the CEO at 22%. “Other” was at 11%.

Now I know that just about every family business, no matter how big or small, has a CEO, even if they don’t use that title. But how many have a board of directors, or a family council? A lot fewer.

Preparing for succession, which I actually prefer to call “Continuity Planning”, is important, and it takes time. The longer you wait to start, the harder it is to pull off properly.

If you don’t have a board or a family council, and you are the majority owner, the person responsible for succession is probably the person you see in the mirror.

Oh, and you may be overdue to at least call your mother.

Click here for EY’s Preparing or Procrastinating

Évolution ou Révolution? À vous de choisir…

Évolution ou Révolution? À vous de choisir…

Étant né dans une famille entrepreneuriale, j’ai toujours eu un intérêt à suivre leurs différentes façons de faire. On peut y voir de très beaux exemples de pratiques qu’on voudrait utiliser comme modèle, et d’autres qu’on voudrait éviter à tout prix.

J’aimerais partager une façon de penser à ce sujet qui m’est venue à l’esprit dernièrement.

Dans n’importe quelle famille, au cours des années et des décennies, il existe une certaine évolution naturelle. On est né, nos parents prennent soin de nous, et éventuellement, nous avons nos propres enfants, et nous prenons soin d’eux.

En même temps, nos parents vieillissent, et ils bénéficient du fait qu’ils ont eu des enfants, qui deviennent une ressource pour eux, quand ils ont besoin d’aide. Les enfants finissent par prendre soin des parents.

J’espère que mes enfants seront là, disponibles et motivés pour me venir en aide quand j’en aurai le besoin.

On pourrait décrire cette situation comme une évolution. Les membres de la famille passent chacun par toutes les phases de la vie, de façon assez prévisible, dans la majorité des cas.

Mais là, arrêtons de parler de familles en général, et concentrons-nous sur les familles entrepreneuriales. Il y a beaucoup de différences entre ces familles et des familles dites “normales”, mais nous allons viser une caractéristique en particulier.

Je ne présume pas que toutes les familles qui sont menées par un entrepreneur qui a eu beaucoup de succès sont pareilles, puisqu’il existe beaucoup d’exceptions à la règle.

Mais trop souvent, les entrepreneurs qui ont bâti leur entreprise, et ainsi leur fortune, ont beaucoup de difficultés à laisser leur place à ceux qui suivent.

Ce n’est quand même pas trop surprenant. Ils ont réussi leur vie en se battant à tous les jours, très souvent face à du monde qui les doutait, et qui leur disait qu’ils ne réussiront pas. Malgré ces obstacles, ils ont quand même survécu, et même triomphé!

Éventuellement ils atteignent l’âge de 65, 70, 75, 80, et tout le monde se met à les questionner sur leur avenir, sans vraiment cacher leurs opinions, qui penchent sur l’idée de ralentir, passer le flambeau, jouer au golf, et voyager.

Ces gens ont passé leur vie à contredire ceux qui les questionnaient, pourquoi changeraient-ils maintenant?

Le plus gros problème revient au sujet que nous discutions tantôt, l’évolution. Nous avons constaté que l’évolution était plutôt naturelle.

Mais quand on essaye trop fort de combattre l’évolution naturelle, il y a quelque chose d’autre qui arrive. J’appelle ça la Révolution.

Pendant que l’entrepreneur atteint 65, 70, 75, etc., qu’est-ce qui se passe avec ses enfants? Ils arrivent à 35, 40, 45, 50, etc., mais la place qu’ils s’attendaient à prendre n’est toujours pas libérée. Au début, ils patientent, pensant que le “jour J” arrivera sans doute bientôt.

Malheureusement pour eux, ils risquent d’attendre beaucoup plus longtemps qu’ils le souhaitaient, ce qui sème les graines de la révolution.

Il n’y a pas de solution miracle à ce phénomène, mais j’aimerais vous donner un peu d’espoir.

D’abord sachez que dans la grande majorité des familles, les parents décèdent avant leurs enfants, donc la nature est toujours de votre bord, si vous êtes parmi ceux et celles qui commencent à manquer de patience.

Mais sans farce, j’ai quelques conseils qui vous seront peut-être utiles.

D’habitude, la confrontation ne fonctionne pas très bien, mais le silence non plus. Des conversations, ouvertes, honnêtes, et qui mettent les cartes sur la table, sont de rigueur. Mais quand on pousse trop fort, trop vite, on risque de provoquer de la résistance.

Le respect et la patience sont aussi importants. Certains disent que ceux qui ne veulent pas partir ont peur de perdre leur identité et leur raison d’être. Aidez-leur à surmonter ces défis, réconfortez-les de toutes les manières possibles, mais soyez prêt à recevoir des objections tout au long du trajet.

Ces options sont préférables à la révolution, mais parfois la menace d’une révolution est quand même nécessaire. Mais avant d’y arriver, pensez peut-être à rentrer une personne externe, pour faciliter les discussions. Vous en connaissez sûrement au moins une.