Posts

What Does a Sounding Board Sound Like?

Everyone has heard the one about the tree that falls in the forest with nobody around to hear it. Does it make a sound? Probably. Does it make a difference whether it makes a sound or not? Not really.

But what about a person who has ideas about what they think they should do, but doesn’t have an impartial, knowledgeable resource to bounce these ideas off?

Surely they would like to make sounds by talking to a trusted advisor, who would hear their ideas and provide arguments for and against their plan, as an unbiased person who is not billing them by the tenth of an hour, or a yes-man just trying to keep his job.

An ideal sounding board has a combination of qualities that are not always easy to find in one person.  And someone who might be a good sounding board in one situation may be a bad fit in another. So finding the right match is even more difficult.

A person who has successfully run their own business for many years must be good at dealing with all sorts of people, on a variety of subjects, and in many different situations. But it can be a lonely job.

This is why groups like the Young Presidents Organization and Canadian Association of Family Enterprise have had some success. They are a place where these company leaders can exchange with others who operate at their high level.

But these relationships also have their limits, since these contacts may not relate well to your industry or there may even be competitive reasons not to exchange too much information.

While running a company, most CEO’s will develop a good rapport with their CFO, since they are involved in so many important decisions. Or in a family business, the founder may develop a great working relationship with one or more of their children who they are grooming to one day replace them. Unfortunately, these kinds of relationships do not always survive a business transition.

One problem that we have seen on numerous occasions is with business owners who have sold some, most, or all of their operating businesses. Once they get over the divestiture, they are now in a new and different realm, and they are not always sure to whom they should turn.

Selling a business rids you of a whole slew of problems and worries, but it also creates new situations and new realities that need to be dealt with. As I have heard it put nicely, someone who is comfortable running a $25 million company, may not be as comfortable managing $25 million of proceeds after the sale.

So what does a sounding board sound like? It probably says things like this: “are you sure that you want to go in that directions?, “have you thought about doing it like this?” , “okay, sounds pretty good, but what about ____ ?”, “let me talk to someone I know who has done something similar so I can get some ideas about how to go about it”.

People who are good sounding boards are not necessarily easy to find, but they do exist. You just have to know where to look. We would be happy to discuss this subject with those seeking this kind of resource, so we can get started on the most important component in such a relationship: trust.

Once you have a trusted advisor (or two) to use as a sounding board, you will not want to give them up.

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.

Is THIS what you were looking for?

Part I: Services

I recently joined a LinkedIn group for Family Office professionals, where I have come across some interesting stuff, including a discussion thread that has been ongoing for over a month. The thread started with a question, “As an advisor to a family office, what are the most valuable services and qualities that you can offer that family?”

I cut’n’pasted parts of the best replies into my notes, but many mentioned both services AND qualities. So today I will focus on the services, and save the qualities for a future blog post.

I have organized the services into 5 general groupings, and I will go through them in a systematic way, starting with services applicable to most people, to those that are more typically found in family wealth scenarios.

Advice and guidance are the first category, general enough. As for the family aspect, one member added the qualifiers “dynamic, circular and holistic”. So people are looking for advice, and in a family context, it can get more complex.

The next group looks at the role of coordinator or facilitator. Partnering and communicating are also part of this area. The complexities surrounding family wealth require gathering expert advice from a variety of specialists, and someone needs to keep everything coordinated and make sure everyone knows what their roles are and how the pieces of the puzzle are supposed to fit together.

The next category is that of preserving and protecting wealth. Risk reduction is part of this as well. In contrast to people who concentrate on trying to grow their investments, those who have attained a certain level of wealth will often do well to switch to a mindset of conservation and making it last without squandering it.

The fourth category of services that families look for is a gatekeeper. This is someone to whom the family can refer those who come to them with “great investment ideas”. The wealthy are often targets of schemers and dreamers who would like to find a deep-pocketed investor. Those who do not wish to be bothered can institute a simple policy in which they refer these types to their advisor as a first step.

The other side of the gatekeeper role is to provide valid alternatives in which to invest. Not only should they weed out undesirable places to put money, they must also be able to suggest useful types of investments that are not necessarily available to everyone, and which can be very appropriate for families concentrating on a longer time horizon.

And this brings us to the final service area, and the one that applies to almost every family wealth scenario:  a multi-generation viewpoint. The younger generations have their own human and intellectual capital, and the advisor should be able to help educate them about handling their family wealth and see that their perspectives are not forgotten.

As the family office business model becomes more prevalent, these are the types of services that more and more wealthy families will be seeking. Many traditional wealth advisors are moving to create the type of advisory service to meet these needs. I believe that it is much easier said than done.

At TSI Heritage, we believe that getting all of these services under one roof will be hard to find for all but the wealthiest families. For those intrigued by the service offerings, it is good to know that a decentralized alternative exists for the “moderately wealthy”.

Is THIS what you were looking for?

Steve Legler “gets” business families.
 
He understands the issues that families face, as well as how each family member sees things from their own viewpoint.
 
He specializes in helping business families navigate the difficult areas where the family and the business overlap, by listening to each person’s concerns and ideas.  He then helps the family work together to bridge gaps by building common goals, based on their shared values and vision.
 
His background in family business, his experience running his own family office, along with his education and training in coaching, facilitation, and mediation, make him uniquely suited to the role of advising business families and families of wealth.
 
He is the author of Shift your Family Business (2014), he received his MBA from the Richard  Ivey School of Business (UWO, 1991), is a CFA Charterholder (CFA Institute, 2002), a Family Enterprise Advisor (IFEA 2014), and has received the ACFBA and CFWA accreditations (Family Firm Institute 2014-2015).
 
He prides himself on his ability to help families create the harmony they need to support the legacy they want. To learn how, start by signing up for his monthly newsletter and weekly blogs here.

Are They Only Telling You What You Want To Hear?

I don’t often start these blog posts with famous quotes, but lots of smart people do that, so why not give it a go? Earlier this week, I was reading one of the daily letters to which I subscribe, The King Report, by Bill King out of Chicago. He finished his daily piece with this:

“When you want to help people you tell them the truth. When you want to help yourself, you tell them what they want to hear.”  -Thomas Sowell.

I immediately printed out that page, highlighted the quotation, and put it aside to eventually use as a blog topic. I showed it to my partner Tom, to my wife, and to my kids. The more I read it, the more I liked it. Let me explain why.

I believe that too many people fall into the group of those who will be more likely to put themselves first and tell you what you want to hear rather than tell you the truth. In the case of wealthy and powerful people, it happens even more often.

My father was a very tough boss, but he was fair. He would often say that he did not have to give people hell, he just had to tell them the truth. And yes, sometimes the truth did hurt. He was very animated and loud, and when it was your turn to hear the truth, you could be sure that others overheard it as well.

As easy as it might have been to try to “protect” ourselves and drift into more of a “tell him what he wants to hear” mode, that would have just make things worse.
The people who worked for him who were willing to give him their true opinion were the ones he counted on the most.

When I showed Tom the quote, it immediately brought back all kinds of memories for both of us. We were two of the people who worked for him the longest, and he relied on us for a variety of things. Occasionally he would tell us that if all we did was agree with him, he really wouldn’t need us. We would make ourselves redundant if we were simply “Yes-Men”.

Having spent so many years in this type of relationship with our boss has had many benefits for both of us. We shared the truth with him, and we got plenty of truth back. The exchanges were often spirited and loud, but always positive, about moving closer to the best decision or course of action, and no lingering hard feelings.

We would offer an opinion, get shot down, roll with the punches and continue the debate. The eventual decision sometimes ended up looking a lot like the ones we suggested, and we knew we had a hand in directing the proper outcome, even if we never heard “hey, you were right”. We knew. He was the boss, he was at the top, he was the one ultimately responsible for whatever we decided.

These days sometimes I will go on a rant about something when talking with Tom, and he will usually just sit there and smile. It is usually only mock anger, and it comes across more as a schtick than anything else. But it brings back memories of working for someone with so much energy and passion, who was not afraid to let his feelings show.

Tom will laugh off my mock anger and remind me that after the number of times he got sh*t from “The Big Guy”, anything that I could throw at him would seem like a light breeze after a tornado.

All that to say that we both have plenty of experience in telling people the truth, even when it contains elements that they do not really want to hear. It is essential to what we offer our clients, because they are likely to have too many of the other types of advisors already.

Steve Legler “gets” business families.
 
He understands the issues that families face, as well as how each family member sees things from their own viewpoint.
 
He specializes in helping business families navigate the difficult areas where the family and the business overlap, by listening to each person’s concerns and ideas.  He then helps the family work together to bridge gaps by building common goals, based on their shared values and vision.
 
His background in family business, his experience running his own family office, along with his education and training in coaching, facilitation, and mediation, make him uniquely suited to the role of advising business families and families of wealth.
 
He is the author of Shift your Family Business (2014), he received his MBA from the Richard  Ivey School of Business (UWO, 1991), is a CFA Charterholder (CFA Institute, 2002), a Family Enterprise Advisor (IFEA 2014), and has received the ACFBA and CFWA accreditations (Family Firm Institute 2014-2015).
 
He prides himself on his ability to help families create the harmony they need to support the legacy they want. To learn how, start by signing up for his monthly newsletter and weekly blogs here.

What the heck is a Heritage Delegate?

When Tom and I set out to name our new venture, we spent a considerable amount of time trying to include just the right mix of elements in our name. We ran through all sorts of combinations before settling in on TSI Heritage Delegates and Associates.

Since we have begun to get our name out there, I must admit that the name does not necessarily roll of the tongue as easily as some of the others we had considered, but we don’t really mind that either. Personally, I do like it quite a bit, even if it does require a bit of an explanation. Or maybe it’s because it requires an explanation.

We consider ourselves very specialized in terms of the market we serve, i.e. business families, especially those that are in transition mode. With such a specific target market, we really wanted to include the proper words to reflect both to WHOM we are offering our services, as well as HOW we can operate and act for those families.

Let’s start with Heritage. The definition we have included, both on our home page and on the reverse of our business cards is: Property passed down from preceding generations by reason of birth; a tradition. This pre-supposes that there is sufficient property, along with the corresponding complexity, to warrant special attention and advice.

We go on to add a few synonyms, again both on the home page and our cards: Legacy, Estate, Patrimony, and Inheritance. Not everyone needs to be concerned with such issues. The average person who may seek help to figure out how to set aside enough money to retire is already well served with plenty of hungry advisors available from a multitude of providers in that market. While we may be able to help guide some people in that area, we do not offer any special experience or expertise in serving that type of clientele.

That covers the WHO we are best able to service. But now we come to the word that is most likely to raise eyebrows when people see or hear our name, Delegates. So here again we provide both a definition and some synonyms to help lay out the way we our positioning ourselves to potential clients.

We use the straightforward definition  “Person of trust designated to act for or represent another”. As synonyms we have: Agent, confidant, deputy, stand-in, substitute. Most family business founders who have become successful enough to accumulate significant assets could probably point to a number of key factors that allowed them to succeed. I am willing to bet that most had some special skill or field of knowledge, and as their business grew they needed to be able to delegate.

One of our biggest challenges is to have these successful business people understand that they should spend the time and make the necessary efforts to make sure that they take care of their heritage, or legacy, in order to ensure that the things that they worked so hard for will continue to serve them and their families both now and long after they are gone.

Many do not know where to begin, or they may not be anxious to get into the detailed work necessary to do it properly. We believe that by finding trusted advisors to whom they can once again DELEGATE, as they did in building their businesses, they can undertake the planning and make the decisions necessary in this important area of their lives.

As for our Associates, these are the variety of specialists in their respective fields to whom we turn, together with the wealth owner, in order to execute the plans we worked out together.

So to answer the question in the title, a “Heritage Delegate” is someone who has experience and expertise in dealing with heritage issues, who is also a person of trust, to the point where they are trusted enough to act for another.

In dealing this way, the wealth owner is relieved of many of the arduous details, giving them peace of mind and allowing them to enjoy their life, knowing that their affairs are being handled in the way they planned, and with two confidants just a phone call away to discuss any questions or new challenges.

As for the TSI part of our name, if you go to our FAQ section of our website, the last question deals with the TSI part of our name. Some day I will write a blog about this as well.

Steve Legler “gets” business families.
 
He understands the issues that families face, as well as how each family member sees things from their own viewpoint.
 
He specializes in helping business families navigate the difficult areas where the family and the business overlap, by listening to each person’s concerns and ideas.  He then helps the family work together to bridge gaps by building common goals, based on their shared values and vision.
 
His background in family business, his experience running his own family office, along with his education and training in coaching, facilitation, and mediation, make him uniquely suited to the role of advising business families and families of wealth.
 
He is the author of Shift your Family Business (2014), he received his MBA from the Richard  Ivey School of Business (UWO, 1991), is a CFA Charterholder (CFA Institute, 2002), a Family Enterprise Advisor (IFEA 2014), and has received the ACFBA and CFWA accreditations (Family Firm Institute 2014-2015).
 
He prides himself on his ability to help families create the harmony they need to support the legacy they want. To learn how, start by signing up for his monthly newsletter and weekly blogs here.

What Can You Learn from a FOX? Part 2

Transactions Vs. Transitions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steve Legler “gets” business families.
 
He understands the issues that families face, as well as how each family member sees things from their own viewpoint.
 
He specializes in helping business families navigate the difficult areas where the family and the business overlap, by listening to each person’s concerns and ideas.  He then helps the family work together to bridge gaps by building common goals, based on their shared values and vision.
 
His background in family business, his experience running his own family office, along with his education and training in coaching, facilitation, and mediation, make him uniquely suited to the role of advising business families and families of wealth.
 
He is the author of Shift your Family Business (2014), he received his MBA from the Richard  Ivey School of Business (UWO, 1991), is a CFA Charterholder (CFA Institute, 2002), a Family Enterprise Advisor (IFEA 2014), and has received the ACFBA and CFWA accreditations (Family Firm Institute 2014-2015).
 
He prides himself on his ability to help families create the harmony they need to support the legacy they want. To learn how, start by signing up for his monthly newsletter and weekly blogs here.

Peace of Mind Has Many Forms

This week I had the “pleasure” of undergoing my first colonoscopy. Thankfully, it was really no big deal, and even more importantly, nothing was found and I don’t have to have the procedure again for five years. The biggest benefit is the peace of mind that I now have, assured that there is nothing to worry about.

This is just one small example of taking care of your affairs so that you minimize the number of things that you need to be concerned about.

Whenever I get a renewal notice for an insurance premium, I usually feel a sense of relief when I make the payment, knowing that I am good for another year of not having to think about it, and knowing that I am covered in case something bad happens.

As a parent, you never really stop worrying about your children, but as they get older and learn to be more self-reliant, there is great satisfaction in seeing them overcome what used to be obstacles.

Just knowing that they now know how to swim, ride a bike safely, can go to the bathroom by themselves in a public place or walk to the corner store and get something for you, are all stages that they go through, and each provides their parents with a little bit more peace of mind in knowing that they can be trusted with their independence.

On the other end of the life spectrum, elderly parents often need to be cared for, and surely finding a place with caring staff, good facilities and enjoyable activities serves to provide peace of mind when that time comes.

In between the times in our lives when we have other people worrying about things for us, there is the part where we are responsible for looking after ourselves. What can we do to make sure that we maximize our peace of mind during those years?

I have already touched on a few of the areas. The colonoscopy is a small part of the making sure that you are being properly followed by medical professionals who will hopefully be able to spot anything early enough to be treated. Insurance is something that falls into another category; if you don’t have a go-to person for your insurance needs, you probably should have one.

Of course I would be remiss if I did not talk about the importance of making a will, and keeping it up-to-date. The whole subject of how much you tell your family about what is in the will is too big a subject to be properly treated here, and it will be the subject of a future blog post.

For now though, you should know that I am usually in favour of more communication and not less, so as to minimize the potential for misunderstandings.

Making sure that more people fully understand your wishes can go a very long way to making sure that things will be taken care of the way you want them to be.

Making your family aware of your wishes is the first important step. The second is making sure that at least one or two other, non-family people are aware is the second step. Having a notary and/or a trusted advisor on board can provide you with more peace of mind than anything else.

The problem is that these are not subjects that most people enjoy talking about. But if you think about the added peace of mind that you will feel once you have taken care of everything, maybe that will help you get moving.

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.

Bosco’s Severe Case of Canine Halitosis

Bosco is eight years old, and he has been living with us for over six years now. He is the friendliest dog you could ever meet. Unfortunately, he suffers from severe canine halitosis. But it is not as bad as it sounds, because as some of you have likely figured out, canine halitosis is just a fancy term for doggy bad breath. Sorry if I had you going there for a second, but I wanted to make a point here.

When you deal with professionals, the terms that they use on daily basis amongst their peers often creep into their discussions with “regular people” who are less familiar with their jargon. So you may find yourself subject to advisors who speak to you in a way that is difficult to follow.

Many people who are guilty of this kind of poor communication do not even realize that they are not getting through to their listeners. Some actually do it on purpose (even if only subconsciously) in order to make themselves seem superior. If you are the type who thinks “if the dog has bad breath, just tell me he has bad breath, don’t make it sound like some deadly disease”, then I hear you loud and clear.

Unfortunately many people will not recognize themselves as having this fault. After we sold the operations of our family business, it took me a few years to figure out what I would do career-wise. After a stint as an intellectual property licensing consultant I began to take on more of a portfolio manager role in the family office, which lead me to sign up for the CFA program.

Some friends looked at me like I was crazy. Why should I put myself through the trouble of studying all those hours in order to get another certificate on my wall and three more letters after my name? I worked for my family business, who was I trying to impress? The truth is, I did it for defensive purposes first and foremost. I knew that as someone who managed wealth, I would have people approaching me regularly, trying to convince me to invest in their products or services.

Many of those people would have those three letters, CFA, after their names. Those people must be smart, because many people enroll in the CFA program but a large percentage never get through it. So if they tell me that what they are selling is good for me, who am I to argue? Well, when they see the same three letters after my name, hopefully they understand that I understand.

You may think that this shows some insecurity on my part, and you may be right. But I am glad that I did it, and truthfully it was one of the most challenging things that I have taken on. The fact that I signed up for the program a week after our first child was born made it that much more of a challenge.

At the time I did not foresee the current career turn that I am making. Offering services to other families would not have even been a consideration if I did not have those credentials. Having an understanding of the financial products out there allows me to be kind of a translator, helping to explain seemingly complicated ideas to those who are not used to the concepts.

It is also a lot easier to ask questions for someone else. “I am pretty sure that I get it, but could you please explain to Mrs. Jones why she should add this product to her current holdings at this time?” is better than just nodding your head even though you are not sure you understood. When you get right down to it, if you cannot explain it to someone else in simple terms, you probably don’t understand it well enough yourself. And if that is the case, you probably shouldn’t be investing in it.