Personalizing your Family Business meetings

5 Things you Need to Know: Professionalizing your Family Business

Most family businesses start small and are run rather informally, usually with one or two people calling the shots. As the business grows, more people are brought in, and things can go along for years without much in the way of any formal procedures or written rules.

When one person can no longer stay on top of everything, their ability to delegate will largely determine how much the business can grow.

As the next generation joins the business, a certain level of informality may be part of the culture as well. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but behaving at the office as you do around the dinner table can have its drawbacks.

Many people recommend “professionalizing” your family business, and with good reason. But what exactly does that mean, and how do you do it?

I’m glad you asked…

1. Education

An obvious place to begin is with the education level of the next generation of family members entering the business.

If your children have the ability to go to college or university and get a degree, that’s a plus.

If they can get an advanced degree, that’s better.

If they can do that AND go and get a few years of work experience working for an unrelated business, that’s best.

If you are inclined to hire your kids right out of high school, I urge you to rethink that plan, as their future and that of the company will likely be limited by that choice.

If it’s “too late for that” in your family, there are plenty of education opportunities that last anywhere from a few days to a few months that are probably worth looking into.

It is never too late to learn new things and to upgrade one’s skills and abilities.

2. Hiring Non-Family Employees

The quickest way to professionalize any business is to hire people who are professional in the way they operate, hopefully also bringing along some work experience.

Aim to bring in outsiders who are MORE professional than the people you currently employ, treat them professionally, listen to their ideas, and learn from them.

You can only go so far without great non-family people on your team.

3. Outside Professionals

Every business needs and has outside professionals that they deal with, like accountants and lawyers. They often began with friends or whomever they could afford when starting out.

As the business grows, it is sometimes necessary to move up the ranks and switch to professionals who are at the level you require.

It is quite possible that your business has outgrown your professional advisors, and an upgrade will be needed. It isn’t always easy to cut these ties, but can be necessary.

4. The HR Department

During the growth of any business, the need to begin to treat Human Resources as its own department becomes key. The sooner you acknowledge this, the better.

Your business can only grow as quickly and as far as the ability of your people to grow along with it.

A real HR department will think twice (hopefully) before agreeing to blindly hire a family member and put them into a role for which they are ill suited and unqualified.

This issue has tripped up more family businesses than you can imagine, as mistakes like this cost not only the department where the person works, but can get everyone shaking their heads about what is important to the business.

The biggest part of this comes down to attitude. Have you realized how important humans are to your company, as a resource?

Finding, onboarding, and keeping great people is a must for just about every business. And so is having the right people filling all key roles.

5.   Board of Advisors

Last but certainly not least is the company’s board. I know that even fathoming a true Board of Directors is a complete non-starter for most small family businesses.

So why not start small and informally, with a board of advisors?

The outside perspective alone is worth it, even if it is only to help you look at your own family members more objectively.

Bringing in independent advisors (preferably NOT your current lawyer and accountant) can be the single biggest step to professionalizing your family business. Just ask anyone who has done it.

Work With Me, Walk with Me

Work with Me, Walk with Me

Work with Me, Walk with Me

This week’s blog inspiration comes from a training program I attended. Noting it in my “future blog ideas” file, I then let it simmer. It’s ready now, so let’s dig in.

We’re in Ottawa, autumn 2016, at the Canadian Institute for Conflict Resolution, on the first day of “TPN-4”, the final installment of their Third Party Neutral program.

We go around and do intros, wrapping up with our observer, a former student, now volunteering as a teaching assistant.

She details her experience in the field, including some with First Nations communities, during which she “walked with the ‘XYZ’ tribe for four years”.

“Sorry”, I interject, “did you say ‘worked with’, or ‘walked with’?”

Walked with”, she replied.

“OK, thanks, that’s what I thought I heard”, I nodded.


Similar, but different

There isn’t a huge difference between the two words, given the context.

Or is there? Of course she worked with them, and that is the way most people would have phrased it. But she chose her words carefully, and I for one noticed.

The biggest thing I appreciated about her word choice is that she was actually describing more than a simple working relationship, it was one where she did much more than regular “brain” or “muscle” work.

But then again, the heart is a muscle too.


Journey = Process

To walk with someone suggests some important differences, firstly that the process of helping the client is actually a journey.

Also, when people walk together, there usually is no hierarchy of “you work for me” or vice versa.

I’ve worked with lots of people with whom I never “walked”, and I’ve “walked with” others I never worked with.

Walking with someone suggests that you begin at a certain place and try to go somewhere else, together, hopefully a better place.

You could even leave somewhere and then return, in which case you’re most likely emphasizing something you are doing along the way.



Even if you overlook the nuances of “worked” versus “walked”, you still have that other key word, “with”.

In the area of coaching, which continues to make great strides in becoming a mainstream profession, there is a French translation that I love, which also fits this subject.

Some people use the term “Le coaching” in a way similar to “Le marketing”, and others where a French word has never become generally accepted.

I’ve often heard people call it “service d’accompagnement”, that is, “accompaniment”.

That really resonates with me.

I recall one of my coaching leaders at CTI saying that 80% of coaching boils down to two simple (but not necessarily easy) things:

  • Listening without judgement, and
  • Being “with” someone

“Being with”, is very much “accompaniment”.

“Walking with” is accompaniment on a journey.


How about a “Guide”? 

Of course when you hire someone to work with you or walk with you, it is rarely just for companionship. Ideally the person can offer you some sort of help, thanks to their experience or expertise.

But there are different kinds of helpers, and it is often tempting to look for “the expert” who can give you the best advice, and then “just tell me what to do”.

In some cases, that’s the ideal way to go. In many others, such as figuring our how to transition your family’s wealth from one generation to the next, just getting experts to tell you “what to do” often leads to sub-optimal results.


Guidance helps you get what YOU want

An analogy I like for this kind of work is that of a “guide”. Names like “consultant”, “advisor”, and “coach” each have connotations that bring along some negative baggage and associations to some ears.

I’ve always liked the idea of giving “guidance”, but somehow calling myself a “guide” doesn’t seem to “fit” either.

A good guide “walks with”, helps point out interesting things you may have missed, and keeps you out of places you shouldn’t venture into.

If they’re really good, they don’t even look like they’re working when they are!

They just look like someone who came along for the walk. But how would the journey have been without them?

Who is guiding your transition?


2017 Key Questions - Family Business

The KEY Question for 2017

So here we are again at the time of year when the old calendar comes off the wall and the new one goes up. Didn’t we just go through this?

The title of this week’s post comes from a book I’ve been reading, called Finish Big, by Bo Burlingham. I have gotten in the habit of doing my morning workouts while reading instead of watching TV, which has allowed me to cut into my unread books pile.

On my Kindle one recent day, I finished my ride mid-chapter and closed down, and the next morning when I resumed, “The Key Question” was the bold sub-heading that hit me right between the eyes when I rebooted.

Hmmm, I thought, a great and timely blog topic.


What IS the Key Question? 

There are SO many questions that we consider every day of our lives, most of them without thinking too much, and many of them of very little consequence.

When you look at the photo accompanying this post, which shows me along with some models hired for photo ops at a friend’s recent office Christmas party, a number of potential questions may come to mind.

I happened to receive this photo by email from my friend the other day, and when I showed it to my daughter, her laughter was all I needed to hear to know that I needed to include it here.

So if the key question is “Why?”, the answer is because I got the pic, I laughed when I saw it, others thought it was funny, so I decided to share it.

If it is a “What” question, however, as in “what is going on in this pic?” the simple facts of “what” along with “where”, “when”, and “who”, have also been addressed, albeit briefly.

“What” and “Why” questions preoccupy much of our lives, but for me, the Key Question for 2017 should be HOW?

I invite you to also consider more “HOW” questions, many of which you may have been subconsciously avoiding.



Let’s move this over to the usual subject matter here, that of family legacy.

WHAT you have today, the business, the assets, the wealth, is pretty easy to ascertain factually. You have lots of professional advisors who can help you figure out exactly what you have, in hard numbers, on paper.

WHY you worked so hard to get to where you are, and the sacrifices you made to get here, and the reasons behind many of the tough decisions you made, are mostly things that come from the past, and include many important factors that drove you to succeed.

These WHATs and WHYs are very important, but by themselves, they will not suffice.


The Future is HOW

Every family that has worked to develop sufficient assets to be concerned about leaving a legacy, will eventually get to the stage where their main concern shifts to HOW.

How do we keep this going? That’s why professionals who advise such families don’t talk about succession planning, but instead talk about “Continuity Planning”.

HOW are you going to ensure that these assets will hold together into future generations, thereby sustaining your legacy?

These assets are not simply financial assets, by the way, but also less tangible things like human and intellectual capital, and if you haven’t been paying attention to those, the chances of the financial wealth being enough to hold the legacy together will decrease substantially.


HOW is a Transition, NOT a Transaction

Many families delay even thinking about these key questions for a variety of reasons; they’re too busy making the pie bigger, they think they will live forever, they aren’t sure where to start, etc.

It is complex stuff, and everyone in the family has their own viewpoint. Many professional advisors also have a hard time getting out of their silo of expertise to give you proper big picture advice.

Future blog posts will talk about creating a Family Continuity BluePrint. We will be getting back to the basics of the Three Circle Model, so feel free to read these refreshers:

Stay tuned to future posts for more on making “HOW” the Key Question for 2017 for your family.  If you are not yet subscribed, please do so here and now!

 P.S. (The facial expression of the handsome guy in the photo seems to convey “How do I get myself out of this?”, doesn’t it?







Thinking Outside the Boxing Day Special

I have been writing and posting my blog here each and every week for over four years now. It is a source of pride for me to be consistently present, always thinking, sharing and prodding, while hopefully also being thought-provoking and entertaining.

Because I post my blogs on my website,, on the weekend (usually Sunday) and then send them out to subscribers via MailChimp on Mondays, this week represents a bit of a challenge, or opportunity, because of Christmas.

When I realized that this week’s edition would be emailed out on Boxing Day, the opportunity became one of capitalizing on some clever wordplay in the subject line. I came up with the “thinking outside the box” part a few weeks ago, and knew that I wanted to use it with Boxing Day.

Of course the clever title really should fit the subject of the blog, at least loosely, which brings up another challenge. I acknowledge that there have been occasional posts where the content and the headline were not exactly aligned.


Who’s in Charge here?

The only one I have to blame for any of the shortcomings that occur in this space is, of course, myself, as I am the author, editor, publisher, scheduler, idea person, researcher (not that there is a lot of that going on) and person responsible for what I put out here.

It is tempting to try to listen more to people who have ideas and suggestions for me on ways to make this blog more popular. I am thrilled to know that there are people who read my stuff and the feedback that I get is almost universally positive, and that helps keep me motivated. Truthfully, though, I think I would continue to write every week even if nobody read my stuff, simply because it forces me to try to clarify my thoughts.

There are people who have given me ideas on how to grow my audience faster, and I have even tried a few of them. There are also some “tricks” that others have suggested which do not fit with the way I do things, to which I have said “thanks, but no thanks”.


Write what YOU love

This week while on Twitter, I came across a post from a writer I follow who said something along the lines of, “The fastest way to Crazy Town is to try to write stuff that you think people will like”. He went on to say that you need to write what you like, and hope enough other people agreed.

Now that guy was more of a traditional “writer”, who writes pieces for magazines and such, not some guy who is actually a subject matter “expert” of sorts, who writes a blog on his website to reinforce his credibility.

There are people to whom I pay good money to help me with my online presence, and they have given me ideas that are really hard to logically ignore. I am slowly trying to integrate some of their suggestions, but I cannot lose sight of the idea that if I ever stop writing what I love, it will surely be the beginning of the end of this for me.

So I am not sure what the true “outside the box” part is here; is the “box” the formula for quickly adding subscribers, and outside the box is just writing from my heart, a.k.a. the adventures of Steve? Or is it the other way around?


Families? Or their advisors?

This makes me think about the other line I try to straddle, the one about my ultimate target audience. My marketing folks continually ask if I am writing for families, or the professional advisors who serve them. My answer is always “yes”.

Maybe for this week the “box” was writng a blog with a family business angle, and the outside part, and also the “special” part, was just writing a “stream-of-consciousness” blog, since it is the holidays and lots of people are going to miss it anyways.

I love writing this blog, I love getting feedback on it, I love getting new subscribers. I hope you enjoy it, I hope you will forward it to friends and colleagues. I will be back next week, and the week after that, etc.

Thanks for reading, please stick around for 52 more in 2017. Oh, and please tell your friends.


Family Biz Conflict and how to handle it

FamBiz: Conflict is NOT an option

Miami: FFI at 30

I am currently in Miami, having just spent the past three days at the Family Firm Institute’s annual conference, during which attendees were continually reminded that the organisation is 30 years old.

I recall that CAFÉ, the Canadian Association of Family Enterprise recently celebrated its 30th anniversary as well.

Also early in its fourth decade is the Three Circle Model (Family, Business, Ownership), co-created by John Davis of Harvard. Davis received what amounts to a lifetime achievement award from FFI at the Gala dinner last night.

I finally got to meet him in person and shake his hand afterward, and gave him a belated thank you for not only allowing me to quote him in my book a couple years back, but mostly for replying to my emailed request for that permission within an hour, which surprised me at the time.

Having now met the man, I am no longer surprised.


Conflict comes standard

FFI conferencs are filled with so many people and learnings, and I was reviewing some of my notes last night trying to decide on this week’s blog topic. I settled on Conflict is NOT an option.

But I met yet another experienced practitioner this week who happily noted that he rejects 90% of potential client families who come to him in full blown conflict mode. He doesn’t need the aggravation and much prefers to work with families in preventative ways.

But the potential for conflict in family business situations remains ever present. If this sounds familiar, you may have read something similar in this space a few short weeks ago. (FamBiz Conflict: Resolve it, or manage it)

One breakout session that I attended was moderated by one of the authors of Deconstructing Conflict, mentioned in that blog. She repeated that in any situation where family and business overlap, conflict is NOT optional. It will always be there, by default.


Even if you don’t want it

Go back a few decades and think about buying a car. Do you want power windows and power steering? Air conditioning? There were lots of options available that you could choose to add or not, depending on your wants and needs, and your budget.

These days, (almost) all cars come with all of those former options, and many more, as standard features.

And so it is in a family business, conflict comes standard, and you cannot even opt out of it! Recall the days when you could have an unlisted phone number, but that cost extra, to not be listed in the “standard” phone book (these days, what’s a phone book? Ask Grandma…)

So assuming that you accept that conflict is built in, what now? My take is that you acknowledge it and always be on the alert for where disputes might flare up, and try to get out in front of them.


Carving a Safe Space: Art vs Science

A common term for mediators and group facilitators is the “safe space”. An independent and neutral outsider comes in and creates a safe space for all parties to be able to share their concerns, wants and needs.

One of the panelists in the conflict session artfully pointed out that his task is always to “hand carve” that safe space. You cannot buy such a space at IKEA and assemble it out of the box.

This carving analogy fits quite nicely with my own assertion, which I made both in that post a few weeks ago and during the FFI session; there is much more art involved in facilitating group process than there is science.


Who I Am vs What I Do

Organisations like FFI are great at helping this young industry develop and share the science part of family firms, but the art in mediating conflict often comes down more to the “who I am” of the neutral third party than the “what I do”.

The work that one needs to do to become an effective third party is very personal and “internally driven”.

For me, coaching courses, mediation and facilitation workshops, and even Bowen Family Systems Theory training, have all been integral to my becoming more than simply competent to do this work and conduct these group processes.

They say, “practice makes perfect”, and while perfection seems too lofty a goal, practice certainly does make one “better”.


How to stay Calm in Family Business situation

“Calm-Fident” Advice for your Family

Sometimes the right word for something doesn’t exist, so we need to make one up. Okay, we don’t actually need to, but it can be a useful exercise.

On sports radio last week, a commentator was talking about a certain hockey goaltender and how his calm performances had helped his team get their season off to a good start. Right after uttering the word “calm”, he moved on to the fact that the team was quite “confident” playing in front of him.

That was when the “word” calmfidence sort of hit me, and it also fit nicely with some of the personal work that I continue to do, trying to become and even better advisor to legacy families.

(When I Googled “calmfidence”, I learned that while it certainly is not very popular or well known yet, I am not the first one to use it. If you also decide to do this, please say hello to Juneous for me.)


Bowen Family Systems Theory

Let’s get back to the idea of calmness as a key ingredient to helping a family. I am now into my third year of studying Bowen Family Systems Theory (BFST), and it has been eye opening to say the least.

I have already vowed to write a book on Bowen Theory as it applies to family business and wealth, because I have yet to find the book that I was hoping to find when I first took an interest in BFST.

That book is still in my plans, but it will be a couple of years away at best.

As any “amateur” Bowenite can tell you, there are eight concepts in BFST, and as some of those will surely note, being “calm” is not one of them.

So where do I think I am going to go with this? I am glad you asked.


Anxiety versus Calm

One of the over-riding issues that Bowen talked about throughout the eight concepts is anxiety.

When Bowen spoke of “Differentiation of Self”, which we might more simply call “emotional maturity” today, he regularly noted that those who are more differentiated (i.e. mature) can and do function well, even during times of anxiety.

Those with lower levels of differentiation or maturity will have their everyday functioning impaired during times of high anxiety.

Anyone who is part of a business family will certainly recognize that family discussions can be anxious times, and are often far from calm.


Bring an Outsider Inside

Advisors will preach to any family who will listen, that it is important to have an external person at the table to help them with these discussions, especially when important subjects like succession are on the agenda.

Most families prefer to keep things private, not wanting to air their laundry to an outsider, and also often assume that they alone are going through their particular difficult family situation.

They also recognize that an advisor who suggests bringing in an outsider is being self-serving, you know, like the barber who hints that your hair is getting a little long.


Bring in some Calm-Fidence

So here is where I want to bring things back to calmfidence.

When an outsider to your family enters the scene, there are two ways to quickly evaluate whether or not they will ultimately be useful to the family. You guessed it, they are “calm” and “confidence”.

This outside resource should bring a calm presence, no matter how much anxiety there is in the room, whether that anxiety is actually on the table, or hidden behind an elephant somewhere.

After a couple of meetings with the advisor/consultant, the family (or at least a significant portion of it) will begin to feel much more confident that they are on the right track.

But what if they are not calm, and the family does NOT feel more confident, you ask? Simple. Get someone else!


Too Important to Ignore

You’ve probably heard “the biggest investment most people make in their lives is buying a house.”

Families with a business, wealth, and a legacy to pass on are not “most people” though, and this is the biggest issue that they will ever face.

Inter-generation wealth transfer is not easy, and getting the whole family on board is the toughest part.

Find someone who gives you the CALMFIDENCE to get it done properly. Keep trying until you find them.




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”



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?


I can see clearly now

Even if it’s Free, I Don’t Want it

No Money bag sign icon. Dollar USD currency symbol. Red prohibition sign. Stop symbol. Vector

A few weeks back, I was on the road with my teenage son for a week, attending a basketball camp in the US. We shared a hotel room, as we had in previous years when we made the same trip.

It made me think back to times in my life when I had travelled on business with my father, and we had shared a hotel room on occasion.

My Dad was quite a snorer, and his loudness sometimes kept me from getting a good night’s sleep.

I am a former loud snorer, but thanks to the C-PAP machine I’ve used for years now, I get a restful night of sleep, and so does anyone sleeping within earshot.


Talking in your Sleep

One morning I asked my son if he was sleeping OK, concerned that I might be keeping him awake despite the “snoring machine”, as we call it in our family.

No snoring issues were reported, but apparently I do talk in my sleep sometimes. One night, according to my “roommate”, I uttered, “Even if it’s free, I don’t want it”.

I could not deny having said that, because it sounds like just the kind of thing that I would say. Not only that, it also sounds like the kind of thing my Dad would have said too.

I had no recollection of whatever dream I was having when I said it, but it did strike me as something that would be worth exploring here. The concepts of “free stuff” and “getting what you want” apply to many family legacy topics.


Zero Dollars

The word “free” itself seems to be disappearing in the business context; I am constantly annoyed by radio commercials from mobile phone carriers offering the latest device for “Zero Dollars”. (So it’s not free?)

And just because something is free, or included, does that mean you should take it? Think about that free dessert that comes with your meal.

Providers of goods and services put lots of thought into how to price, market, and bundle their wares in order to maximize profits, and often what seems like a great deal at first becomes a little “less good” for the consumer upon deeper reflection.


But it’s FREE!

When you think about low-cost items like a meal or even a monthly phone plan, the stakes are not that high, so who cares, right?

But what about transferring your family’s wealth to the next generation, you know, investments, banking, life insurance, and legal and accounting services?

Unfortunately few families have even a basic understanding of how those who provide them with big-ticket services get paid at the end of the day.

When something seems “free”, it is usually worth asking a few questions. More than a few, if that is what it takes to truly understand the business relationship that is being considered, or that has being going on for some time already.

“Gee that insurance fella seems like a great guy, he’s been really helpful, AND, he never sends us a bill!” If you saw how much the insurance company paid him for selling you that policy, you would have a better understanding.

And then there’s, “The bank offered to take care of all this for us for nothing!”


You get what you pay for

This blog often contains useful ideas, and it is free, that doesn’t make it bad, does it? Well of course not, I put this stuff out there at no cost, because some of my readers do buy my services, and it helps me attract other paying clients, and so I do it for that reason.

If there is one hope that I have in this area it is for families to take a more active role in deciding what services they DO want and need, and for them to realize how all their advisors get paid.

And if you have different specialist advisors, please understand that having them collaborate may seem more expensive in the short run, but it makes so much more sense in the end.

It’s not free, but definitely worth it.

And if you paid someone to coordinate it all for you, that would likely pay for itself too!

Creating Pathways for families

Sweet Secluded Rendez-Vous


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.