Q.) How long does the work take?
A.) This depends on the goals of the specific project and how quickly you want to accomplish your goals. Some prefer a fast track and others prefer a slower pace. We work with some clients every two weeks and others quarterly. Most projects concerning Succession and Governance (development of a Family Constitution and Family Council) we work with on a monthly basis accomplishing project goals between 6 and 18 months.
Q.) Isn’t it expensive?
A.) I think the best answer is compared to what? For most patriarchs and matriarchs they have worked a lifetime building their family’s wealth and business(es). Our programs offer what is known as the best insurance for preserving both the family love over generations and its financial well-being usually at the price of a car or two.
Q.) What happens in the Assessment?
A.) Just like entering a Dr’s office with a stomachache, we know your primary concern is to get rid of the pain. We also know that there are many possible causes. The Assessment begins with in-depth private interviews with each family member plus review relevant documents to give as full a picture as possible about the system. We then analyze the data and provide a Workshop/Feedback Session for the stakeholders about our analysis and recommendations.
Q.) Your Assessment is Extensive – Do You Have All the Knowledge in Your Firm?
A.) No. Like a Family Physician who may refer a patient to a cardiologist, we are trained in analyzing the overall systems and can spot when higher levels of expertise are needed. We believe strongly in a Team Approach where professionals stay within their area of competence. Besides the experts in our firm, we have strategic alliances with a number of professionals including Estate Planners, Strategic Planners, Valuation Experts and Others. The complexity of the intervention determines the level of competence needed for each client. We are glad to work with the client’s current expert advisors (attorney, accountant, etc. if requested).
Q.) Who is in charge of the team?
A.) All effective teams have a Captain. One of the critical decisions the client must make is to choose who is to serve in this role. We often serve in the role of Captain and other times as simply one part of the team. Some clients try to captain this team themselves, this is usually a mistake.
Q.) How Big and How Small Family Businesses and Assets Have You Worked With?
A.) We have worked with companies that have over 120 family shareholders and 10,000 employees to small companies in the 5 to 10 million dollar range and have three family shareholders. One of our first clients was a fifth generation family business.
Q.) How do you compare yourself with your colleagues?
A.) We began formally in this field in the early 1990’s where we trained and worked with a number of founders in the field including Leon Danco, Richard Beckhard, Kenneth D. Benne and Jack Gibb. We have been working internationally since 1993. We are trained in Consultative Skills and bring a wide and diverse knowledge and experience to our clients.
Q.) Do You Keep Up with Current Developments in the Field?
A.) Over the last twenty years we are and have been active participants and presenters in a number of professional associations including the Family Firm Institute, Psychodynamics of Family Business, Family Business Network, Attorneys for Family-held Enterprises and many local Centers for Family Business to name a few.
Q.) How do you evaluate your results?
A.) This is a great question! We encourage perspective clients to talk with families that have worked with us five to ten years in the past. We believe this is the best evaluation! We encourage clients to constantly re-evaluate themselves to see how they are improving or not. We offer these re-evaluation tools for families who are interested.
Q.) Why Did You Choose This Profession?
A.) Having worked in a family business myself for over twenty years, I was well aware of the nightmare family business often becomes. A background in Family Dynamics, Organization Development, business and later in Wealth Management gives us the capability to understand these kinds of systems better then most.
Q.) What Happens When the Client Disagrees With Your Advice?
A.) This actually rarely happens. We are strong believers in Dialogue. We are well aware of our role as advisors and coaches and bring a humility of not always knowing the right solution. Most often in this kind of situation, we encourage deeper dialogue, understanding the assumptions and predictions underneath each position so that both parties have more clarity about “the problem and the solution”. The client is always the one that decides the course of action.
Q.) Is Everything Discussed Confidential?
A.) Confidentiality – just like an attorney’s office, accountant’s or psychologist’s – we hold all information in the highest level of confidentiality.
Q.)Change – is it possible?
A.)“My Dad/son/cousin will never change why should we waste time and money on a project like this?” Ultimately there are only three roads one can take: 1.) leave the situation, 2.) do nothing or 3.) try to improve it. In general and we can offer a lot of examples – through systemic changes and careful coaching, enormous change is not only possible, it’s likely.
Q.)Do you ever refuse to work with some cases?
A.) Yes. If we believe that clients are unwilling to do the work needed or to make changes in their governance structure, or if there is some conflict of interest in our working with a particular family then we advise our clients to work with other professionals.