If you advise business families -- or own one: read this
By: P Robert Brown (Bellevue, WA United States)
are different. They have all the components of other families but they have a business. And that makes them different. It's because the two create some extraordinary opportunities and some powerful pressures at the same time. After the business has been built questions begin to arise: What would happen to the business if dad (or mom) suddenly died? When will dad and mom want to retire? How can they unlock the value from the business with safety? Who should run the business? If there are siblings - will they all be involved? If not, how can the family's wealth be fairly distributed? In the beginning business families typically seek advice from traditional advisors - the attorney, accountant, banker, insurance agent or broker. The problem is these professionals are trained to apply specific tools to achieve goals. Often discussions begin with wills and trusts, tax strategies, financing options or risk shifting with insurance. But after documents are prepared, something isn't "right" and they aren't implemented. The reason is the work was begun in the wrong place. And the goals the advisors were trying to achieve weren't the client's real goals.
This usually isn't for a lack of trying. The advisors thought they were working on the client's goals but they weren't. The proof is that the family frequently won't implement the wills, trusts and other tools. The family isn't sure what is "right" for them. And until they really work on it - they can't be.
book is the product of working with family businesses. The first 29 years was in the practice of law. The next decade has been spent working as a consultant helping families discover what they want to do and then how to work together to find the best way to do it. He calls it their "family work" and his book carves a path through this area using 39 questions. He demonstrates with a series of steps and anecdotes from his experience how the family work is a process of exploration that helps them discover how best to merge a business plan with a family plan that will preserve the integrity of both.
I'm an insurance broker and family business owner. This book and its concepts have been helpful to me in working with clients - and with our own family business. If you're an advisor of family businesses or own one - this book can help.