Engaging an advisor for a family business requires some unique considerations as family ownership often presents complexities and hurdles not generally found in other business types. Many of the issues specific to family businesses include succession planning, governance, and corporate actions. In addition, personal and business finances, as well as social relationships, are often intertwined. Because these dynamics are different for each family business, owners have a greater need for advisors with a high degree of soft people skills and hard technical skills.
In big business, the practice of hiring consultants to make improvements to the company is common and an expected part of the business process. Business owners generally consult with a variety of advisors including attorneys, accountants, bankers, behaviorists and investment advisors. Unfortunately, much of this transpires on an as-needed basis — in crisis mode — in which the business owner takes a more reactive approach in engaging advisors. As a result, many family business owners still view engaging advisors as a sign there is a problem, rather than a means to proactively maintain a healthy business. When engaging advisors reactively, the owners generally have less time to spare and therefore, fewer options in selecting their advisors.
It is important for the advisors to be able to work well together. For instance, as a full service CPA firm, The Curchin Group focuses on advising small business owners on the economic aspects of business, including accounting, tax, valuation and other financial matters, and in these instances we may take the lead. However, where matters require the primary expertise of other disciplines, we provide a strong supporting role.
To effectively engage a family business advisor or advisors, keep in mind the considerations below:
Be proactive. Taking a more proactive approach rather than waiting until there is problem will allow the business owner more time to engage an appropriate team of advisors, which will help him/her identify critical areas of succession planning, governance, and corporate actions that require immediate attention and future planning.
Consider the necessary skills. Advisors need to be technically qualified, but should also be able to draw on practical experience. They should be accessible and have strong communication skills. It’s critical to find the right team of advisors who can make business goals harmonize with family objectives and values.
Make it a team effort. In order to be effective, it’s important for all the family business advisors to communicate with each other. Invite advisors to attend conference calls and meetings, so they can all weigh in with their respective advice and opinions on procedures and strategies to craft the best possible plans for the business.
Consider costs. The direct cost of engaging appropriate advisors should be more than offset by the expected return related to the advice provided. There is also great value in allowing the business owner to focus on business operations and not be as concerned with technical issues such as tax and succession planning.
Being assured that your trusted advisors understand family business ownership dynamics is essential in charting the course forward to maintain the success and succession of the business.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 732.747.0500 with questions or to receive a complimentary consultation with our family business advisors.
If you are a family business owner who has successfully engaged advisors, we would love to hear your story!