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Business Family Dynamics

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

How Do I Make Money From This?

You've completed the intense coursework and Family Project. You've written your online exam. You've sat with two of your classmates, answering questions from the adjudicator- off the top of your head, no less. You've earned your letters, and proudly display your “FEA” certificate in your office.

Now what? Where do I start? How does this work in real life?

And, of course, the most frequently asked question from all prospective and new FEAs:

How do I make money from this?

The question is fair. You, or your firm, contributed a significant amount of money, and you invested a great deal of time, into differentiating yourself as a Family Enterprise Advisor. Incorporating this into your business, and having it increase your revenues, is a reasonable expectation.

Unfortunately, how to make that happen wasn't covered in your modules. It wasn't covered in your project. Where do you go from here?

The Map-less Journey

Many FEA designates are from professional fields such as law, accounting, and wealth management, where career pathways are frequently mapped and guided. Taking the plunge into this program and gaining your designation means you stepped off the map, and you've found yourself without a GPS.

When you chose to become an off-road traveler, you were already thinking differently. You may have even been thinking entrepreneurially. You were preparing yourself to map your own path and become your own guide. You might be a little confused as to how to get moving.

Start by asking yourself a few important questions:

  • What drew me to this program in the first place?
  • What skills, insights and talents did I gain?
  • What problems do I want to help family enterprises solve?

The field of family enterprise is enormous. There really is room for much more than the few hundred FEA designates already in Canada. You can - and should - create your place in it around the very specific, unique way that you work with family enterprise.

How do you want to use your new knowledge and skillset? Does it expand upon your existing practice? Is it another layer of service, in addition to what you've been doing all these years? Is it something that is a stand-alone, where you want to spend all of your time because THIS is what you've been trying to get to all these years?

Your answers could be “yes” to some, “no” to others, “yes” to all, or even - and this is more than okay - “I just don't know yet”.

Just like the business families we serve, we need to find our own way into creating the practice that solves the problems we are good at, capable of, and excited about solving. The way that we do it, and the manner in which we offer it, will evolve with individual designates and the families who benefit.

No, but really, how do you charge for this?

That was an accountant wasn't it? I heard you.

Before you can figure out how you charge for it, you really need to answer the questions about “why” and “how”.

Remember that family enterprise advice is a service like any other. Whether you are paid for advice or implementation, or both, you're probably already living in this world. It's no different from selling widgets. Determining the right price and format is dependent on the same things:

  • What you deliver
  • Expectations and results
  • Expenses
  • Profit margins
  • What the market will bear

Yes, there's more to it than that. This is just a 10,000 foot view. Stay with me.

Your business families expect you to make money. They're business owners - they'd probably doubt your intelligence, ability, or honesty, if you didn't have a profit strategy.

There are as many different ways to deliver and charge as there are FEA designates. There is no singular “right” way.

If you already charge by the hour, and are folding this service into your existing day-to-day offerings, you may choose to increase your hourly rate. Or you may offer it as a separate service, with different rates.

If you are a wealth manager you may not be in a position to charge for advice. Maybe your firm will develop an offering around it, and with your help, develop a strategy for you to spend more time here, and be rewarded for it.

Maybe you'll develop a team of associated specialists who work together like you did in your project.  Together, you can build a fee strategy that works for you and the clients.

Maybe you'll come up with a different model.

Get out there and talk to people in the field about how they deliver and charge for their service. At the May 3rdVancouver Event six different advisors will be speaking to exactly this question, and I’ll be sharing their stories with you afterwards.

Like any other business offering, we must try different things, tweaking and pivoting until we reach the place where we and our clients are happy. Experiment. Research. Keep trying until the right fit for you and the families you help becomes clear.

Since our designation is new, we have the ability, the choice, and the responsibility to craft how it is used to serve family enterprise.

Your mind may have been left open and a little battered by the FEA program. That's good - a little trauma can create growth.

“As the twig is bent, so grows the tree.”

Your twig is pretty bent. How will you grow?

Julia Chung is an FEA designate, and CEO of JYC Financial. She is a member of Lead Family Enterprise Advisors, and of an enterprising family. She volunteers on the IFEA Vancouver Events Committee as part of her commitment to growing the field.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Is there a Correlation Between Family Enterprise Life Cycles, Advisors and Trust?

In the recently published journal article in the Family Business Review, “Which type of advisors do family businesses trust most?” (, authors Perry, Ring and Broberg use socioemotional selectivity theory, or SEST – from the discipline of psychology – to examine the relationship between the age of a family business and its trust in family or professional business advisors.

With the knowledge that people experience changes in their priorities as they age, the researchers argue that SEST could also be applied to the social behavior of some family businesses as they age and pass from one life stage to another (author Kelin E. Gersick’s life stages of the family business are commonly referred to as the founding stage; the sibling partnership and then the cousin consortium), prioritizing emotional goals over knowledge goals as they progress.

The authors consider SEST’s “emotional goals” very similar to family business’ “socioemotional wealth” and SEST’s “knowledge goals” roughly equivalent to family business’ “financial wealth.” The term ‘socioemotional wealth’ is becoming more frequently used in family business literature in an effort to better-define the non-financial wealth enjoyed by many family firms, and “refers to the collective, affective capital that a group possesses (Berrone, Cruz, & Gómez-Mejia, 2012) …. socioemotional wealth includes the abilities to further family goals and perpetuate family values within the business and to use the business as a means of maintaining intrafamily intimacy (Berrone et al., 2012; Gómez-Mejia, Cruz, Berrone, & De Castro., 2011; Gómez-Mejia, Haynes, Núňez-Nickel, Jacobson, & Moyano-Fuentes, 2007).”

The authors point out that in their study, the use of the term “professional business advisors” includes accountants, management or strategic consultants, financial planners, moral counselors and others, and does not include “family business specialty consultants,” which is the term they use for professional advisors with expertise in family enterprise. By “family advisors” the authors are referring to family members who are employed in the company and whom “are often more familiar with issues in the family and business and can therefore provide advice on a wider scope of topics than can professional, nonfamily advisors. Family advisors can knowledgably provide advice to their relatives related to ownership, management, and family issues.”

While the findings of the study did not ultimately support a direct relationship between a family business’ age and the type of advisors who are most-trusted, the results did indicate a relationship between a family business’ age and wealth emphasis, suggesting that “as a family business’s age increases, it places greater emphasis on socioemotional wealth and less emphasis on financial wealth,” as well as a subsequent correlation between wealth emphasis and the types of advisors who are most trusted: “… as family businesses age, an emphasis on socioemotional wealth increases; as socioemotional wealth emphasis increases, family businesses tend to place greater trust in family advisors.”

The authors note that although there were several limitations to their study, perhaps one of the most valuable outcomes is the introduction of SEST to the family business literature, in which there is great potential for more research, particularly with the “growing recognition of the importance of socioemotional wealth in family business.”

Ultimately the study is not as insightful into the field of family enterprise advising as one might hope, because it focused on two different types of advisors which are distinctly different. However, the relation between the life stage of a family firm and its types of priorities (financial, socioemotional, or otherwise) provides valuable information for advisors working with and within family firms.

Furthermore, the researchers point out that:

“the strength of the family vision may also play a role in the selection of family versus nonfamily advisors … when a strong family vision exists, the leaders are more likely to select and implement socioemotional wealth goals … future research should investigate how the strength of a family vision affects family business leaders’ willingness to trust nonfamily advisors who may not understand or appreciate the family’s vision. It may be that the strength of the family vision moderates the relationship between firm age and wealth emphasis.”

The authors also propose that there are a number of specific areas of research to pursue in relation to the evaluation of business advisors, including: the cost of advice; the amount of interaction time required; the advisor’s communication style, the nature of the task for which advice is being sought, and the degree to which the business leader is comfortable having their norms challenged. These are all valid and relevant avenues of research which would serve the field well, and be useful for the field of family enterprise advising moving forward.

Article citation:
Perry, J. T., Ring, J. K., & Broberg, J. C. (2015). Which type of advisors do family businesses trust most? An exploratory application of socioemotional selectivity theory. Family Business Review, 28(3), 211-226. Original DOI: 10.1177/0894486514538652.