Last week I mentioned that I had attended a Sam Smith concert in Colorado with my daughter, and then this week in Toronto I was attending a course where one of the instructors was talking about a client who had had an “A-Ha” moment, which culminated in the woman exclaiming “I’m not the only one!”

If you are not a fan of Sam Smith, allow me to explain why I found this relevant; “I’m not the only one” is the title of one of Smith’s first hit songs, so the timing of this exclamation makes this mandatory blog material for me.

Smith’s voice is incredible and I love his songwriting too, but they will only serve as the intro to this week’s blog.

My stay in Toronto turned out to be very interesting and will certainly be quite useful to me going forward, helping me to do a better job of engaging client families in the difficult work they need to do around the subject of transitioning their businesses to the next generation.

I spent four full days with a couple dozen people who were attending the course,“The Role of the Most Trusted Advisor” given by BDO and their SuccessCare Program.

SuccessCare is the brainchild of Grant Robinson, who teamed up with Daphne McGuffin in the late 1990’s, and they have been working non-stop ever since, “training competitors” to help spread the word about how important this work is for families to plan and execute their generational transitions.

McGuffin was relating a story about an event where they were explaining the importance of getting families to have the crucial conversations required to put the issues on the table so they can be dealt with.

One woman, after hearing other people ask questions about their own situations, which had some remarkable similarities to what she had been living through (silently), suddenly exclaimed, in a joyful voice, “I’m not the ONLY one”.

How nice it is to realize that others are going through the same difficult dilemmas that we are.

More often than not, people in business families imagine that their situations are unique. In one way they are, of course. No two family situations are identical; the sheer number of permutations and combinations of children, in-laws, birth order, gender, etc. are enough to guarantee that, and we have not even factored in any business issues.

But even though the family is unique, and the business is unique, and their ownership structure may also be unique, that does NOT mean that the issues they are faced with are also unique.

The obstacles that business families face when working through their inter-generational transitions are very predictable, and they have been for hundreds of years.

It is a huge undertaking, filled with complexity, and the stakes are high. Not only that, it is NOT something that you get to do over and over again until you get it right; it is kind of a “one off”.

The good news is (you knew that I would get to the good news, didn’t you?) that there are people out there who have been down this road before, who know the ropes, and who can help you.

And more and more of them have been trained to help families work on the subject in ways that address the family’s unique circumstances, desires, and goals.

They are being trained by great people, through SuccessCare (now part of BDO), and IFEA (Institute of Family Enterprise Advisors) and FFI (Family Firm Institute).

Their programs are all a bit different, but what they have in common is that they recognize a few key points:

  • Every family is unique
  • A multi-disciplinary team of advisors is best
  • Transitions take years to undertake properly

The key is for the family to find the right person to lead them through process. There are people who can help, and “I know I’m not the only one”.