Episode 4: How to eat an elephant aka: Family Governance – Ugh!

Episode 4: How to eat an elephant aka: Family Governance – Ugh!


Listen to my conversation with Steve Legler to find out why you should involve the entire family in preparing your wealth transition to the next generation, why it is easier than you think to get started and why people are more important to your legacy than assets.

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Welcome to the true wealth project podcast. The true wealth project podcast is all about how to give your wealth the meaning. Join us as we explore in the areas of financial wealth, impact of purpose and succession or legacy. My name is Ashley Allison and I am your host for today’s show. Today I want to welcome Steve Legler. Steve is a family legacy advisor based in Montreal, Canada. He works with families on their intergenerational wealth conditions concentrating on the areas of family harmony and family governance. He act as a facilitator, coach and mediator. Steve just recently released a second book called interdependent wealth how family systems theory illuminate successful intergenerational wealth transitions, which is really all about the importance of involving the whole family and preparing wealth conditions, the importance of family alignment, and how to get family governance started and executed in the first place. So without further ado, let’s just get started. Hello, Steve. Welcome to the true wealth project podcast.

I Sasha Thank you for having me. Well, thank

you for joining us, Steve. I introduced you as the coach you are today but please, can you give us a summary of who you are and more importantly, how you became to be who you are today?

Sure, I will give you a quick recap of how I got to be in the position I’m in, which as with many people is not a straight line, but there’s a lot of little crooked segments to it that got me to where I am. I was born in Montreal to an immigrant entrepreneur. So I have two older sisters. I was the first son. This was the 1960s it was a steel fabrication business. So I was immediately dubbed my father’s successor because I was going to be the one who took over his business that he had started shortly before I was born. So that became some of my first memories where my father telling me telling me not asking me telling me that I was going to be taking over this business so I live the first few decades of my life without understanding without expectation ahead of me. And so for the first few decades as I said I just did everything that was expected of me working for the business during the summers going to school and studying business starting straight out of my after my bachelor’s degree straight into the business going to do my MBA to come back to the business again. A funny thing happened along the way is the market changed and we ended up making the decision to sell the business. Here I went straight back with my MBA getting ready to take over eventually a business of 300 employees and within six months we were down to four employees. Wow, that was a change for Dan Steve Legler. And so Steve Legler, senior and recently bought a farm for as a hobby and so he moved off to his farm and left me with what we would now call a family office, small family office. This was 1991 there was not a lot of knowledge of what a family office was. At least of all, I didn’t know that that’s what I was doing. But I ended up doing that for a while longer than I care to admit sometimes. And then about six, seven years ago, I stumbled into a program in Toronto, which is about five hour drive down the road from me in Montreal, called family enterprise advisor. This was a program that was put on actually came out of University of British Columbia, Vancouver. And it was designed for people who work with family businesses, typically people who work for banks, people who are accountants, insurance salespeople, investment managers, and this was bringing these people together who work with families to teach them about what makes family businesses tick, and ways that they can serve those clients better. So here I am in a room with 20 some people that have that profile and I have nothing in common with them. However, the people at the front of the room who were teaching us what to do with families they were talking about working with families on their values, working on their visions, having family retreats talking about succession talking about family governance, and my eyes opened up wide and I was like wow, I didn’t know that. That doing that was like, Oh, I finally had my college here. I was I was 48 at the time, and I finally figured out what I wanted to be when I grew up. And so from that point on, I just jumped into the deep end of this and I’ve been reading blogs about it, reading books about it, working with families, speaking about it at conferences, and that’s what I do. And I’m very happy to finally found something that ignites passion.

Okay, so basically I used to working in the family offices such

insofar as you could call it a family office. So I am the I’m the president of the family holding company, Investment Officer which means I select the investment managers. I have the annual family meetings with my sisters and my mother and our outside advisor. So yes, but it’s not really a full time job. It does provide me a base of income that has allowed me to do the legwork to get started as a consultant working for other families because as you can imagine, you don’t just decide one day I’m going to do this hang up a shingle and then you have a lineup outside your door.

Yeah, sure. Doesn’t work like that. Okay, I mean, I think it’s what makes you very interesting as a person to have a conversation with about these topics is the fact that you you know, you know both sides you’re basically act as an advisor, but you also know the real thing. You know what it is like to be born into a family business. You know what it’s like to be managing a family office and think about family governance itself. etc. So I think that makes you in a way, of course, much more authentic than than a lot of the other advisors that are out in the field, as you said, you know, the accountants and the lawyers, etc, who basically tried to understand how families ticket business families to get particular and there’s a special breed in itself, isn’t it? Yes.

I also forgot to mention that I married into a business family along the way. Yeah, my wife’s family also had a business and had a liquidity event in 2001. She has her siblings, her father’s still alive. There are issues there that I have witnessed from a front row seat of how their family has dealt with their wealth and the upcoming transition. And there are good things and bad things and my family and her family and I’ve been able to see them all and benefit from that experience while I’m serving.

Yeah, I mean, to what extent has that that situation driven your decision to to become a coach, mentor and mediator in the field? I mean, was it more to do with with the fact that you were faced with these issues yourself and had to think about you know, how do we organize all this and or was it just your passion that was ignited by by your teachers? Basically,

I like that question because it’s bringing me back to when I was sitting in that classroom. And the thing that lit me up, was, Oh, my God, these things that these the people teaching the program were talking about that they have done with families, and I was thinking about all the missed opportunities in both my family and my wife’s family and then other people’s families that I know have family businesses have things that Oh, my God, if someone would have come to us at a certain point in time, and suggested we do this, or would have talked to my father in law at a certain time and said, Hey, you should do this, my God, we would be in so much more of a better position than we are now because of the missed opportunities. And that’s what I realized, oh my god, people are doing this with families and it all makes sense. And more people need to do this with more families, because the potential is so great, and there are so many missed opportunities. And that’s when I meet families who have a business and they don’t want to start to have the discussions and they think they can kick the can down the road. And they always think they have more time than they expect. And they think that they can delay this It frustrates the heck out of me, because I know that the most important thing is is to get started to have the conversations amongst the family members. And when I see people building and I again, see those missed opportunities.

Yeah. Okay. So it’s really a mixture of your own experience of your passion to you know, spread the word help others and that sort of thing. Okay, that’s interesting. And I mean, you’re not only just an advisor or coach in that field, but you also you’ve written two books. I mean, that’s an entirely different story. What drove you to write two books? I mean, most people don’t even manage one, including myself so far. So

the first the first book I wrote, it came out in 2014. It’s called shift your family business. And this one’s the unconventional method of entering a new field and writing a book right off the bat. Normally, people will work in a field for a while and then once they’ve accumulated certain knowledge, but I did it backwards because essentially, I was so as someone who was running a family office for a couple of decades, people who work in family offices will understand that most of those people like to lay low and have a very low profile, because when you’re managing money, everyone wants to be your friend and everyone wants to pitch you things that everyone thinks they have a great investment that you need to see and evaluate entropy investigate. And so I had been a very low low low key person in the in the world of family, business and family investments. And then all of a sudden here I went saying, hey, I want people to hire me. So I needed to establish a profile and I needed to establish at least a base of some expertise of what my message was. And the message was shift your family business and the subtitle of that book was stopped working in your family business and start working on your business family. So there’s two elements there. There’s the old working in your business, versus working on has been written about in other books. And then there’s the whole shift from being a family business, to being a business family. And the person that I have the type of person I had in mind when I wrote this book was someone like my father or my father in law who was running a business into their 50s and 60s. And that gets to the point where you don’t want to stop worrying about this business and figure out like, let’s not worry only about making the pie bigger. Let’s figure out what the pie is for and how who’s going to take care of the pie or how are we going to divide the pie afterwards. And I’ve seen too many stories of people who have put off that decision too long. And so that book was an invitation for people to take a step by step process to begin to talk about this stuff with their family members to get help to invest the time, all that so I did that at the time to establish a book as kind of a calling card. And at the

same time to also learn to trade if you like, yes.

Around the same time, I started to hear about something called Bowen family systems theory, which comes from Dr. Murray Bowen, who was an American psychiatrist back in the 50s 60s 70s and 80s. And he had these theories about family systems. And in my family enterprise advisor program we had learned a bit about the family as a system, but not really enough to for me to feel comfortable that I understood it and so as I completed that program, and I started to hear about Bowen, family systems theory, I got curious about it, because it seemed that everyone who had heard about it and said, Oh, if you’re working with business families and multi families, it’s really important to understand this bone stuff. So I said to myself, Okay, well, I’m gonna go to Amazon, and I’m going to look for a book that’s going to explain to me why this Bowen family systems theory is good to know for people who work and I did not find such a book. There were books about Bowen theory. The world of bone theory is dominated by people who are therapists are social workers. And there are lots of clergy. There’s priests, rabbis and ministers. And very few of the people in the Bowen world are in the industry of wealth transition. So I realized now why there was no book because it’s, it’s just a small minority, but I’m a little bit frustrated by not finding the book. So I instead enroll in a couple of Roland training programs over the following four years because I decided that that book was something that needed to be written. Nobody else was gonna write it. Well, by golly, maybe I had to do and so that’s why I’m so interdependent wealth came out in late June this year.

Okay, that’s great. Just in a nutshell, I mean, I don’t know it’s bad when it’s possible, like can you in one or two sentences explain what the Bowen theory is? All about? Well, this systems theory,

I’ll try to do it as quickly as I can. So the family is a system is all about the fact that it’s not so much the people in the family. It’s the relationships between the people that are important, and all relationships between the siblings between the parents and the siblings, all the interesting stuff when you start to work with a family is usually hidden in the relationships between the different people if you can understand the relationships, it’s more important than understanding the individual’s people to work with families. To learn to see the big picture see the system of how the parts interrelate with each other, and how everyone is interdependent with each other. When you change one person in the system, it has corresponding changes to others. So it is a system. Bowen was was trying to advance the theory that human behavior is actually a lot more predictable than we realize that if you understand typical relationships in families, then you’ll see something in one family you will see similar things in other families because a lot of these things come from from nature, and they are naturally part of who we are and how we interact with each other. When you work with families on sensitive subjects like their wealth and transitions. I can tell you that having studied this has helped me to see things that I otherwise would not have seen.

I guess it comes back to understanding how a tribe works, right? Well, yes,

absolutely. So all of this comes from how men has evolved. And there’s a lot of things that go back generations and generations that your great, great, great grandparents did that you have no idea who that person was, but some of the things you did this morning, come directly from the fact that that person used to do those things, you know, a few 100 years ago.

Yeah. Fascinating, fascinating. So essentially, it’s a system to help you understand the dynamics in families, and to wasps, diagnose them, and then to help them to manage that process of transition. What transition?

Yes, and there are once you see things that you didn’t expect, you know, you otherwise wouldn’t have seen and offers a new perspective as a coach as a facilitator to point those things out to the family that maybe doesn’t recognize them themselves. But once you see certain things in a relationship, and you are skilled in pointing that out to the family so that they can see it and then deal with it much further ahead than someone who just says, Okay, here’s a shareholder agreement, you all should sign it and then everything will be okay. Yeah, because that doesn’t typically work for you.

Yeah. Well, it may work in the moment, but it’s typically not a long term solution. Is that correct? Yeah. That’s interesting. And why do you think is the bone approach? I mean, why is it particularly interesting versus any other approach? That there is?

Well, there are other so so the, the cover of the book talks about family systems theory. And I speak only about Bowen family systems theory, because that’s the version that I studied. There are other people who have their own family systems theory that I know other practitioners have studied the people with different names that have their own versions. Yeah, if that works for you, great. This is the one that I happen to grasp. I think that anyone who takes a systems approach to a family that looks at the family, you know, from the 30,000 foot view, and sees how the people interrelate with each other will have an advantage over anyone who just walks in there and just looks at everybody as an individual. So whether it’s Bowen family systems or any other systems, there are reasons why a lot of the people who work who are quote unquote Michael based or Dr. So and So PhD and a psychologist because there’s when you’re working with family dynamics, it’s important to to have some training and understanding the interrelationships with people now said that I am not Dr. Steve Legler, PhD and and part of me is glad that I’m not because I also when you walk into a family system, and if I picture someone like my father would have if someone would have gone to my father many years ago and said, Oh, here’s this person, you should be able to deal with your family. And he won’t have seen it was Dr. So and So PhD, my father would have said we’re not crazy, we don’t need so so in some ways, but my business partner said MBA and CFA, these are all these business circle things. So I can go in and I can do business with people. I’m more interested in the family.

Yeah. You’re perceived as a peer rather than then. I don’t know, some some top down teacher.

Well, you people don’t like to have someone who’s gonna comment, you know, try to diagnose them and understand them. It’s easier to walk in as a business consultant who then ends up being able to help them with the family stuff, then I know there’s other people who are just psychologists and they don’t understand for example, the difference between a million dollars and a million dollars. Yeah, you will not be able to have the credibility with the family if you don’t have at least some minimum amount of business understanding of financial acumen. So

I guess there’s you know, there’s each approach and each background has has has strengths, but you can’t have everything, but I agree. I mean, there needs to be a balance of skills and knowledge in order to make it work. It’s great. That’s great. I mean, you’re obviously you’re a strong believer in systematically preparing wealth transition in systematically approaching family governments. And I think you have found a very good and solid approach together. But what what strikes me is that on the other end of the scale, Rob, still so many families who, who can fail that transition of the wealth who’s establishing proper governance and why do you think that is? Because they don’t put any thought in it or what’s the reason?

I think the biggest reason is it’s a lot of work. It’s a lot of work that has to be done. It takes continuous effort, it takes leadership, it takes time. And all that time. But people who do this, who managed to transition well, from the third to the fourth to the fifth generation, those families have all put in the time. And so they typically understand what’s involved and understand the benefits of spending the time. The hardest parts are going from the first to the second generation. So we have a founder who made a lot of money thinks that he or she typically he thinks they know everything thinks they will forever and so they don’t get started. They love to tell people what to do because they’re very smart and they have proven to because they made a lot of money. So they must be very smart. So we’ve ever had to listen to them. They would continue to benefit from his wisdom. And then they put in they put in rules that will outlast their lifetime. And then after they’re gone, they’re all who are left with those rules don’t get along with those rules, because they have zero to say what those rules would be. But then things will typically fall apart. So it’s I make the analogy to driving a car with a standard transit, the transmission, getting out of first gear and the second is the hardest. That’s where usually people are learning how to drive the car stalls. It’s always from first the second one from second to third. You got more leeway go into third the fourth is no problem. But from First generation The second is the most difficult because there’s no pattern to follow up. Oh well. This is how I received the wealth from my generation before in this way. And so I’ve learned this and I will make it even better when I go from the second to the third. When you’re the first generation you’ll make the wealth well by golly, I am really smart. I made all this money. And my kids loved me and respect me. So they’re going to do whatever I tell them to do. And that attitude is still hard to pervasive. There are some there’s a small number that get it and understand and and want to have their children succeed on their own terms and not be told you will take over my business when you are older. So I kind of understand that apart from a front row seat. And so I’ve seen that and it’s a question of attitude of realizing there’s a point where I recognize I’m not going to live forever and what is the best thing I can do for my family so that they will be prepared for when I’m not here. And that those are difficult conversations to have that people will typically want to put off as long as possible. And sometimes they put them off too long and then it is too late.

Yeah, well, because then things happen automatically without you know, the nobody’s asked it’s just happens and that’s it.

That’s what I say when you start early. When you start the discussions early. Your number of choices of things you can do is very, very wide and will never be wider as you as the years come off the calendar, your options and what you can do get narrower and narrower. And then you know when you hear about the stories about the lawyer rushing to the hospital to get some something signed by the hospital, you’re not sure he’s going to still be able to sign the paper tomorrow. Your options at that. Point. Yeah,

but let me drink. Yeah, I mean, what still beats me though is that you know the shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves, proverb and interesting statistics and three generations prover is still very much true today, isn’t it? And it’s something where you would think that I mean, it’s been around for for ages and you would think that you know, we should know better by now. So why is it still so true and active and alive

these days? Some of us do know better. And there’s a difference. And just on that whole point, it’s been around forever for centuries, and it’s been around in cultures all around the world. You know, it’s not just some specifically but knowing better and doing better are not the same thing. And you can ask anyone who, you know, they’re there, they’re still smoking, even though they know that cigarettes will kill you, or they’re still drinking too much or eating too much, even though they know. There’s things that you know, and then there’s things that you do and sometimes there’s a long delay between when you start to take the action. And the other thing is it’s not a matter. So if I’m smoking and I realize I need to quit, there’s only one person I quit smoking. Yeah, but somebody who says Okay, wait, now we’re gonna start to deal with this transition. Well, yes, obviously, you need some leadership you need to buy in from the top. But you also need to have all the other people willing to play along. And if you haven’t done the work all along as a parent, it becomes very difficult to do the business. I always say most many of the problems we see in family businesses are not business, their parents problems. Yeah, I have colleagues who have told me stories about they got a call from somebody who says, Can you please come and fix my kids when he’s in their 30s Yeah, I think that ship has sailed. But let’s see what we can do. And maybe if you’re willing to make some changes, now, you and your kids can get on the same page on certain things. But oftentimes, the kids that need to be fixed are less of a problem than the guy who thinks that the kids need to be fixed.

Unknown 18:15
Yeah. Would you agree in saying that it’s that people underestimate the complexity of the of the of the task at hand? Or is it more ignorance?

Well, so there’s the first part of say, Okay, we got to get started and then there’s a bit of fear because it sometimes seems bigger than than they expect or they know it’s gonna bring up conversations that are uncomfortable. But then the the complexity of realizing that every single person will be looking at whatever’s proposed from their own lens. If you’re trying to satisfy the demands, it’s probably not the best choice of words to make it sound like this is something you should do. But but as the parents you need to create a plan that works for the people who you’re making. The plan for. And so too many people will go in the current generation that’s running things, the parents, they will go to see one or two of their advisors, their accountant or lawyer and they say we need to prepare this stuff. And they’ll go and ask that person. What should we do? Those professionals will be only too happy to comply and say, Oh, I did just such an agreement last week for Joe Blow down the street. Let me pull it off the shelf. And you’ll probably need exactly the same thing as him and so we’ll change the front page and put your name on it. We’ll change the back page and put a significant signature page and off you go and you don’t have to worry about this anymore. Your wealth transition is taken care of. And people then do that because some professional who’s the best in town and charges, dollars an hour told them that that’s what they need to do. Only later do they realize that there’s a lot more that needed to be done and needs to be done. First off, getting the people for whom the plan was written the beneficiaries and whatever plan if they don’t know what’s in there, and they have no say in how it is structure. They are they’re guaranteed to be some unpleasant surprises that will come out of that.

I think it often also comes from from the way that people look at this and they often treat it as a single event and it’s not really a single event is it it’s more of a long term process that leads to a single event, but essentially, it’s a long term process. So and you can’t just fix that with one document.

It is a process it is not an event. The event is in a legal sense where ownership goes from one person to another person after something happens that part is an event but there are other transitions that could have been should have been taken care of that are that are processes that the chain like getting up the management and the leadership and the decision making, especially in an operating business when okay someone’s gonna retire as the president they become the chairman someone else comes in as the president, the chairman retains certain responsibilities for a while until they are phased out and those things can and should take at least five years and I think a good world and hopefully longer maybe 10 now so if if someone says I want to be completely out by the time I’m 75 Well, when you’re 65 you should already be putting some kind of a plan into place because the people who are going to take that place need time to learn need time to figure out how they are going to work together, how they’re going to manage these how they are going to make decisions together. The top down world of the one boss who tells me what to do works really efficiently sometimes but then when when that person is no longer at the top and their three kids are there. Well now we typically would have a more democratic decision making process these days, although there are still families where those people will fight to get to see who gets to be the one who has the ultimate authority. Thankfully, society and culture is going to be more of a way where they’re often co leaders as siblings, which can be more complex but but actually have a lot more staying power. If the people or facilities have learned how to work together. Yeah, but but but the the the the old story about the one man show is a tennis player who goes out there and plays by themselves. But now the next generation it’s a team it’s it’s now basketball, they have to learn to pass the ball to each other. And then if it goes to the third generation, and now there’s other than well now now it’s a football team and you need to have you know, you’re between alternates and your forwards and your backs and you need to have everyone working together. And that is not the same as that autocratic leader and the skill sets of what makes someone successful as an autocratic leader. And what makes someone successful as a Democratic leader of a group are not the same. And very often, the patriarch will say, Well, this son number two or three or whoever it is, is a chip off the old Lucky’s just like me, so take over from me, well, maybe he’s a great golfer, and if he was the boss on his own, he would be great, but maybe his sister would be the better basketball player and pass the ball better. Maybe Maybe she’s a better

leader. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, true. But I think you know, it’s, it is complex to even realize that it is a process to realize that that the team is growing as we have more kids and, and to understand the dynamics that are behind that. And, and I’m often these things are referred to as family governance, which in itself is a term that I think is more off putting than appealing to most people probably. And so all in all that I think there’s a big resistance or burden for people to even get started. Is anything that that you could suggest that that is the single most important step that family family should take to get the ball rolling.

Yes, the short answer is yes. Good. My first book should be a family business chapter eight. The title is governance. I don’t I don’t want to deal with governance, governance processes and structures that make revolution unnecessary. That’s the first line up of that chapter. I know that people don’t like the sound of governance, it sounds like a lot of red tape and a lot of BS that people have to put into place and it scares people off. I get that I understand that however, I think people look at it the wrong way. And they look at the end result of what governance might look like in five or 10 years. And when you’re starting, you really need to start with a family meeting. It’s a family meeting where the person knows the person or people who are leading the current generation bring together the others and say, Okay, we’ve gotten to the point now where we know we’re gonna have to start to talk about this. We want to start this is not a one off meeting. This is the first meeting. I even encourage people to call a meeting number zero. This is a meeting to establish the fact that we’re going to start having meetings. Let’s come back in three months or six months. Here are some of the topics we want to talk about the fact that we own this, well, we recognize we’re not going to live forever, and that we’d like most of this stuff to be managed and run and owned by you people. And we know that taking our time and figuring out all the details of that it’s gonna take a while. So we want to have meetings twice a year, three times a year, four times a year, maybe once a year, depending on how much time you have. And we want to start that and these are the people we want to have involved because you’re the people that are that are the family and we want you that and so that could involve just the kids it could involve their spouses as well. Those are decisions that the family has to make, have a meeting schedule the next meeting, get together and move the ball down the field slowly but surely, and learn how to work together and the governance will come out of that you will then begin to make the rules that they need to make some of them will all just be non you know they will record them if it’s a small family and they just decide to say okay, we’re gonna meet every so often and not have minutes and an agenda but just having fun. That’s that’s that’s better than nothing. Yeah, if anyone comes and says you need to have an agenda you need to have this you need to have minutes you need your that’s just scaring people away more into the process of it to realize what the benefits are of starting to have the meetings, then they start to think about subjects that they want to bring up and now they have a forum to which they can bring these subjects and they will have started to develop a process by which they either have the same person who’s the Chair of the meeting, they can rotate the chair to different people, but just start the process. Of having meetings and setting the date for the next meeting. Before you leave everyone to collect the calendars or phones. It’s okay, here, let’s pick a date. And everyone is You’re all free on that day. Let’s put it on the calendar. And if you have to move it, then you have to find another day to coordinate with everybody else and that’s gonna be a pain in the butt. So just make sure you don’t get the date that you won’t have to. Yeah,

yeah, right. And as a follow on question from that, I mean I suppose experience I know that it can be hard to get everybody on board on this topic and what would you advise me to to get people excited about this? And also maybe, I mean, what should the should the circle for meeting be even you know, it’s a just a parent as a parent plus kids or is it you know, who should be included in the first meeting for

example, so there’s a couple of things in your question. I like the question. There’s a couple of rules that I have that are always start small and make the circle bigger. Yeah, it typically start with the parents and the children alone. And then ask the children if they think that the spouses should be included, but you realize that if your wife comes then her husband has to be invited to right because sometimes people think only of their home. And so when you make the rules of who’s invited, they have to be logical rules. So if it’s the children only, it’s the children or if it’s the children and their spouses, well, then it’s all of us. And now are some of the married and some are just not married. Now. There are nuances that the family will have to figure out together. The other thing is, there are often people in the family that really don’t care and don’t want to know about this. It’s a waste of time. That brings up another rule is everyone is invited. Nobody is forced to come. You cannot force people to come. You invite them. They don’t want to come you say I’m sorry to hear you’re not coming. Yeah, yes. We’ll let you know how it goes. And the next time we have one really but you get it hopefully we’ll come to that one. And then hopefully in the meantime, they will have heard from their siblings or someone was actually pretty good and makes progress. We’ll talk about some stuff. It wasn’t just dad telling us what’s going to be now if it is just that telling us what’s going on the first meeting. I want to come to the second one. Yeah. There’s as someone I work with, and there’s data in there. There’s information in those things and and that’s why it’s often important to have an outsider come in facilitate these meetings. Yeah, everyone seems to be on much better because they act differently when there’s a person from the outside there. That is something that I do I know it sounds like I’m selling my services when I do this. And yeah, maybe Yeah, but but having someone from the outside as an impartial, neutral outsider can can change the conversations to much more productive ones. If that person is also skilled in conflict resolution and facilitation even better. And the people, if you’ve talked to people who’ve had their own meetings or no facilitator, then it got somewhat debilitated. They usually say, Oh, my God, we should have done this a long time ago. Yeah, as we’re actually making a lot more progress now.

But it’s actually I think, in a way it’s always easier to have somebody else dealing with the mechanics. And it’s difficult to do the mechanics and the content and adjust the content yourself.

And if you are asking one of the people who’s part of the content that they also have to manage the process, they are torn sometimes and they are not able to participate fully now with part of the content. I just did a meeting a couple of weeks ago with someone who had been doing exactly that she was the most happy person in the room because she didn’t have to worry about the flow of the meeting. Because she had hired me to come in and do that for so real. Yeah.

And what about kids? You mentioned kids, but you said kids and spouses but not all kids are at the age where they have spouses and what what is a typical age when you sort of should start involving kids.

Again, that’s a family decision. I always I like to err on the side of bringing them in younger. So if they’re 12 or 14, or whatever age makes sense as a cut off, but then again, that rule that you make, if you say the kids can come in when they’re 16, and you have a 16 year old and you bring them in and then two years later, you’re sisters and who was 14 that turned 16 And they say they want to come you can’t say well, no, no, no, no, we can’t. Rule has to be a logical rule. Yeah. Why is it’s creating more problems than when it’s falling. But really, it’s better if if they can just get into the, into the, into the groove of understanding. My family has these meetings where we talk about these things. I don’t necessarily understand them. Or participate much. But I know that going forward as I’ve you know, once once you’ve been through your fourth or fifth meeting, yeah, you know how it works. And if you have something to say if the meetings being run in a way where people everyone is encouraged to participate and people aren’t being marginalized. If that person has something to say, come up with some of the most brilliant insights that other people didn’t see just because they’re their age group.

Yeah. Okay. And then on top, I suppose what you mentioned earlier, is keep the door open for people who may not want to participate in the first 123 How isn’t

the anomaly keep the door open. They must be invited to every now yeah, that’s it. If you think they’re, they’re gonna say no, we still have to, but yeah, there’s the same way as everyone else. If you’re sending an email to everyone, and there’s an that list. Somebody wants to have a conversation with them offline and say, Hey, I know you got the invitation. I know you’re thinking it’s probably a waste of time. We’d really like to have you know, once if you don’t like it, that’s fine too. But the doors, it really needs to be matter of fact, but consistent and have them. Hopefully, eventually they’ll show

up Yeah, I think the best some really valuable advice. I mean, it’s it’s some some ground rules to get that process started

a different version of the story, where once there was a group of siblings that wanted to have the meetings and they invited, they wanted and the father said, No, I don’t want to do these meetings. And so having siblings started having their own meetings. Meetings, the father asked if he could come do it can work, work in many different ways. And I love that story. And it’s probably happened more often than just about that.

Yeah, yeah. Interesting. It works in different directions. In in terms of creating true wealth in the in the sense of the title of the podcast for yourself, my financial wealth, and in fact, I think it’s fair to say you’ve been quite successful. I mean, you were obviously born into a successful family business, but you’ve also achieved quite a bit writing your books and helping other families sorting their stuff out. What do you consider your key achievements to date?

Wow, mighty achievements. Got a lot of diplomas on the wall with missing letters. I got more letters after my name than a lot of those were done at times where I was still trying to figure out what I what I was supposed to do what I meant. And really, my biggest achievements have been since I found my calling. Yeah. And as I said, I was I was running a family office prior to I was a nobody in this field. Six or seven years ago, nobody knew who I was. I wasn’t even in this field. And now I have become a lot more recognized in different industry groups that I’m in. And I’ve written books, I’ve spoken at conferences and I’ve gone from a nobody to a somebody in this space, which I think I’m only in the early stages. I just turned 55. I think I have another couple of decades of doing this. I want to keep learning. I want to keep teaching, I want to be facilitating I want to keep writing. And so I’m still at the beginning of a journey that started late so I’ve been trying to make up for lost time. The other thing is I have two children that I am immensely proud of. They are university students will actually only starting in a couple of months, but they have managed to do really well and they are launching themselves quite well into the world. And I have learned that the best thing that I can do as their father is to stay out of the way. I like to think that as we’re talking about earlier, the parenting that people do, eventually, you know, comes through and I don’t expect to be someone who was worried about my kids in their 20s because of things that I didn’t do when they were younger. So far, so good. And I am very proud of them. They managed to get into great schools and I see great things for them. And that and I’ve been married for almost 27 years which is which is an accomplishment in itself, these names. So those are the things I’m proud of and I hope to continue to be a positive resource in this field for many, many years. Yeah.

What has been your your biggest challenges in becoming that resource so far? And how have you how have you dealt with that

overcome them? I love the fact that you threw in the word resource that I had said because there’s actually a chapter in my more recent book called How can I help you? Because my fried advantage, the word help from most of my vocabulary, because to me, helping people very often has a one up one down convocation vote for you. Let me help you up. I am better than you if you need help. I will be nice and I will help and that that screws it up so many times because people just don’t want to know. So I purposely use the word resource because that is that is a story that is talked about in the book. I was I was doing this bone fairy training and I was working with a bowling coach. And schools fantastic at the bowling center. And I was on a zoom call just like this with her. And I was telling her that my wife’s family was going through some stuff and I wanted to help my wife deal with it. And she said to me, Well, if instead of helping her, you just want it to be a resource for her then it just doesn’t work. So I got off that call and this is all detail in the book. I went to my wife and I said by the way, remember I was telling you stuff I want to help you. She said yeah. I said well, I don’t want help with this quizzical look on her face, like waiting for the next shoe to drop, and I said, but if you do need me as a resource for anything, I’ll always be there for you and she just looked at me and then ever since then I have really tried to stop talking about helping people. And we were talking earlier about the professionals that the families go to, and lawyers, the accountants, whoever and they say help us we need this and those people are only too happy to help and say Oh, I have exactly what helped me and the biggest change I have made in myself from the coaching from the facilitation from the Bowen family systems theory is to help people figure out their own stuff to be a resource for them to be a thinking partner for them to not come and offer my solution to them, to work with them on their own solutions on their own relationships to help them see what’s there to help them decide what’s best for them. So not offering the answer is the hardest thing. Yet it’s the most important thing, and learning how to how to get people to talk about things in a way where you can work with them to the point where they are discovering their own solution to their own situation. That’s where the gold is. And the hard part is some people say oh well you’re a family business expert. You must know the answer. What should we do about this? And my answer is typically, whatever you guys figure out together is going to be better than than the greatest solution. I could come up with off the top of my head. Yeah,

let’s work on that. Yeah, because it’s bound to be a more sustainable solution.

The people for whom the solutions are being derived. If they have nothing to do with the creation of those solutions, the chances of success goes so far down. It’s unbelievable. If you say Oh, well, we hired these great people, and they’re really smart. They told us this is what we should do. Yeah, that’s a really nice suit on the rack. But if it doesn’t fit the person you’re buying it for, it’s gonna look terrible. Yeah, it really needs to be custom made. And that takes time and it brings up difficult conversations, but if you don’t do that, you’re gonna have your difficulties later. Is that

something that you had always been aware of? Or is that something you wish you had known earlier? Or figured out earlier?

There’s elements of it that I wish I had figured out earlier. There are some things that come more easily with a bit of gray hair, and a little bit more humility and a little bit more training and working with people who have the right attitude, and trying things and seeing that, you know what, this is a better way to do things. So whether it’s the coaching training, whether it’s the family systems theory training, I’ve in the last five or six years, I’ve gone through a whole bunch of different learning because so the strengths finder profile, you’ve probably heard of, I am one of those that learning is like right at the top and I’ve always been someone who is interested in learning and training programs that I’ve done more than I that I can even remember, but they have been very important in making the change within me to figure out for me the best way that I could be of service to people and to families and I couldn’t tell people what to do. I’ve managed to almost completely turn that switch off as a reflex, much more interested in working with people to develop their own solutions.

I think that that would really what really makes a good coach at the end of the day, isn’t it? They don’t provide the solution but they make people think to the degree that they find their own solutions. Absolutely. And it’s even more complex of course within a family system because you’ve got more than one person involved. Yes.

And it’s really interesting. I work with one family where I’m actually I work as a coach with before rising generation siblings work as a facilitator. So that’s one on one coaching. I work with them as a facilitator of their group meetings. I’m just the four of them. And then I also participate as an observer with their family council meetings where they are running the meetings with their parents, but I’m there and so I get to play the different roles, but I also understand the different roles and that in different situations. I’m wearing a different hat and he has a different techniques and skills and remain objective and let let them take care of the content and I worry about process.

Yeah. Great. Now in terms of leaving your own legacy and thinking about your own succession, how would you say have you fared so far? I mean, you talked about your children and your family office and

it’s, it’s a work in progress. So there are certain parts of transitions that you can really only do after a generation that was there is no longer around. So what I’m saying is that because my children’s grandparents on both sides are still some of them are still alive. There is a limit to what I can do and what any parent can do, yeah. And with longer life expectancies these days that complicates things. So when it came to me and said, Dad, can you tell me what’s going on? I I can’t answer those questions completely. Because I’m not yet in control of all the levers and all the buttons that I expect to be one day in control. At that time, I will be able to put things in place and I will consult with my children as to how what is the best way to do it and my wife is in a similar situation. So unfortunately headstrong in, in having things that were done before us that we are still waiting for the denouement of things before we can do certain things and preparing my children to you know, be independent, and to figure their own stuff out. has been the best thing I could do. For them. In terms of my legacy. I have you know, I’ve written books. I’ve also written over 300 blogs that are on my website every week. And I don’t know who’s ever going to read those many years from now, but I would imagine that if some grandchildren someday would see that grandpa wrote this, but that’s that’s part of my legacy. Yeah, I’m involved in an industry that is still very much, you know, getting good speed. And moving forward. I like to think I’m part of, you know, the wave that’s moving into better and stronger places and to be better known and for people to really realize the power of working with the families on their family stuff and not just the structures. I like to think I’m part of that and I want to continue to be part of that and I hope that that’s part of my lyrics.

Yeah, yeah. Well, I think you’re well on the way so sounds great. And what is it? I mean, is leaving a legacy is that important for you? Or in other words, also, maybe what is what is true? I mean, in this podcast, we’re talking about true wealth in the sense of, you know, succession, Legacy impact purpose, and also a bit of financial wealth. But I think in the context of this, it’s it’s not the most important parameter.

I mentioned something and one of the questions you can send me to prepare for this. And it’s something that I wrote a blog about a couple years ago, and it’s about legacy. It’s someone put it the, it’s like a legacy equation. It’s very simple. It’s people plus that’s equals legacy. A lot of people think I got a lot of assets, so therefore I’m gonna have a legacy. A lot of people made a lot of money and say, Wow, I made all this money. This is gonna be my legacy. For you, if you don’t have people in your family, we’re gonna attend it. So this legacy after you’re gone, it’s not going to last very long. So if you think I’ve got a zillion dollars, I treat my kids like crap, but I’m gonna have a legacy. I got news for you. If you have a small amount of money, when you train your kids well, and you want to donate it to a hospital or have a scholarship at the school or whatever, that legacy can last a long time, when there are people who are willing and proud to do the work to maintain the legacy. It’s a lot more about the people and how to treat those people while you’re still alive so that they are willing then to do the work after you’re gone. But it’s a lot more about the people that are going to maintain the legacy than the size of a pile of assets that you have. Yeah, because that isn’t going to be enough. Yeah, yeah.

That’s great. Great. And it’s I think you mentioned it, but is that what what do you want to be remembered for? Is that your your work in this field?

My work in this field for the people in this field, and for my kids, that I did the best job I could for them and that hopefully, they’re proud of where they came from, and they’re proud of their parents and ask the stories on I don’t think I’m I don’t know sometimes people who want to make a big legacy. There’s a little bit of a selfish element that right away from Yeah, I’m definitely one of those people. So if my work could stand on its own as being important in this area, that will be a fantastic reward. And as my kids go on to have happy and productive lives, based on the good start that they managed to get from my wife and I were we had a bit of a head start over other families. Because of where we were born. But we also want to be the ones who screw up that actually have kids that do better than us. And that’s important to me, and so far, so good. And I just felt like it didn’t.

And you mentioned that you you see yourself to be on a on a journey in terms of being the mentor, coach and advisor. For families. Do you think where do you think there’s there’s room for development improvement? Or in other words, where do you still want to go? Is there a vision you have or is it just something that you that you know, you’re just gonna crack on with it and see where it leads you to?

Ideally I’d like to get to the point where I have a select number of families for whom I do a lot of work, where I’m the trusted advisor that consigliere for certain families. Yeah, that is my goal, because that’s possibly the simplest structure of being able to work a certain number of hours per month for the number of clients that would still allow me the freedom to go to conferences and write books and, and teach and things like that. So the ideal is to do more. Working with the whole family. Right now. I’m working with a couple of families, I’d like to increase that. I’ve also been doing my coaching certification for my individual coaching, and because I wanted to have my one on one coaching game, and that is also becoming a much more interesting alternative as things go forward. So I work now with some clients where I don’t work with a family I just work with one person who works in a family business and and try to help those people with their relationships with the other family members in a really interesting new angle and I’ve been starting on recently and that I hope to continue as

well. Okay, okay. Is there anything that is missing or anything that would or could be really helpful to you? I’m just asking because someone, some of our listeners may listen to it and say, Hey, I may be able to provide that to help you or be a resource for you.

Well, the thing I’m missing most is families that are ready. And we need someone like me. Yeah. I mean, I mean, a lot of families, most of them aren’t ready. Yeah, they can’t afford someone because they’re, you know, unfortunately, I’ve kind of limited to, you might want to call them ultra wealthy families. So my niche is quite small. But that’s also my choice. I think that that’s what I can add value the most. There are other people that can that are much better equipped to service families at a certain level of wealth better than me. There are certain families that get more complex when there’s more heroes and there’s more people and that’s what I value the best.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Okay, well, where can people find you? How can they contact you?

The good news is My name is not that common. Steve Legler l eg LDR. And if you Google me, yeah, and you put my name and you add family business or family wealth or something you you should come up with my with my website, or my LinkedIn page, or both, which are both good places to go. On my website. My main website is publishing your family business.com That was the title of my first book, shift your family business.com. Yeah, I have hundreds of blogs that I’ve written. There’s some white papers, there’s some videos I’ve done. There’s links to buy the books, and if people want hit me up on LinkedIn, I will accept their their invitations for sure. And if they want to set up a free call to just talk about family business, I’m always open for that. There’s a there’s a place on my website that to book to book an appointment. To do that. I will send them a zoom link and we’ll have a discussion. I would love to talk about family business. And then if we determine that I can be of service to them. We’ll work that out over time, but it’s a it’s not a sales pitch. It’s let’s talk about what your family situation is, and see if there’s a way that I could be a resource for

you. Great, thank you. And then as a sort of very last question to to round up our conversation. If there was one thing and one thing only that you could change about our planet or society or the world we live in, what would that be? Over the whole

planet? The whole society not not families in a while. There’s way too much meat in the world. Yeah. Yeah. There’s too much hate and jealousy and, and a lot of it is very wasteful. And unfortunately, I was talking about missed opportunities. before. I think that a lot of people spend way too much time and effort on things that aren’t productive, and are more focused on tearing other people down instead of building them up. Yeah. And so I don’t know what I would say when I wave the magic wand but it would probably be in that area. Yeah. Yeah. I think that’s absolutely amazing to hear from this world and looking at some of the things that are going on. It’s a little bit scary sometimes. And I hope that my kids and your kids don’t ever have to deal with incidents like we’ve seen happening. And if there was a way to make that probability go down to zero, I would be all

right. I fully agree with that. Steve, thank you so much. And we could talk forever, I think. But I think you know, we’ve, we’ve gone over an hour now. So I think you know, for the purposes of this podcast, and this episode, I think we’re more or less done. But I would really love to have you back on the show at some point and I’m sure we can, we can dig in deeper into some of the topics that are in your books and some of your work that you’re doing. So you know, I hope you keep up with your work and we can we can have a chat again sometime soon.

I would love to do this again. I am very comfortable doing this. I love to talk about this work. I will continue I have written a blog every week for like 300 Something weeks in a row. I don’t know when I’m going to stop I don’t plan on stopping cuz I don’t consider it work. Yeah, people say how do you come up with topics and I say, I write one blog a week and I typically come up with two topics a week so I’m not worried about running out. So I try to keep things relevant and in front of people and in a conversational way to talk about what’s important that families need to be doing should be doing could be doing but probably aren’t doing enough of if I can inspire them to give them ideas to get them started, then I will consider the job. Oh,

yeah, yeah, I mean, I totally agree. And I think you’re doing a great job and making things that are that can actually sound very complex and difficult. Sound doable, achievable. And you know, I think it’s a great way of inspiring and motivating people to actually start thinking about this more actively and maybe even start getting things done. Yeah, so thanks again, Steve. It was great to talk to you take care and I hope to speak to you soon. Thank you. Thank you for listening to the Dropbox project podcast. If you liked this episode, please do not forget to rate us on iTunes. You are of course also welcome to write a review if you’d like. Also, make sure you never miss an episode in the future by joining the true wealth community. Just follow the link in the description and sign up at no cost. We promise not to spam you. Thank you

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