Plenty of Sophisticated Sellers Out There
The family enterprise world continues to evolve and mature, and it feels like the supply side is way ahead of the demand side in most cases, and that’s not necessarily a good thing.
There really is no single reason for this, nor anyone at whom we need to point the finger of blame, it just seems to be that way.
With time and a bit of effort, and a bit more evolution and focus on what’s right for each particular family client, this is already beginning to change, albeit ever so slowly.
Let’s jump in and look at the problem I’ve dubbed “solutions in search of families”.
The “I Have a Hammer” Syndrome
The simplest version of the issue is that many solution providers are pretty much a “one-trick pony”.
If I go to the barber shop and ask them if I need a haircut, unless I got one there the day before, I can already guess the answer I’ll get.
Likewise, if a family leader who knows that they need to do “something” goes to see a lawyer, they’ll be offered a legal solution; if they start with an accountant, they’ll be offered an accounting solution, and so on.
For the simplest family cases, this is all “plenty good enough”.
For families with more complex situations, though, this is where we can end up with the tail wagging the proverbial dog.
Interdisciplinary Work Towards Custom Solutions
I have long been a fan of families working with a variety of different specialist experts in order to come up with a custom solution for their particular needs.
While it might seem expensive to involve so many highly compensated experts in such planning, the synergies the family gets almost always far outweigh the additional time and cost they absorb on the front end.
The field of such experts continues to evolve in this direction, as professionals learn to work together in the best interests of the families they serve.
As the pendulum continues to swing in this direction, I recently had lunch with a colleague, after which I had a bit of an “A-Ha” moment.
And it had little to do with the fact that I had just eaten the most expensive soup I’ve ever had. (Yes, it was delicious.)
Everything Is Available; Everything is Affordable
I’d been invited to lunch by a colleague from a large multi-family office (MFO) to discuss ways that I might be a resource to them and to the families they serve.
My original title for this post was “Beware Solutions in Search of Families”, because I had the “I have a hammer, so everything looks like a nail” idea in my head.
But the lunch with my MFO friend revealed another version of the challenge, so I rejigged the title to “Matching Solutions to Each Client Family”, because our discussion revealed a different challenge.
I heard about clients who could afford any and every possible “solution”, but for whom the “problem” to be solved had yet to be clearly identified.
I also heard about a firm that was positioned to be the resource to supply and/or coordinate each solution as needed, but, despite having their shelves fully stocked with great stuff, felt at a loss to figure out where to begin.
Crawl Before You Walk, Walk Before You Run
It became clear to me as I digested my soup and my seabass that both the supply side and the demand side of this equation, despite having met and decided that they were a good fit, were still at a bit of a loss to figure out the first steps.
Admittedly, I was hearing about some relatively new potential clients of this MFO, which for me is always the most interesting time, because there’s so much to discover.
My mind works on a much slower timeframe than most (thanks, Dad).
My advice was to proceed slowly, one step at a time.
You want to run with it, but you should walk first, and perhaps even crawl before that.
Taking Time to Properly Connect, First
If this has a familiar ring to something you read here recently, kudos for paying close attention.
Just last week, in Relationships Support Structure, What Supports Relationships, I wrote:
“If you are privileged to work with families,
and you want to solidify your relationships with them,
it is well worth spending time and effort
on your deeper connection with them.”
I recognize that many advisors don’t feel like they have that luxury of time to build this connection.
My suggestion is to find the time, because it’s usually worth it.