Coming at this Again from a New Angle
There are some aspects of the work that I do with families that are difficult to grasp for many people, including some of my loyal readers.
In conversation, I typically note that I work in a niche within a niche, and have been known to add another level of niche as well.
This week I want to delve into this idea a bit more in writing, even though I did touch on it relatively recently (last year) in Serving Exceptional Families – Proceed Slowly.
Let’s begin by digging a bit deeper into the key word, “exceptional” a bit more, because it sits at the crux of the matter.
In the True Sense of the Word
My good friend Mr. Google is helpful as always, this time bringing me to vocabulary.com, which served up for “exceptional”, among many others, the following:
- Surpassing what is common, or usual, or expected
- Syn: Uncommon: not common or ordinarily encountered
- Syn: Extraordinary: highly unusual or exceptional or remarkable
My idea in sharing these definitions is to help accentuate just how much of a niche a lot of the in depth work really is.
Universal Applicability of Many Concepts
Of course most of the general concepts I write about here do in fact apply to families and the challenges of having every member remain on good terms with one another.
I had a tag line on the back of my business card years ago that read “Helping families create the harmony they need to support the legacy they want.”
The first half of that, about the harmony, is admittedly pretty universal, as just about every family would be all for improving the ways that each family member relates harmoniously with all the others.
It’s the second part, about the legacy, that is less common, especially insofar as finding families who are willing to bring someone in (and pay them) to help with this part.
There needs to be a certain level of financial wealth, as well as complexity, and of course a desire to maintain family ownership, at least through the next generational transition.
Challenges of “Democratizing” This Work
Over the years I’ve heard many colleagues mention a desire to “democratize” this work, and offer it to families who are not part of the “1%”.
I get it, and of course when anyone mentions this idea, many heads begin to nod in agreement. But there are a few challenges to this.
The first challenge is that this typically involves a lot of work, that the family members need to buy into. That’s because they all need to actually commit to doing this work themselves.
You see, while you can (and should) hire people to come and help the family with the work, the family members need to play a very active role.
And of course, most families, even if they are willing to do the work, are not in a position to hire someone qualified and experienced to properly guide them.
“What About Your Family?”
I was recently on a call with a new colleague who had the idea of doing this work with more “regular” families, and I tried to explain these challenges.
He then asked me about me and my own family.
It was after sleeping on that question that I decided to revisit this question.
My family isn’t exceptional enough for this. My family of origin might have been, but after our liquidity event over 30 years ago, it eventually became clear that we weren’t going this route.
The family I married into also had some potential elements in place, but their liquidity event also made it clear that this wasn’t for them either.
In fact, very few of the families I’ve ever met are good candidates for full blown family governance and continuity planning.
And that’s not a bad thing.
Examples from the Other Extreme
While being labelled an exceptional family is usually a compliment, it’s obvioously not always the case.
I’ve had the misfortune of working with some families that were exceptionally dysfunctional too.
Some members of such families have also proven to be exceptionally narcissistic, exceptionally delusional, have exceptionally high self-regard, and I could go on.
There are of course many families who could use the kind of help I love to provide. Finding the exceptional ones who tick all the boxes is hard work.
Could yours be one?