The Challenges Families Face Getting Advice

The ecosystem serving enterprising families continues to evolve and expand, which is a welcome development, because these clients now have access to better resources and ideas than ever before.

With this upside, of course, comes an accompanying downside, thanks to the overwhelming array of choices family leaders now face.

While speaking with a colleague one day recently, I tried out some new language describing this phenomenon and it landed nicely, which got me thinking about turning this into a blog.

Later that same day, on a Zoom call with a client I’ve been coaching for a few years now, I tried it out again. 

He laughed along with me as I delivered the punchline, so here we are.

A Couple Gets Started with Planning – A Parable

My parable begins with a couple, who finally decided one weekend that it was time to begin to plan for how they’d eventually transition all they’d been working for to the next generation of their family.

Recognizing that a variety of different professionals work in this area, they set up appointments, one each day, to get some advice on moving this project forward.

On Monday, they went to see an estate planning attorney; on Tuesday it was a visit to their long-time accountant; Wednesday they had a meeting with a life insurance specialist; and on Thursday they stopped in to see their banker.

By Friday, they were very confused.

Apologies to The Cure

As I recounted this fictional tale, the 1992 song by The Cure, “Friday, I’m in Love”, started to play in my head.

Upon investigation, it turns out that that song is almost the opposite of my made-up story.

The lyrics to that tune have a happier end to the week, after going through various sub-optimal days from Monday through Thursday, the singer ends up in love on Friday!

My proverbial couple is just confused by all of the well-meaning advice they received, and aren’t much further ahead than they were when the week began.

I See Your Nail and I Have a Hammer

It’s not that any of the professionals my fictional couple consulted with were wrong, and none of them was offering the family anything that wouldn’t serve part of their needs, in some way or other.

What this couple (and by extension, their family!) needed was someone who could take the time to understand their whole picture, before proposing the best “go-to solutions” that in which their profession happens to specialize.

This is probably one of the places where the term “best practice” becomes one of my biggest pet peeves.

All these professionals could tell the couple that what they are suggesting is a “best practice”, and they could do so with a straight face.

They could even point to dozens of clients for whom they’d done the same thing.

But when you get to Friday and you’ve heard that four times, describing four different ideas, you’re still confused.

Holistic Advice from Collaborative Colleagues

Recently more of those who serve this clientele thankfully recognize the shortcomings of the “old way” of doing this work.

While this is progress, we still have a long way to go.

It’s much easier to say that you offer holistic advice, that you consider the whole family your client, and that you collaborate with other advisors, than it is to actually deliver on that promise.

Client families deserve better, and with some more effort, more practice, and a larger pool of enlightened professionals, we might just get there some day.

Simplifying Complexity and Slowing Things Down

Two of the biggest obstacles we all face are the complexity of the situation, and the fact that many involved in the process treat it like a simple box that needs to be ticked, and try to rush through it.

My view on this is that rushing through complexity is a recipe for regret, and this does occur quite often.

Unless and until we can all learn that taking our time and getting it right the first time is the best way to proceed, we will continue to produce sub-optimal results.

The confusion families face is normal.

We all need to slow down, make sure we understand what they’re trying to achieve as a family, and help guide them there, however long it takes.

It isn’t rocket science, but will require a more mature way of professional interaction.