Serving the Needs of “Enterprising Families” Varies Greatly

There are some subjects related to working with enterprising families that many of us don’t really ever think about, but that are always kind of there in the background somewhere.

This week we’re going to look at one of those, thanks to a new book that I just finished reading and that I highly recommend, which made me realize one of these issues actually does exist.

It got me thinking too, and when I do that, I typically try to find an analogy or a metaphor to help explain it more clearly, and so I’ll be trying out this new thinking here as well.

I bet you’re wondering what book I’m talking about.

Wealth 3.0 – The Future of Family Wealth Advising

I’ve known that this book was due out soon and was pleasantly surprised to see that it’s now available.

The authors, Jim Grubman, Dennis Jaffe, and Kristin Keffeler are all veterans of the field who I’ve known for years, and I’ve interviewed each of them of the Let’s Talk Family Enterprise podcast in the past couple of years. (Episodes 11, 29, 45)

They are mentors and colleagues and have each already authored other books on areas of this subject matter individually.

I think you can imagine why someone like me, who writes regularly about family wealth transitions, would’ve been eagerly awaiting its publication.

Business, Enterprise, Wealth

I could never do the book justice with a full review in this blog space, but I do want to share my thoughts on the new distinction that it clarified for me.

It’s a book about advising families about their wealth.

It highlights the fact that the field of family wealth advising is not very well defined and urges those who participate in this field professionally to do more to organize and advance it for the good of the families we serve.

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It also contrasts the needs of wealthy families with those who inhabit the world of family business.

The family business advising world is, in many ways, ahead of the family wealth advisory space, and is also distinct from it.

That was the “A-Ha” moment for me.

Some Families Make the Journey

My own professional journey in this ecosystem started with me working for my Dad in the family business he started before I was born.

I then found my calling to this work while enrolled in the Family Enterprise Advisor program.

And I now sometimes work with families who have significant wealth, without ever having had an operating business to speak of.

Even the term “family enterprise” feels a bit clunky, because it was essentially concocted to try to cover the fact that families often sell the operating business that made them wealthy, and then still have many of the same issues to deal with, despite no longer being concerned with the operation of a business.

The Family Firm Institute, started in 1986, has been playing a leading role in advancing and professionalizing the field of family business advising.

Wealthy Families Come in Many Forms Now

The Ultra High Net Worth Institute, for its part, has yet to see its fifth birthday, and they seem to be working hard to play catch up.

All three of Wealth 3.0’s authors are part of the UHNWI faculty.

While many of the world’s wealthy families have had a successful business as their main wealth driver, there are now more non-business-owning wealthy families than ever.

Entertainment celebrities, world class sports figures, tech billionaires, and even well-compensated executives can easily end up in the Ultra High Net Worth category.

When these successful people end up with more money than they could ever spend, and they have families, they then face many issues that they hadn’t even realized before.

Do You Need a Dentist or an Orthodontist?

So as I contemplated all of this, I began to think about family business advisors as dentists.

They help business families with lots of little things, many of them mundane, and work with them to help keep their mouths healthy.

Maybe family wealth advising is more like orthodontics.

They still concern themselves with your mouth, but they look at things very differently, and help with more specialized services.

Orthodontics surely evolved from the field of dentistry and then took its own course of professionalization.

Every orthodontist needs to study dentistry first, and then move on to that specialty afterwards.

Perhaps family wealth advising is now beginning to follow a similar path?