Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Slotting the Right People into the Right Roles

Serving families who are hoping to transition their business or wealth to the next generation is always complex.

Regular readers know that I encourage those who serve such families to collaborate for the benefit of the family, and that’s often easier said than done.

So many specialists are involved in creating the “perfect” plans, making it difficult to keep things simple enough for the family to understand them so that they can be effectively implemented.

With so many outsiders involved, it often takes a special skill set to be able to communicate everything so all stakeholders feel heard and can then work together with the plans that have been created.

Peer Group Inspiration Once Again

This week’s post was inspired by a statement from a member of a peer group who phrased something in a way I’d not heard before, at least not in a family enterprise context.

Then, in yet another group a week later, another valued colleague phrased something in a complementary way, making this blog a “must-write” for me.

Between the organisations I’ve joined and the peer groups I’ve been privileged to be part of this past decade, my interactions with like-minded professionals are at the top of my list of learning opportunities, and blog post inspirations.

So Many Content “STEM” Experts

The first instance happened during a case discussion I was leading in a monthly meeting I host.

We were talking about a family office where some new hires were facing some challenges in their communications with members of the family.

One the peers in the group suggested that there seemed to be lots of people with a STEM background (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) on that family office team of professionals, but they didn’t seem to have anyone from the Liberal Arts field.

A light bulb began flashing in my head of course, as I now had a new way to think about this subject.

Liberal Arts to the Rescue?

I have two children who have recently graduated with Bachelor’s degrees from very good schools, and even though they share the same two parents, they could not be more different.

The first studied engineering and is now following that up with studies in business analytics, so very much from the STEM mold.

The second has a BA in philosophy, politics and economics (“PPE”) which I believe is one of the oldest and most classic fields of study at Liberal Arts schools, having started at Oxford about a century ago.

When I imagined which of my two offspring would be better suited to address the challenge that the family office professionals were dealing with, it was a no brainer.

They were not short of technical know-how, but their ability to manage the people side of things was glaringly absent.

A Great “Left Brain” / “Right Brain” Collaboration

Seven days after that call, I was with another group that meets in French every month.

This group is roughly 2/3 process and people practitioners, and 1/3 content and technical specialists.

We discuss all matters relating to family enterprise succession, and over the years we’ve been meeting, some collaborations have occurred.

As we went around the proverbial Zoom room to catch up (having not met since June), one member reported some news about a collaboration she’d recently done with another colleague from our group.

She being people-focused and her collaborator being an engineer, she noted that they made a great “Left brain / Right brain” team. (Actually “cerveau gauche / cerveau droite!)

Complementary Skill Sets Are Key

It’s heartening to see that those of us who specialize in people and process are increasingly being seen as important parts of the complex world of family business and family wealth succession plans.

Unfortunately, it’s usually only after the technical specialists hit a roadblock that they feel the need to call in some reinforcements on the human side.

The bigger the family and the more complex the scenario, the more there is at stake. And the more there is at stake, the more you need to make sure that everything is well communicated and understood by all stakeholders.

Too often, the experts brought in to handle the structural and financial intricacies are not well skilled at the human element, and even uncomfortable in such roles.

Please make sure that there are some Liberal Arts types to complement those STEM folks.