The Field Continues to Evolve

During the past decade or so, my views on how best to advise families around transitioning their wealth have evolved greatly. 

I’d like to think that they remain a bit ahead of the curve vis-à-vis the world of professionals who work with enterprising families, although the field as a whole seems to be doing its best to progress as well.

As the thinking around the type of advice and resources families require makes progress, I think it’s a good time to revisit another related question.

I touched on some of this recently in Not Everyone Wants to Be Hugged not too long ago, and some feedback I received has me returning to this week’s topic.

Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda – Revisited

We had already looked at part of this back in ’22 in Some Woulda Coulda Shouldas for Family Enterprises. 

As more and more professionals get exposed to examples of families who’ve had success in the types of more “family-centric” wealth transitions, I think it’s important to not get too far ahead of ourselves.

I’ve been coming across examples of families who’ve been strongly encouraged by their advisors to pursue ways of remaining tied together, even when the family really was not cut out for that much heavy lifting.

I suppose that in many ways it’s better that more professionals now recognize that there are better ways to go than the old fashioned practices where the rising generation family members are kept in the dark and dictated to, but expecting all families to want to all stay together isn’t necessarily optimal.

Wielding “You Should….” Lightly

After Not Everyone Wants to Be Hugged went out to subscribers, I got an email from a regular reader thanking me for bringing this up.

It came from someone whose name most readers would recognize, so it was even more meaningful to me.

One small excerpt stood out: 

“But turning shoulds into coulds is really healthier for the family.”

Just because you can do something, that doesn’t mean you should.

And just because one family was able to do something, that doesn’t mean that every family will be able to make it work.

“Results Not Typical”

If you watch TV commercials that promote some method of weight loss or some way to get rich quickly, you’ll be familiar with some of the “fine print” that is often included as a disclaimer.

Phrases like “Results NOT Typical” may appear on screen for a few moments, probably at the behest of their legal counsel.

I like to think that when we hear from families who’ve successfully transitioned their enterprises down through a few generations, we should also be cognizant of the fact that these results are far from typical.

As I wrote last year in Working with Exceptional Families – Redux, such families are exceptional in the true sense of the word, i.e. they are the exceptions to the rule.


Leave the Prescriptions to the Doctors

More recently in Turning Need into Demand – Lessons from Big Pharma we looked at the fact that large pharmaceutical companies had found ways to get consumers to ask their doctors for specific drugs as a way to increase demand.

While that feels a bit suspect in some ways, let’s consider what that looks like in the context of today’s post.

I started out lamenting the fact that some professionals are encouraging clients to do things that may or may not be suitable for their situation.

The best solution for any family is almost always one that the family is able to co-create, together.

Doctors can and should give prescriptions, but as an advisor to a family, we shouldn’t be prescribing anything.

Guidance, Options, Timing

We need to recognize that we’re talking about a process, not an event, and we need to make sure the family understands this as well.

That helps everyone keep in mind that there isn’t one pill to take or one structure to implement.

As professionals who have done similar work with other families, we should be well positioned to provide guidance to families, and outline some options that they may wish to consider.

Facilitating conversations around such options can become the most important part of this work, as we help the family members make informed decisions about how they feel things could work for their particular situation and desires.

We can’t be in a hurry to finish either, because while the decisions the family needs to make are very important, they shouldn’t be treated as urgent.

This work is best done slowly.