The Family Business Partnership

What is a Family Business Consultant?

What is a Family Business Consultant and how can one help you?

Have you ever wondered what a family business consultant is and what they actually do? Probably not, but in case you have I have written a blog about it. 

Most, if not all of you will employ professional advisers to help you with the elements of your family business that you are either not able to do yourself or you wish to outsource.

These professionals would typically be lawyers, accountants or financial planners, although I am by no means suggesting that these are the only advisers that can help you as there are many that can, but in my experience these are typically the advisers that most family businesses would work with.

Accountants can help you with your tax issues, lawyers with your legal issues, financial planners with your pensions and investments etc.

But, who is able to provide specialist, expert advice on the family dynamics that are directly impacting all of these other areas?

The answer is a Family Business Consultant.

Why are family Businesses more complex?

As I am sure you are aware, working with your family can be a brilliant experience, it can be rewarding and fulfilling, especially when you are doing well and doing so alongside those closest to you.

If your business is successful and starts to grow it may be that you need to bring in people from outside of the family to perform important roles within the business, this can create both opportunities and tensions that need to be managed.

As your family grows it may become harder for you to provide roles for people within the business, you may even feel that the next generation shouldn’t rely on a role within the business but if those discussions don’t happen and expectations aren’t managed it too can lead to tensions and conflict.

Family business owners have to navigate the fact that they are wearing three different hats. They will own the business, work in the business and also have a role within their family and be working with other family members who are also having to wear those three hats.

When you are making decisions that will impact the ownership, the management and the family ‘systems’, having clarity over which hat you are wearing will only help you. Within your own family and business, you will have others who may be wearing one, two or all three of those hats too.

A family business consultant will help you in creating the most productive environment to harness the most powerful elements of family ownership whilst also managing the elements that can cause damage to both the family and the business.

It may be that you are facing new challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic or that it has brought to the surface tensions that were previously there but perhaps easier to ignore.

You are not alone, many of these challenges are very common and a family business consultant can help you to overcome these.

Common Challenges a Family Business Consultant can help you with

Whilst your family may be unique, the challenges that you face will not be, some of the common challenges that a family business consultant can help you with are: 

  • Discussions around the future leadership or ownership of the business.
  • Communication issues between family members.
  • Communication with your senior management teams.
  • Disagreements over the future direction of the business.
  • Succession Planning
  • Not knowing whether the next generation should or will join the business.
  • Boundaries between the family, the business and ownership becoming ‘fuzzy’.
  • Next generation feeling trapped in the family business.
  • Sibling rivalry.
  • Senior generation not letting go.
  • Husband and wife teams having difficulty communicating with each other.
  • Integration of non-family management teams into the family business.

This is not an exhaustive list and there are many other nuanced challenges that you may face, but rest assured there are others that have faced the same challenges and there is support available to you. 

What does a Family Business Consultant do?

A family business consultant is unique in that they will work with the family ‘system’.  This often includes those family members that don’t necessarily work in or own the business but are still able to influence how it is run and the relationships within it.

A family business consultant will help you to gain perspective, they will have in depth understanding of the unique complexities present within a family business and the impact these can have on the success or otherwise of the business.

Having an expert facilitating the discussions that might be too difficult for you to have on your own, with the additional benefit of the expertise and independence they bring will help you to progress towards your goals.

These discussions might be centred around succession planning or how to improve communication between family members. 

A family business consultant will help you to create the specific forums that allow everybody’s voice to be heard, for those who may own shares in the business but don’t work in it to have a forum they can express their views.

Where the wider family are able to have their opinions listened to and communicated to those who are responsible for the strategic direction of the business.

The lack of formality that can exist within a family business can create tension and the presence of complex family dynamics can often be what derails the planning and work completed by the other professionals.

A family business consultant will help you in creating the right boundaries between the family and the business. In other words, making sure that the right people are having the right discussions in the right place and at the right time. To the benefit of the business, those that own and work in it and the family as a whole.  

In summary a family business consultant will help you, as a family, to work through a broad range of issues that can limit the success of your family and your business and create a plan for you to overcome these issues.

Importance of Trust – Why me?

Inviting an external consultant into your business and your family is a big step, I appreciate that, and it is not a responsibility I take lightly.

I have worked with family businesses for 15 years and hold the Advanced Certificate in Family Business Advising.

I understand what is at stake.

I provide empathetic, expert and impartial support to family businesses just like yours to help you to achieve what you want to with your family business.  I help you to do the things that you may struggle to do well in-house.

I am patient but my eye is on getting the right solutions as effectively and quickly as possible. 

I have in my sights at all times, the wellbeing of each family member – and the all-important non-family employees too – as individuals in their own right, the future harmony of the family as a priceless unit, and the success of the business in so far as it aligns with the happiness of the individual family members and the family as a whole.

In short, I have the interests of all in mind when I do my family business work, and I have a rare combination of skills that enables me to do such complex and long-term work successfully.

The first step in moving forward is for us to have a chat about what you are trying to achieve and how I can help. 

 

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Testimonials

When making the exciting decision to start a business with my husband, the complexities of working with family didn't cross my mind. Rather than deliver a positive change in lifestyle, we found ourselves bringing the marriage into the business and the business into the marriage! Working with Russ helped us define structure and boundaries between work and home, and create distinct roles that would enable us to work to our strengths while managing expectations of each other. We found the sessions fun and engaging, and learned as much about ourselves as we did each other.
Rachel and Sam
Business Owners
We have worked with Russ on a number of projects with our clients and within our own team as well. He has an incredible talent for creating an environment where it feels safe to respond to difficult questions.

Not only is this useful for resolving differences, but also for understanding why business processes are not working the way that they should. Russ’ keeps you focused on the reason why you are doing what you do.

Having him involved has given my team an incredibly powerful boost.
Jon
Business Owner