10 Questions for Your Family Business Consultant
01. HOW DO YOU DIFFER FROM A TYPICAL BUSINESS CONSULTANT?
“Selling a family business can be very difficult emotionally,” says Blair Trippe, a partner at Continuity Family Business Consulting in Beverly, Mass. Many consultants could coordinate the sale, but a family business consultant will also know how to help navigate the related emotional and interpersonal issues.
02. WHEN DO WE NEED YOUR HELP?
Family business consultants are often hired for milestone moments, such as succession, sale or the creation of a board of directors. But they are also asked to referee conflicts where a non-family perspective is needed.
03. WHAT ARE YOUR CREDENTIALS?
An MBA and experience in conflict resolution is typical. Academic backgrounds in psychology or family therapy are also common, and many family business consultants will have “written a book or two” on the topic, according to Wayne Rivers, cofounder and president of the Raleigh, N.C., Family Business Institute.
04. WHO ELSE WILL YOU BRING TO THE TABLE?
Family business consultants should have a broad network of outside experts they can call on for specific legal, business, technical or family therapy services.
05. DOES YOUR TEAM INCLUDE BOTH MEN AND WOMEN?
Family businesses will invariably have their share of gender- related challenges—with distinctive twists. (What role does a spouse play? Are sons and daughters treated the same or differently?) Many families prefer to work with gender-balanced teams.
06. WHY SHOULD I TRUST YOU?
Consultants may be entering a situation where not all the family members welcome their arrival. Sooner or later, though, all the stakeholders need to feel comfortable sharing confidential and even personal information with the consultant. So a family business consultant needs to convince you that he or she can establish that bond.
07. WHAT CAN I EXPECT TO PAY?
Costs range widely depending on whether you’re considering a solo practitioner or a larger national firm. Local consultants can run $4,000 a day, global practices cost $10,000 a day or more. Most consultants will offer commitments of several months to a year at a flat rate to help manage costs.
08. WHAT DELIVERABLES DO YOU PROVIDE?
“Many consultants will come in and form a family council,” often combining family members, outside advisors and mentors, says Marion McCollom Hampton, a senior partner at Banyan Family Business Advisors. Consultants should also offer an implementation plan for new best practices and a shareholder education program.
09. HOW DO YOU RESOLVE CONFLICT?
Good consultants understand that disputes that appear to be all business often have deep roots in family histories, and resolving them starts with identifying the initial cause. Then the consultant serves as a mediator, helping family members acknowledge uncomfortable issues.
10. HOW DO YOU HANDLE BEING THE “BAD GUY”?
Family business consultants must not get drawn into family dynamics. Consultants can offer advice and insight, but decision making is ultimately the responsibility of the family and business leadership.
For more information, contact: Marion McCollom Hampton, Banyan Family Business Advisors, firstname.lastname@example.org, 617.500.6701, banyan-fba.com; Wayne Rivers, Family Business Institute, email@example.com, familybusinessinstitute.com; Blaire Trippe, Continuity Family Business Consulting, firstname.lastname@example.org, 617.500.3110, continuityfbc.com