Listen to Lisa Allen, a business advisor and partner at Deloitte Canada, share her insights on how to gain experience in serving family enterprises with effectiveness and improve at the art of asking the right questions.
How can you advise, provide sound advice to a business family if you do not understand the family dynamics piece, or if you have not considered that? You may provide them, you know, absolutely great tax advice that provides great tax savings so on and so forth, but if that advice does not allow for the family to also succeed, it only allows for the business to succeed, then is it really success?
I think part of this ongoing learning is not only the actual, you know, the more technical knowledge, but it is also developing your own facilitation skills and consultative skills and the art of being able to ask the right questions. The whole Art of Questioning, there is skill in the way in which you approach and facilitate and ask questions, and again allow business families to come to the answer collectively as opposed to being told an answer. I found myself quite often writing down the way in which a question was asked, because I like the way that sort of positioned and introduced a topic, and allowed for a discussion.
We want to help families through those sensitive transition points and on their journey of growth. Many times when we get sort of the reach out for “do we have materials,” we have a client or a business family that is in crisis. They are dealing with something pretty sensitive; it has got a lot of tension. Where I would love to see us evolve to though is to be able to introduce to business families these concepts before that crisis occurs.
One of the challenges is how do you even introduce these sensitive topics, how do you get a CEO-Owner to listen or to take notice and to want to actually think about this, and sort of where does the family values, sort of, interweave within the business? Perhaps your first question is around, you know, what about the grandchildren? Have you thought about your grandchildren? And you take it one step removed. For young professionals I think we also need to keep self-awareness as to what is your current relationship with that family member, and potential CEO and business family.
Through all of this, we may not ever achieve that most trusted business advisor to that business family, they may already have a most trusted advisor. And that is okay, I do not think our objective is to displace or replace or any of that, but perhaps a role that we could play would be to work with that most trusted advisor, and through them help provide our perspective, ask questions. The piece that I wonder about though is if I had a very sensitive client issue, I would probably call my most trusted advisor for advice around advising. Who would I call? Who is my most trusted advisor that I want to seek their counsel for sensitive matters to make sure that we are bringing the right and best advice and counsel to our clients?