A family business might seek outside consulting services for many reasons, ranging from succession planning, governance and managing internal conflict to developing a long-term growth or business continuity strategy.
Regardless of your reason for engaging outside counsel, there are a few key points you should consider as you talk with potential partners.
What are Family Business Consulting Services?
Family business consulting services bring outside perspective and experience to a wide variety of challenges and family business developments.
At some point in the life cycle of a family business, chances are that at least one internal or external conundrum will present itself – and it may be a challenge that the leadership team lacks the time and/or the expertise to solve on its own.
The outside point of view that comes with family business consulting can be invaluable in these types of situations.
Six Factors to Consider when Seeking Family Business Consulting Services
Throughout our years providing family business consulting services, we’ve learned a lot about what it takes to help a family business weather the challenges that come its way.
Below we’ve shared some of the key attributes you should look for when considering a partnership with a family business consultant.
The basis of any healthy relationship is trust, and this is as true for your relationship with a family business advisor as with any other important relationship in your life.
It’s imperative to choose a family business consultant who is trustworthy. After all, you’ll grant this partner access to intensely private personal, organizational and financial information.
You can pick up on a consultant’s trustworthiness intuitively in many cases, but it’s also smart to ask good questions focused on how an advisor goes about building trust with clients.
It also works in your favor to talk to current or former clients and ask specifically about the trust factor.
2. Communication and empathy
Closely related to trustworthiness are the essential skills of communication and empathy.
A good advisor must listen carefully, ask meaningful and challenging questions and be able to empathize with the complications a family business may face.
All the credentials and experience in the world can lose their value if an advisor fails to connect on an individual and personal level with you – and with your leadership team or other family stakeholders who are essential to your organization’s success.
3. Level of personalization: are they selling a product or advice tailored to your specific situation?
There’s a big difference between a family business advisor who offers a standardized, one-size-fits-all package and the consultant who tailors their problem-solving to your specific goals and circumstances.
It’s important to make sure you get exactly what you need.
As family business consultants, we’re proponents of the most personalized approach possible.
Both your family and your business are intensely personal, and a good family business consultant will understand that.
We believe that the best family business advisors spend a healthy chunk of time assessing your current business, asking questions and getting a feel for your unique situation.
In fact, going through this process with an advisor can help you articulate exactly where you are in your organization’s lifecycle, along with where you are in relationship to your goals.
Only then is your advisor positioned to offer the most strategic and helpful counsel.
4. Experience and credentials
When you’re considering family business consultants, make sure you evaluate how much experience a potential partner brings to the relationship.
While experience doesn’t automatically mean expertise, the more experience a consultant has, the more industries they’ll have observed and the more diverse set of problems they will have addressed.
Ask as well about credentials and training – does this consultant have an empirical background in helping family businesses reach their goals, particularly when it comes to defining and achieving success metrics?
When combined with empathy, intelligence and capability, experience and credentials can enrich your advisor’s approach and provide invaluable context for your family business challenges.
5. Prior success
Ultimately, the most important point to consider is whether a potential family business consultant feasibly can unravel your business challenge and help your company navigate toward its goals.
That’s why it’s so important to ask detailed questions about prior success – you’ll need to determine if and when a potential partner has encountered a challenge similar to yours and how they led an organization through it.
This is another area that benefits from talking with current and/or prior clients to get a feel for a potential partner’s success rate.
Any potential advisor should be prepared to share names of current or past clients who can speak to how they helped solve a particular challenge – especially any challenge that mirrors your own.
6. Level of support
Another important consideration is the level of support you’ll need from an outside partner.
If you’re looking for someone to help you define your current situation, and then both identify and execute a plan toward your goals, you’ll want to establish a consultant relationship.
This type of relationship generally focuses on development and execution of a specific plan.
But if your situation calls more for expert counsel that acts as a sounding board and provides strategic perspective, you may be more interested in a long-term advisory relationship with an outside partner.
An advisory relationship is more likely to focus on advice over implementation.
Both are valid approaches, depending on your need, but every partner may not offer both types of support.
It’s a good idea to make sure you understand the level of support any potential family business consultant is prepared to offer.
Choosing the right family business consultant is a highly personal process
The intersection of family and business is at the crux of your organization’s ultimate prosperity, and finding the right partner to help you reach and remain in the Prosperity Zone isn’t a task to be taken lightly.
With more than a decade of family business consulting to our name, the team at Ferguson Alliance stands ready to offer both consulting and advisory services that make sense for you, your family and your business.
Reach out today to speak with one of our qualified family business advisors.
We’d love to help.
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