In this case study, Family Firm Institute practitioner John Geddes describes a last-moments push by a team of advisors to help a business owner settle his affairs for the benefit of his family before the principal owner passed away. They managed to get everything completed just three short days before he died, but his delay in not making important business and estate decisions at least two years earlier, while he was still healthy, took a substantial toll on the company’s strength and its value.
John highlights some important lessons from this cautionary tale:
- deep-seated personal issues may be directing a person’s actions, concerns or promises they don’t wish to disclose to their advisor but which profoundly affect everyone’s ability to move the company forward
- multi-disciplinary teams that collaborate well are very beneficial to serving clients’ comprehensive needs
- sometimes outside professionals or managers with industry experience can help bridge a gap or smooth a transition during difficult times in the family’s life
- family discord can aggravate an already-difficult business transition, and these dynamics need to be managed carefully
- not everyone will follow the best business advice because of family emotions, uncertainties, conflicts and fears; not having external shareholders to answer to can sometimes let room for business to slip
This article is really written for advisors, but we think that clients can benefit from hearing about what other family business owners have struggled with, too.
What we liked best about this piece is how well it highlights the tension that personal circumstances can create, interrupting the effective operation of the business and potentially costing the family significant money. Inaction is nearly always caused by something buried beneath the surface; it’s the advisor’s job to do their best to unearth those obstacles and help the client move forward with a good business mindset to keep the company healthy and strong. However, sometimes people simply can’t respond despite their advisor’s best efforts, and a less-than-ideal outcome is sometimes a fact of life.
As a family business leader, is something on your family or personal side holding you back from doing what’s best for your company, and ultimately your family?