Very early in our careers, a very successful and senior advisor took us aside. He imparted this wisdom: “If you talk less and listen more, you will be more successful and do better work for your clients.”
We took that advice and made it a cornerstone of our practice – and in particular, of our discovery process.
By conducting a thorough discovery process, usually spread over the first three meetings, we get a strong sense of the family and the family business. What kinds of pressure does the business face from competitors, the economy, or internally from things like operational and financial capacity?
Even more importantly, discovery is a time for first generation owners to take stock of their succession planning goals. Do some or all of the children have the desire and ability to own and run the business successfully? Can the business support more than one family – my family and the family of one child or more? If we want the children to take over the business, how do we build them into a management team that can handle adversity and solve internal disputes professionally? What are the tax, financing and legal issues we face when having one child take over the business, but still be fair to the other children in our estate plan?
All of these issues and much more are uncovered only through a deep discovery process. Our job is to ask good, thought-provoking questions – and then to listen and give feedback and guidance as a picture takes shape. Discovery will, and should be, the most time-intensive part of any succession or financial plan. Discovery is where we get our first opportunity to build trust with our clients. An open discussion with an exchange of opinions, experience, areas of agreement and divergence will build a strong foundation on which to build trust and a long-term planning relationship.
If you’d like to know more about the discovery process, feel free to contact us.