In 1977, a shingle was hung declaring my father’s company, Simonetti and Son, Inc., open for business. The company, operated by a labor force of three (father, son, and apprentice), had one goal – the creation of custom cabinetry and furniture refinishing. Over the next 30 years, I had a first-row seat to the many triumphs and hardships associated with a family-owned business. I witnessed my father sitting at the kitchen table, troubled as to how he would make payroll the following week. My family cheered him on when several large jobs came in at once, as clients had come to appreciate the artistry he offered in his craft.
Over the years, I watched and I learned. I came to understand that there are crucial questions every family business owner should be able to answer when it comes to the relationship with their advisors:
Do your advisors invest time to develop the relationship, not just the dollar? A good advisor should care about your business and what you are trying to accomplish. They should make your goals their goals.
Can your advisors provide technical expertise in their discipline to support your growth, allowing you to focus on your business? The key to being a great advisor is to not only possess the required skills needed in a particular advisory area, but to also be able to convey this knowledge in a way that provides comfort that you can focus on what matters – your business.
I recall my father having a strong long-term banking relationship. When the business was going through periods of growth, his lender was there to provide capital and assist when order demands increased, cash was tight, and supplies were needed. I watched as my father sought counsel on difficult employee decisions as well as how best to maneuver the tough conversations with family. And of course, my father’s tax advisors were there by his side to guide the way on proper entity structuring and generation planning considerations.
Do your advisors have the ability to create strong connections? Relationships are built via personal connection. Your advisors should be able to genuinely connect with you in a way that makes you feel seen and heard.
Are your advisors able to connect with multiple generations of your family? Businesses and families grow over time. As your advisors guide you through the transition process, they and their teams need to be able to connect with and support multiple generations of your family.
Do your advisors understand and respect your vision, and support you in maintaining your family’s values? Your business is ultimately about your vision, your drive, and your family. Your advisors should develop a meaningful relationship with you that is based on a foundation of understanding and supporting your vision, drive, and family. Building that foundation involves learning the history of your business, how you’ve reached this point, and where you’d like to go from here.
Do your advisors understand that for you, it’s not just business, it’s personal? We’ve all heard the phrase, “it’s not personal; it’s business.” Respectfully, I disagree. I’ve seen firsthand that when it comes to the business you founded and poured your heart and soul into, it very much is personal. The lines between personal and business blur because in a family-owned business, business is personal. A good advisor will recognize this dynamic and work with you accordingly.
Although my father has transitioned out of the business and the Simonetti & Son, Inc. shingle now hangs in his home workshop, the lessons he learned from and the relationships he built with our family’s advisors are still very much impactful. Take the time to review the relationships with your advisors to ensure your family’s vision and drive are best supported – your family deserves it.