Since the field was identified in the 1980s, research on family-owned enterprises worldwide has grown exponentially. Although much is known, there is plenty more to discover when it comes to the rapidly changing dynamics of technology, genomics, and multi-cultural experiences.
Clients should have high expectations of family enterprise advisors – this is especially true when it comes to the impact of technology on communications, genomics, and the increasingly flexible understanding of family, familiness, and gender. Law, finance and behavioural and management science require vast amounts of cross-disciplinary information – new professional marriages are being formed, for example, law and medicine to enhance discussions on competence.
How best to study enterprising families? Research on facilitating multi-generational success has largely replaced the focus on avoiding failure. When it comes to family business, the stakes are higher and more complicated given the longevity of owners and stakeholders.
There are some topics where an abundance of research, resources and professional education is available to advisors and consultants. Consequently, owners and shareholders are well served to probe the competencies of their advisors.
With no attempt to be complete or exclusive, here are a few questions all family enterprise advisors should be able to answer.
- What is your unique professional and formal education for working with family enterprise?
- How fluent are you in social media and other means of global communication?
- How do you address the millennial mindset of work/life balance?
- How familiar are you with the changing landscape of jurisdictional requirements when starting or moving a business?
- Do you think of yourself as a trusted advisor, professional (e.g., lawyer, with a niche in family enterprise advising), or a consultant who manages a team of advisors and works primarily with the family on family governance issues?
- Are you philanthropic yourself? Advisors with little personal experience in philanthropy may be poorly equipped to deal with the psychological side of giving.
- What journals, online publications and research on the topic of family enterprises and consulting models do you read regularly?
Asking these questions will give families a better grasp of what their advisers know. Of course, no one knows everything, and the field is broad and changing, so here are some resources for advisors from the topics identified above.
- Academic research: for publications consider SAGE Publications, publisher of Family Business Review.
- Educational centres: There are more than 100 educational centres for learning more about family enterprise. Some focus on educating families, some have undergraduate and graduate programs for advisors and some conduct research. A representative list can be found here.
- Philanthropy: learn more at TPI’s Center for Global Philanthropy.
- Professional education: For more specific training in family business and family wealth advising check out FFI’s Global Education Network (GEN) with international faculty leaders in the field or its STEP programs.
- Multigenerational success: Listen to Dennis Jaffe’s podcast on 100-year-old family enterprises.
By playing an active role in vetting and choosing advisors and consultants, family enterprises can be actively advance the field. By extension, they can improve the skills and knowledge base of the advisory community. Progressive, flexible, risk-taking family enterprises combined with well-educated, tech-savvy, lifetime learners who have become family enterprise advisors through rigorous education can be a force for significant economic and cultural change throughout the world.
Judy Green, PhD is President of the Family Firm Institute. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and are not intended to represent the views of FFI or its members.
For further information, read “Getting Started as a Family Enterprise Professional.”
This white paper is designed for new and seasoned advisers and consultants. It combines more than 30 years of research and practice in the field and provides practitioners with a resource to understand and develop the skills essential in working with clients. It is also an educational guide for use by family-owned business to better understand the unique characteristics, approaches, and values to look for when hiring qualified family enterprise professionals.