Kenneth Kaye

Collaboration Among Professional Advisors

Just as I bring on associates as needed with my own clients, I am often brought in on teams headed by advisers from other professional disciplines. The following engagements are cases in which I’ve played a significant role, subordinate to other advisers. The clients range from a fairly small business to several families with one to three billion dollars in diverse assets. In each case I bring professional expertise in family dynamics and communication, to existing teams that include attorneys, trustees, financial advisors, business consultants, and the family’s leaders.

  • The financial planning arm of a national accounting firm hired me to work with a pair of co-owners, their wives, and adult children. The business planning and succession planning processes had surfaced long-suppressed issues between the husbands and their wives. For years, the husbands had agreed not to complicate matters by discussing business plans with their wives. Meeting with the couples separately and together, I helped them define more workable expectations for keeping the spouses informed and gaining their input to planning. For their non-business family issues, I located the best local counseling resources for their families. My role is now in the background as the business consultants proceed with their work.
  • For nine years, I consulted to a prominent family with multiple business assets and residences in several states. The coordinator of all their advisors was the attorney who runs their family office. My role came to be that of counselor and facilitator for the relationships between two brothers and their spouses; between one of them and the non-family CEO of their venture capital firm; and between that CEO and the head of the family office. In addition, educational concerns about the young children in the family led me to coordinate their psychological assessment, educational consultants, and therapists.
  • In several different engagements, my colleague Sara Hamilton of Family Office Exchange is the lead consultant guiding 4th and 5th generation families through the major governance transitions entailed by the geometric increase in their numbers, and the termination of old trusts. Family meetings sometimes involve 40 or more members, some of whom have long-standing “baggage” while the second cousins barely know each other. Sara is the expert on best practices; my job is to help her and the families’ other advisors understand their clients’ personalities and make sure they don’t shy away from tough issues, while keeping their discussions harmonious.
  • One branch of a third-generation family found it necessary to sue their trustees, as an incentive to the other branches to buy them out of a large, closely held company at fair value. The lead advisors were their attorneys. My role was to help the members of this branch overcome mutual distrust over past problems, so they could affirm their solidarity in going to battle if necessary.
  • In a much smaller, first generation business with only 75 employees, succession from mother (the founder) to her able son was stalled by family dynamics. Here the advisors who called me were the chairmen of the mother’s CEO forum and the son’s next generation forum. My work was restricted to personal coaching and counseling for the two principals and their relationship with another family member who no longer works in the business.

What’s the common thread? In each case I was brought in by other professionals, and I remain in a limited role under their coordination. I find I can be especially effective as a colleague in that kind of multi-advisor team.

NOTE: Advisors to family firms from all disciplines–take a look at The Dynamics of Family Business (2005).

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