Family businesses often don’t ask the right questions before they hire an adviser or consultant, and end up with people who are not equipped to deal with the complexities they face. But as they become more sophisticated, they must expect more of their advisers. The following questions should begin any client/adviser relationship:
1. Have you received special training in working with family businesses? If so, where and what? 2. What issues do you see in the family, business, and ownership systems? 3. How would you help us deal with them? Where would you start? 4. What is the scope of the work? What will it cost? 5. Do you belong to a professional society or group that delivers continuing education focused on the special challenges of family businesses? Do you participate in these? 6. Do you have a network of professionals who you can call on to help you with the complexities? 7. Are you willing to work with my other advisers? How will you prevent the team from becoming dysfunctional? 8. Can you provide us with references?
If you don’t get satisfactory answers to these questions, keep looking.
Jane Hilburt-Davis Author, Consulting to Family Businesses Founding Principal Key Resources Cambridge, Mass.