For people like me who work on the family side of generational wealth transitions, it almost always takes a certain amount of time to develop the trust of the key family members required for the relationship to be durable over time.

I know that I certainly kiss a lot more proverbial frogs that don’t turn into princesses than those that do, and that’s more about the nature of the game and less about my ability to kiss frogs (I think!)

In a few recent situations where I’ve been exchanging with peers, though, it’s become more apparent than ever that the chemistry that’s required in such relationships actually needs to work in both directions or else relationships will be mostly short-lived.

He’s Just Not That Into You

Unfortunately, there isn’t usually a lot of great feedback that comes along with a “thanks but no thanks” response to a service offering to a family.

I’ve been saying for years that when you want to work with a number of family members, it only takes one of them to not want to work with you to kibosh the whole thing, and that is how it should be.

A family needs to develop consensus for many of the decisions they make, not the least of which involves choosing someone to accompany them on their journey.

Of course, early on in one’s career in this field, rejections are harder to take, as each missed opportunity to work with a family not only feels like a personal rejection but is also a lost opportunity to learn.

How Much Do I Want This Client?

I was recently on a peer call with many seasoned professionals and we got to talking about a specific case that one of them had been referred to.

He asked about whether and how he should respond after he learned that the family wanted to put out a request for proposals for the opportunity to work with them.

I suggested to him that based on his less-than-bubbly level of excitement in sharing the details of the case, it seemed like he was still far from the point of certainty that even wanted to work with this family.

He then admitted that his motivation was quite low, and I suspect he will not submit a proposal to them.

As a senior, self-employed professional, it’s relatively easy for him to make that call and move on.

When Your Employer Chooses the Clients

Of course, not all situations are so simple and clear. I recently spent some time with a friend and peer who works for an organization that serves dozens of families.

There are of course many advantages to having a regular job as an employee (many of which make solopreneurs like me jealous) but the ability to be choosy about which families you work with is not one of them.

If the situation turns into one where the coach feels forced to continue working with a family because their employer insists on it, in order to retain some sort of profitable business relationship, I hope you can see that this can quickly become sub-optimal.

Ideally, there will be some flexibility built into such relationships with client families because even if they have a fantastic person on staff who’s great at working with families, not every family will be a good fit over the long term.

Untangling the Business Relationship from the Family Needs

I’ve long maintained that serving families on the “family side” of things can be very tricky if it is being done via any institution that has an important business relationship with any enterprise that the family owns.

I know a number of colleagues who began “family circle” work while employed by such firms because it’s a no-brainer for the company to want to serve families in order to keep and deepen their business relationship.

But most of the really good professionals who enjoy this work end up quickly reaching the limits of being able to serve their families properly under such an arrangement.

Nothing Lasts Forever

This work is difficult and not for everyone. 

That applies to the families themselves as well as those who work with them on family governance matters

Ideally, both the family and the advisor are able to have a free choice when it comes to how long the relationship will last.

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