Choosing a Consultant to Work with Your Family

I was recently interviewed by a family for a consulting job. I was one of three consultants they were interviewing. At first, I was extremely nervous – the last job I had interviewed for was about 15 years ago–and then I realized what a great opportunity this was. There were several benefits I saw to this process:

  • The family could make sure that I was a good fit for them in terms of style and approach.
  • I could make sure that the challenges and opportunities that the family wanted to address were ones that I could help them resolve. Not every consultant has the tools, experience, and/or interest to work in every client situation.
  • The family made the choice as a group, rather than one individual finding the consultant and then introducing them to the family. I have seen this many times, and although this may be an innocent arrangement, the perception is that the consultant is working for that one person, not the family. This makes it almost impossible for the consultant to be truly effective.

Since I had this experience, I recommend every family who approaches me to follow the same process. I encourage them to go to a conference or find a few more consultants through recommendations from other family businesses and have each consultant conduct a webinar with the whole family about their experience, philosophy and methodology. Then the family selects one or two individuals for an in-person meeting and a more in-depth introduction. Finally, the family can vote on the consultant they feel is the best fit for them.

When the selected consultant starts working with the family, he or she will already have a good feel for the family and the family will be ready to start working with a clear path and set objectives. This is a win- win for both the consultant and the family.

I have started using this approach for other service providers as well. One family I recently worked with was implementing a Development and Education program for their family leaders and family directors. Part of this program includes professional coaching. We found three coaches who work with family businesses and had each prepare and conduct a 30 minute webinar with the family. This was an immensely helpful process – the family learned more about professional coaching and at the end of each webinar had a sense of the coach’s approach and who they would like to speak with further on an individual basis. This was a small effort on the coaches’ part and was immensely helpful to the family.

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