Are you asking the right questions?

Lets start with a simple question – are you an owner or a steward?

If this is not one of the first questions you’ve asked yourself – you might consider taking a step back and looking at things from a different perspective.

Asking questions is the right place to start. The simple existence of questions lets you in on your level of understanding and control of the issue at hand.

But questions have a tendency to act like free radicals – they come from a feeling of instability. What is more, they tend to look for stability next door – finding answers which consequently throw other issues into the zone of instability. It’s a chain reaction. This chain reaction can be disruptive and throw entire strategies out of orbit. Not only are they disruptive, they tend to send you on long goose chases, build up frustration and reinforce uncertainty.

The answers are out there – you just need to identify which are relevant to you and how to combine them into a coherent action plan. And you cannot possibly do that as well yourself as with the help of experts in the field.

There is no wonder that successful enterprises are almost always anchored in teamwork – a group of experts each responsible for a very specific part of a process and each looking to clarify an issue to the best of their ability. To succeed and progress, it is really important to groom a winning team. Think of any business – it is nearly impossible to make it all alone.

And the trouble is arguably not the need for expertise but rather the uncertainty that you have chosen the right advisors who will deliver.

Stewardship vs Ownership – the standoff

Steward Owner
Who’s money is it? The family’s for generations to come Mine
Can I do whatever suits me? No. you are the decision taker, but the strategy you set in place will service the family for generations Yes. You have liberated your money and can now spend it or invest it as you see fit.
Can I decide alone? No, there is a family constitution, a governance and a long term plan Yes – you are not bound to anyone – your money is yours to do with as you wish.
What are the chances that the family wealth will last for generations? High Low in so much as money is a bond the either keeps families together or breaks them apart.
Is it important to propagate family wealth? If correctly stewarded, family wealth is inclusive. Every member of the family has a part and a say – much like in democracy) As an owner, you may choose to reseed the family – ie. Break with the past and build for the future – you chose to abandon the family that was the source of your wealth.
Why choose stewardship/ownership Stewardship is a rewarding way of preserving family wealth, growing together and making room for the input of all of the family members.

This requires investment in the structural issues

You want liquidity. You want to in the ‘here and now’ or simply to begin a project of your own without the intervention of other members of the family. You no longer see the strength of the unified family – you prefer individual choice vs. consensus building
The ‘why’ or collective vision is more important than the ‘what’ – the project It is only about the ‘what’ – the project
An exit strategy possible. If you choose to keep the family together – it doesn’t keep you from breaking it up later if necessary. No way back. It is very difficult to build the family back up again once it has been dissolved.

It goes without saying that if you choose the stewardship route, the simpler and clearer your approach to the management of your wealth, the better the next generation will connect to the stewardship of that wealth and the further that wealth will allow the next generation to reach and build.

If you choose ownership, all of the responsibility for your wealth is on your shoulders – you enjoy the liberty of making the decisions you think best – but are the sole guarantor for the propagation and growth of your wealth.

Your personality

Are you fit to take the role of manager? Let’s face it – almost no one thinks in these terms. What does your personality have to do with anything?

If you are an heir, your predisposition is actually really important in assessing your likelihood to succeed in launching your own project, becoming a successful entrepreneur, or simply in preserving and growing your wealth or allowing it to dwindle.

Don’t be fooled, even when surrounded by an army of advisors, the likelihood of preserving much less generating wealth, is a daunting task. In fact, advice is often at the route the highest toll on your individual wealth.

If you are the patriarch/matriarch and are considering the legacy of your wealth, you have to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is there a future for my family in the business or will they be better off reinvesting the fruits?
  • Do I think that someone in the family is capable of following in my footsteps and should I be grooming my successor?
  • What are my own ambitions about keeping the family together?