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EisnerAmper Establishes Center for Family Business Excellence

Sep 6, 2017

Comprehensive Offering of Transition Advisory Services Designed for Business Owners and Families.

Estimates show that approximately 8 million privately owned businesses in the United States will face exactly the same existential issue over the next seven to ten years: baby boomer owners confronting the reality of retirement. Furthermore, current research says that more than $10 trillion in business assets may be transferred by 2025. Compounding this problem is the unsettling statistic that fully 70% of these boomer owners have no leadership transition plan.  

To assist its many family-owned or closely held business clients deal successfully with the issues of transition planning, EisnerAmper has announced the establishment of its Center for Family Business Excellence. The purpose of the Center is to provide EisnerAmper clients with leading edge tools, training, coaching and support to ensure the successful transition from one generation of business leadership to the next.  

The Center’s Director, Lisë Stewart, says that the Center “is a safe harbor for families and business owners who are dealing, often for the first time in their lives, with extraordinarily complex and emotionally charged challenges of transition, succession and personal fulfilment. Here they find a team of highly trained professionals who can guide them toward successful resolutions to conflicts that are both financial and personal in nature.”  To help accomplish these goals, the Center provides succession planning, leadership development and human performance management services to family-owned and closely held businesses through coaching, conferences, and webinars. The Center takes a three-dimension approach to transition problem solving for its clients:

  1. Leadership Transition – With owners wanting to exit their businesses at an unprecedented rate, whether family-owned or closely held, the need for estate and succession planning is rapidly growing. This is a foundational service that includes personal and business planning.
  2. Business Transition – Regardless of the path that the transitioning owner/leader decides to follow, all businesses can benefit from having a clear and agreed strategic plan to guide growth and build business value.  In addition, most businesses struggle to build the skills and talents necessary for the next generation, family or not, to be able to successfully take over and run a successful organization. 
  3. Family Transition – In family-owned businesses, governance can become a significant source of conflict and frustration.  Those businesses that survive the transition through the generations will have a clear and agreed plan for governance that leads to effective decision making and increased family harmony.  This is also an opportunity to capture the history and legacy of the founder generation, ensuring that institutional knowledge can be passed from generation to generation.

The Center is significantly different from other advisory services dedicated to private business owners in that it was designed from the outset to integrate the advisory services that are directed toward transition planning together with the full suite of services offered by EisnerAmper’s Private Business Services (PBS) practice. “The depth of our services to closely held businesses and family business owners is unmatched,” said Michael Aversa, partner-in-charge of the PBS practice. “Our key differentiating characteristics are that we offer seamlessly integrated client services to encompass taxation and accounting along with the Center’s advisory services. This makes EisnerAmper a unique one-stop-shop for business owners who often are struggling to come to grips with confounding problems that will impact their companies – and families – for years to come.”

The Center is a place for business owners and family to turn for advice in dealing with:

  • Acknowledging and then confronting difficult family issues;
  • Uncovering and dealing with interpersonal relationships among partners; and
  • Strategically planning for long term business growth, viability, stability and personal fulfillment

Frequently, these areas of advice include value-added sessions with owners to help them confront particularly difficult situations. Examples of these advisory sessions can include:

  1. An opportunity to clearly highlight the problem – often for the first time.
  2. Being a sounding board, a trusted advisor, a safe harbor.
  3. Facilitating communications with family members – often times with grown children who may not be aware of the company’s status, be interested in working in the business, have the same skill set of the founder, or have the aptitude or desire to carry the company forward.
  4. Real life experience with building a bench. Finding new sources of expertise; thinking ahead.
  5. Planning and conducting family meetings and to orchestrate the often fraught conversations that family members have been ignoring or putting off.

Calling attention to the fact that every owner and every family business is different, Stewart cited several examples of the types of advisory engagements the Center has undertaken. “We worked with an owner who had no successor and no family member interested in carrying on his business. The question we faced together was ‘what are my options – an ESOP, a management buy-out, a sale?’  And, underlying that was the most basic question of all: What was best for owner financially and personally.”

She then cited the example where there were multiple partners in a firm. “Some had children in the business, others didn’t. Partners had different time horizons, and the questions we confronted as a group was a conflict resolution:  Who buys out whom, when and how.”

As a final example, Stewart explained that she worked with a large group of family members owning great wealth in several ventures. A majority who were inactive in the ventures wanted to cash out, where the active minority wanted to re-invest in the business. “We knew a forced sale would result in a large and painful lost opportunity. The recourse was to overcome the stalemate through effectively organized directed discussions to find palatable alternatives.”

The Center for Family Business Excellence offers a broad array of advisory services including:

  • Advisory Boards – how to build and use an advisory board to enhance family business governance.
  • Creating a Family Charter – how to use a charter to guide decision-making and improve communication in the family business.
  • A business prospectus – how to create your own vision of company value and ensuring an investment-worthy organization.
  • From Power Broker to People Builder – how leaders can transition their role and increase business sustainability.
  • Succession Secrets – how to create a simple but effective succession plan.
  • Simple Strategic Planning – creating user-friendly planning documents to guide strategic growth.
  • Building your Bench Strength – how to find and keep the best people for your organization.
  • Conflict, Communication and Collaboration – Six keys to improving family and business relationships.

Have questions or comments? We'd like to hear from you.