I hope you enjoy this initial blog entry and the others that follow, as well as the companion articles which will begin next week. Without further ado, I proudly present my Q&A—artfully edited for space and flow, of course, with FFI’s venerated former editors:
The Practitioner: What was your biggest challenge in editing articles for FFI?
Tom Schwarz, Dean of Stetson University:
“Our main goal was to traffic material that complemented the Family Business Review by creating articles more practitioner readable and less focused on academic literature. We wanted to put articles into a consumable, usable format, and I think we succeeded in that mission.”
Kim Schneider Malek, President of Family Enterprise Alliance:
“I had previously written about family businesses for the Denver Business Journal, which in a way prepared me for the editor job, because I was able to keep the writer’s perspective in mind. I remember writing a story about how people were more willing to talk about sex than financial matters, and Denver Business Journal edited out that concept. This made me realize how editors are constantly caught between the wishes of the organization they’re editing for, the expressions of the author, as well as their opinions.”
Gerry Donnellan, PhD., President of Big Leap Consultants:
“Part of the fun as editor was the pleasure of reading things that advanced my own knowledge about the field, because we actively sought out people with valuable points of view. That’s how we primed the pump, and the quality of submissions improved over time. Then at a certain point, I decided to feature articles in Spanish because I speak the language and I love it, so I invited Guillermo Salazar to get involved.”
Guillermo Salazar, Director of Exaudi Family Business Consulting:
“Gerry suggested I should be the first editor in charge of Spanish content, with the idea to create a bigger databank of Spanish articles. At that time there were no magazines or websites in Latin America that solely addressed practitioners, so in some ways we were pioneers. This was important because people think differently in Latin America about many things. For example: when a family member leaves the country to start a new life or launch a new enterprise, this hits the heart of Latin American families hard, because they tend to stay in close physical contact. The solution is to teach them that the global situation requires them to spread out around the world and that they will survive this.”
Henry Krasnow, Attorney, Krasnow Saunders Cornblath Kaplan & Beninati LLP: “Too many submitted articles were self congratulatory without being analytical enough. People would write about something they did that they thought was noteworthy, or talk about problems they thought they could uniquely solve, as opposed to writing articles designed to help others. So the job entailed making sure all the practitioner articles had practical value to them.”
David Tate, Ph.D., Tate Consulting Group; assistant professor of psychiatry at Yale University:
“When we’d challenge people to make adjustments, for the most part they understood and were able to do so. Most people seemed professional and eager to work with us. That said, if their keyboards had ears, they would probably tell a different story!
The Practitioner: “What’s the most important advice you would offer practitioners in providing services to family enterprises?”
Kim Schneider Malek: “The most important advice is to know what you don’t know. We all have experiences with our own families, and it’s easy to assume we have an awareness of what another family is experiencing by default, when it’s not true. We have a natural inclination to be prescriptive–to tell them what’s broken and how to fix it.”
Tom Schwarz: “You need to have a multidisciplinary team approach to family business issues and you must recognize that each family business is unique. Why? Because getting to the right solution requires that consideration. You can’t give correct advice without it.”
Gerry Donnellan: “A lot of practitioners are islands unto themselves and don’t collaborate as much as they should with other advisors working with family enterprises.”
David Tate: “No single professional owns a three-dimensional picture of an enterprising family. Therefore it’s imperative to connect with the other advisors families are connected to and avail yourself of other perspectives.”
Guillermo Salazar: “Practitioners should read one or two articles in their daily professional lives in order to become an expert across many disciplines. You need to educate yourself at all times.”
Henry Krasnow: “The most important thing practitioners need to do is obvious: help clients make more money. That’s not a joke. That’s a very serious mandate bubbling under the surface.”
Be sure to look for The Practitioner: Wednesday Edition next week in your email or online, when we feature our first guest article:”Shareholder Agreements: Planning for Certainty in Business Direction & Succession” by Daniel Crosby and N. Todd Angkatavanich.
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Yours in Practice,