CV TrustCo’s Steve Ivacko has recently completed the Family Enterprise Advisor (FEA) program.  The FEA program was developed in conjunction with the Sauder School of Business Family Business Centre to help Canadian families effectively transfer their wealth and businesses across multiple generations.

The program itself delves into areas where many advisors choose not to go for a variety of reasons – the so called “soft-issues”.  Many things not tax or legal or investment (the “hard”, technical stuff) are perceived to be more important because they affect the bottom line.  However, soft issues eventually do begin to affect the bottom line.  By probing into governance (the rule book), family business dynamics, strategy, and continuity planning, among other topics, the program gives families and their professionals the language and tools to work towards solutions in these sometimes uncomfortable subjects.

An important and odd fact: there are probably 100’s of thousands of family businesses in North America, probably hundreds of business schools, but maybe only a dozen or so of those schools offer anything relating to working with the families who own those businesses in more than just a transactional way.

One of the key take-aways from the FEA program is the distinction between “Continuity” and “Succession” planning.  The difference between the two is vitally important to families.  Continuity is the continuum of the life of a family and their business/wealth/etc. along multiple generations.  Succession on the other hand can be thought of as the individual transactions along the way – an estate freeze, insurance for a buy-sell agreement, etc.  These are important tools, but they shouldn’t be looked at in isolation.  How these transactions will affect the family are more important, and those factors should drive the types of tools used along the way.

In the almost 6 months since receiving the designation, we’ve made a deliberate effort to expand our own services to advise families along this continuum as our multi-family office platform continues to grow. By offering governance services (by way of facilitation of family meetings, building rules and strategies for decision making by the rising generation of inheritors, etc.), advice on philanthropic strategy and using giving as an educational tool, and providing strategic advice in the areas of continuity and succession, we add considerable value to the families we work with.

As we continue our blogs and discussions of continuity and succession over the coming months, we hope you’ll enjoy and engage in the dialogue!