In the course of providing consulting to clients over the decades it has become apparent that we have advised our clients to get over the need for independence, and seek help from trusted advisors such as veterinarians, lenders, agronomists, lawyers, consultants and other ag  professionals. The business of agriculture has become so complex that no one person can maintain adequate knowledge in all essential areas of the industry. In a great little book entitled How to Choose and Use Advisors: Getting the Best Professional Family Business Advice by Craig Aronoff and John Ward, I found a wealth of knowledge on the value of good advice and how to find and use the right expert advisor for your family business.  Below are some bullet points to help you in your search.  The consultants at Cooper Norman would welcome you to use these criteria to judge their expertise.  They are sure you will find they have the highest qualifications to “keep your business healthy and your family happy”.

Benchmarks of Excellence in Advisors

  • Maintains up-to-date technical knowledge and shows strong interest in and commitment to his/her field
  • Communicates openly in clear, simple language
  • Seeks to know the family and business in depth
  • Understands how families work and how family and business relate to each other
  • Gives advice and counsel that suit both the family and the business
  • Shows empathy, patience and trustworthiness
  • Is willing to work with successor generations
  • Promotes collaboration among advisors

    Red Flags in Client – Advisor Relationships:

  • Fails to avoid conflict of interest
  • Fails to respect client confidentiality
  • Works in isolation
  • Sells solutions rather than listening to problems
  • Ventures beyond his/her knowledge
  • Makes decisions for the client
  • Fails to foster good communication
  • Lacks empathy
  • Checklist for Selecting Advisors:

  • Do you trust the person and feel confident of his/her abilities?
  • Is the advisor at least as successful in his/her field as you are in yours?
  • Is the advisor still learning and willing to change?
  • Would you be proud to be associated with this person before customers, suppliers, and other important contacts?
  • Does the advisor have a good mix of long-term and newer clients?
  • Does the advisor have enthusiastic references from businesses similar to yours and have the references given permission to be used?
  • Resource:  How to Choose & Use Advisors by Arnoff & Ward  www.efamilybusiness.com