Balancing Levity and Introspection in Family Enterprise: A Q&A with Vincent Valeri
We are thrilled to welcome Vincent Valeri, BA, MBM, FEA to Telos Group. He brings a multitude of personal and professional experiences in the family enterprise realm to our team. Steeped in the intricacies of working with family businesses and families of wealth, Vincent came of age in his own family’s business before transitioning into consulting and advisor training. He is especially passionate about continuity and legacy planning and working with professional advisors to improve their family enterprise strategy.
- Judi Cunningham & Mike McGrann
What is an especially interesting area of focus for you in Family Enterprise Consulting?
Digging into human relationships in family enterprises really highlights for me how perspective is everything. For example, a lot of my clients are surprised when I come in and not only normalize but reframe their challenges or tensions as positive. Often, they have spent so long trying to avoid conflict that it can be a major shift to pivot and look at it head-on. I love coaching families through the interpersonal stuff because getting the family around a table so that everyone has an opportunity to be heard and to articulate their needs is so transformational. There is such creative energy and forward momentum in this process that is really rewarding to guide and facilitate.
What other perspectives do you observe as transformative for families?
Change is constant. Positive and negative; anticipated and unanticipated: change is always coming. So much of our advising with clients is working to make a strong foundation so that the system is prepared for those changes, even the ones that nobody expects. When we work on continuity and legacy planning or start to build the family enterprise strategy, our first goal is to get at the underlying hopes and desires driving the family enterprise, so that the practical action can be adaptable in the face of inevitable change. The complicating factor is that the hopes and desires that might drive things like continuity planning or even how to organize ownership roles and responsibilities, can change.
Life is often filled with unexpected shifts, and these will come from inside and outside of the family enterprise ecosystem. The real secret here is that working from the expectation that change is constant puts effective processes into place that will support the entire family system through whatever changes may come.
You also work a lot with families around their relationships with wealth. What is your interest in this realm?
When I was growing up, I understood wealth as financial capital: how much money did we have? I never thought about it or discussed it with my family when I worked in my family’s business, I was just conditioned to think of wealth as numerical. Now, when I work with families of wealth, I offer them perspectives and tools that I wish my own family had back then. When we expand the definition of wealth to consider the intellectual, human, social and spiritual capitals – alongside the financial capital – the nature of the conversation shifts dramatically. It includes considering what the definition of “success” is for each individual in the family. And this is a key part of the process, it is vital to bring the discussions to the granular, individual level so everyone’s unique set of ideas about success can be explored.
Can everyone be satisfied when we consider individual needs like this?
To varying degrees. Hearing everyone out is an important part of the process, but there is a difference between voice and vote. No single person holds the whole story of the family enterprise system, so hearing all voices is a key part of any kind of planning process. Ultimately, the decisions or outcomes of decisions will have a very different meaning to those who are consulted then they will to those who are blindsided by decisions without a discussion. One of our goals when working with families is not to find a solution that everyone thinks is perfect, but rather to develop tools and processes that ensure the strength of the relationships and effectiveness of the communication strategies. This is a better form of success for the complexities of relationships in enterprising families and for families of wealth.
What do you envision for the future of family enterprises?
I am so excited to be working with Mike and Judi – they have both done so much in the family enterprise and family enterprise advising worlds. You can see how their strategies and efforts have already changed the ways that family businesses operate. Family enterprises are increasingly taken seriously as major players in economies across the globe, and their creativity and thought leadership in this area is really important. I feel totally aligned with their belief that advisors should work together, and it is exciting to be part of a practice that is developing around the fundamental principle of collaboration.
Looking to the future, the family offices, enterprising families and advisors that we work with will only benefit from even more thoughtful approaches to planning. I hope to see it become the norm that we engage the tools and strategies that have been designed for these clients. Broadening the approach, how we define the system and who comprises the “family,” not to mention shifting mindsets around continuity, legacy, and wealth planning will only make these dynamic players stronger and more powerful in world economies.