This is the second part of a two-part Q&A series with Angelo Robles, the founder of the Family Office Association, on the contemporary family and the family office. Here is Part 1.
Family Capital: How can single-family offices begin the transformation to sustain and serve incoming generations?
Angelo Robles: To begin, the SFO needs a relationship with the upcoming generation inside of the family. Family elders need to arrange for a dialogue between the SFO, likely its younger employees, and the rising generations of the family. If the SFO employees are in their 40s to 60s, and the rising-gens are in their 20s and 30s, some younger employees can likely help balance the connection.
So the SFO needs elders/mentors, and also benefits from diversity of having younger employees. News travels fast along millennial highways. They bring an understanding of the culture of the day, the trends and the must see events. They also know about technology and about the threats to and from technology and in the cyberworld, of the fixes and the fastest way to obtain them. We work with millennials in our Intergenerational track who introduced us invaluable communications tools, content management systems and even the use of bots for scheduling. These are all things younger SFO employees have in common with the family rising gens as well as music, sports, and generational icons.
Family Capital: How can the three constituencies work better together, meaning the family, the single-family office executives, and the advisors that serve family offices?
Angelo Robles: For the three constituencies, or stakeholders, to work together well, clear communication is vital. Clear communication about the goals of the family, and about changes being made in family goals. And these goals may change as often as month to month. So the SFO needs both rigor and flexibility, and a clear chain of command to stay in sync with the family’s changing goals. The family office must also have a relationship with outsourced advisors and has to benchmark them and hold providers accountable to maintain those practices and standards. Everyone needs to be on the same page for the betterment and the goals of the family.
Family Capital: Must the single-family office hire and onboard millennials to be sustainable, thrive and grow?
Angelo Robles: “Must” is a strong word. The answer partly depends on the family and whether they have a rising generation, including millennials and gen-Zers. If they do then yes, in my opinion, it is surely a must for sustainability and succession. If the family doesn’t have a rising generation, it is still better to onboard millennials to have diversity of opinion and perspective.
An SFO doesn’t want to have homogenous group speak. And there are areas where millennials are way ahead of older generations, say in mitigating cybersecurity risks. And diversity of generations creates a vibrancy within the family office, which is why you see diversity in the super-successful, billion-dollar SFOs. Life imitates art. Look at all of the diversity in Axe Cap on Showtime’s hit Billions. Diversity is the great source of resilience and survival in biological and natural systems. It’s good to learn from that as well and so we welcome diversity and welcome millennials.
Family Capital: Would top young professionals consider working in an SFO a career track?
Angelo Robles: For the most part, the answer is no, talented young professionals tend to see SFOs as limiting and stodgy, nowhere as attractive as say, Goldman Sachs, Google, or McKinsey & Co. Not the best place to sharpen their skills, not as attractive as a career route. That said, the billion dollar plus SFOs that are active in their brand and with their resources to make an impact could be attractive to top young professionals. SFOs of this calibre with no middle management and a chance for upward mobility can begin to be attractive to young dynamic professionals especially if there is strong leadership and mentorship from the SFO elders.
Family Capital: How then can an SFO recruit the talent to be great, or as good as it possibly can be.
Angelo Robles: That’s a very important question. If the SFO leadership makes investments the employees can believe in, embraces a purpose, futuristic outlook and social commitment they align with, in addition to having sufficient diversity and opportunity for upward mobility within the SFO, it will be more attractive to potential hires and for keeping talent onboard.
But here’s the thing: do you really need to start with very top talent to be great? Those hyper-talented individuals may be too focused on themselves. They may be better outsourced as needed and not made into a permanent part of the family office culture and organization. There may be no need to internally pay a direct investing professional $3-5 million/year, it may be better to outsource her or him.
Family Capital: So what are you looking for in SFO hires?
Angelo Robles: I agree with Dr Adam Grant on this, what you want in your SFO are givers and team players. Good stewards and leaders who believe in the goals as outlined by the family office leaders, work together and grow together. You don’t need to invest in a star. Instead, you can coach and mentor everyone up to improve the success of the team.
You could hire Dr Stephen Rudin and his team at Peak Year experience to mentor your entire SFO team in the transformative neurocognitive skills like executive functions, emotional intelligence, mindfulness, resilience, flow, and design thinking as well. These can potentially make an enormous difference in their success, happiness and thriving in the Fourth Industrial Revolution while creating a culture of shared joy among your employees. Many of these skills are in the World Economic Forum at Davos’s list of top ten skills for success now and in 2020.
And effective leaders are coaches to their employees. They may apply Richard Koch’s 80/20 Principles as well as the Pomodoro Techniques along with other management techniques to enhance employee and family office productivity.
Family Capital: So you are saying your SFO might take someone who is on the rise and wants to improve to become a “10” and keep improving and help them get better, and your team gets better and better with their growth and improvement.
Angelo Robles: Yes! That’s right. There is a lot to be said for the model of mentoring and coaching up. And by the way, I strongly believe in coaching at all levels, even for superstars. Eric Schmidt has a new book out called Trillion Dollar Coach, about his revered coach Bill Campbell—who believed greatly in the importance of people—coaching all of the titans of Silicon Valley, perhaps most famously Steve Jobs and Bill Gates.
Family Capital: Tony Robbins says that “the quality of your life is proportional to the quality of the questions you ask yourself on a regular basis.” How can families and their family offices ask better questions? What encourages this exercise?
Angelo Robles: Young people are by nature very curious. Some millennials, in particular, find a lot of value in asking questions, and questioning, which makes them a valuable addition to any team. Avoid groupthink at all costs. Encourage dissenting opinions. This has been a key practice of Pascale Deau and Corey Cleland, whom I mentioned earlier. Sofia Sunaga and Dr Stephen Rudin, who often work closely together intergenerationally, individually and collectively ask piercing questions that can be priceless.
Family Capital: You’re big on leadership being central to the modern single family office and enhanced practice management techniques. This can be a rarity in the single-family office. Define some strategies that all family offices can do to improve quickly?
Angelo Robles: They can importantly insert proper governance (how decisions are made), believe in a set of principles and processes to help make decisions. These are augmented by having a board of directors, a process for who is chairman of the board, an advisory committee, an oversight committee, and a dedication and process for the CEO to communicate with the family and the varying boards and committees.
Now, once you have a process where the CEO is a true leader, a communicator, creative thinker, a coach and mentor, you want to help to educate and train others, bringing on diversity of talent, and a succession plan if the CEO dies, becomes disabled or moves on. And it is important to have coaching, including productivity and enhancement strategies. Maybe have Dr Adam Grant come in for one week, to restructure your organization.
To improve quickly, marshal your resources, get the additional “right people,” help educate everyone, and have a plan for moving forward, not in three months but in 30 days.
Also, and this is a bit more radical, most people are only productive in a limited window, not a 10-12 hour day. Especially in attracting and retaining millennials, by providing coaching and freedom to make decisions, not often seen in larger corporations people could be productive and effective in a shorter time frame, coaching on productivity principles, especially with the neurocognitive skills for success and the tools and technologies of the 4th Industrial Revolution.
Family Capital: I heard an FOA Podcast in which someone mentioned “wicked problems”. How do SFO’s best deal with wicked problems?
Angelo Robles: Well, you could take everyone is the SFO to see Wicked on Broadway, it’s truly a great show for bonding, even without Idina Menzel, everyone will come out flying!
On a more serious note, and I’m not at all an expert, the term comes from Design Thinking, referring to problems for which you are neither sure of the problem itself or the solution, so it’s approached with a great deal of brainstorming and an iterative process that considers the satisfaction of all stakeholders in the solution.
It seems there are a lot of wicked problems these days. So, again it boils down to people, people; get the people on board who know how to approach wicked problems, likely by outsourcing, from Stanford, MIT, NYU etc. I was at a Peak Year event and met their head of design thinking, Sara Hashim, a very brilliant, lovely, self-assured woman who is a professor from NYU. So there are lots of great people to choose from. Don’t be afraid as the SFO leader to outsource and use amazing resources to enhance the effectiveness of the family office and mitigate risks.
Family Capital: Angelo you made some fantastic points, and clearly, as the Nexus purpose people like to say, you’ve invested in yourself… and FOA… to very meaningful outcomes. Beyond all you’ve kindly shared with us today, how can our audience further benefit from all you have learned, acquired and used to transform FOA?
Angelo Robles: Thank you for today’s conversation and excellent questions. Well, most immediately, FOA has a national meeting coming up this summer in Martha’s Vineyard and a special event in August featuring Tony Robbins. We’d love to welcome more qualified families, SFO’s and providers into the FOA community and see you there.
But the national meetings and special events are just one great facet of FOA membership and benefits whether as an individual, a family, a corporation or even as a Resource Council member. It’s a tough and changing world out there, moving at an unfathomable speed. Family Office Association has experts, hundreds of peer families and single family offices, a resource council, amazing podcasts, an enormous library, a now a new Intergenerational Consultancy for which Dr Stephen Rudin has agreed to serve as Chief Learning Advisor and for which I will serve as Chief Governance Advisor – all of these resources can help make the present and future more navigable for your success and happiness.
These benefits are unique to FOA members. There is strength in numbers, creativity and diversity. I warmly invite Fam Cap readers to look deeply into the transforming FOA and to consider FOA membership. Please feel free to contact me directly to learn more. Dozo Yoroshiku Onegaishimasu. Come let’s learn together!
About Family Office Association
Welcome to The Family Office Association, the place where successful families connect and share within an exclusive and highly private community that is as extraordinary as they are. Here you’ll be able to turn to peers among the world’s most prosperous families for the specialized expertise and resources specific to family offices. It is these connections, together with proprietary research, practical tools and methodologies, and access to top experts and thought leaders, that have made the Family Office Association so valued in this community.
Founder & Chairman
Family Office Association
Author of the Book: Effective Family Office
Host of the Podcast: Angelo Robles’s Effective Family Office Podcast
THIS IS A PARTNER CONTENT ARTICLE IN ASSOCIATION WITH FAMILY CAPITAL