1. How are you different than a business consultant? Selling a family business can be a very emotional experience. While many consultants could coordinate a sale a family business consultant can also help navigate related emotional and interpersonal issues.
  2. When do we need your help? When a family business consultant is brought in it is many times at critical moments such as the creation of a Board of Directors, a succession or the sale of the business.
  3.  What are your credentials? An MBA and experience in conflict resolution are not uncommon. Also expect an academic background in psychology and/ or family therapy and it is not uncommon that the consultant will have written a few books on the matter.
  4. Who else will you be bringing in? A family business will typically have their cadre of outside experts that can be brought in to deal with specific issues such as family therapy, legal, and technical issues.
  5. Does your team have both men and women? Family businesses will commonly have their share of unique gender-related challenges. For instance; what role does a spouse play? Are sons and daughters treated the same? It is not uncommon for the families to prefer gender balanced teams.
  6. Why should I trust you? This is not a small issue. It is not uncommon for consultants to find themselves unwelcome by some members of the family business. It is therefore important that the consultant can convince you that they can for the bonds necessary with all members. Because many members of the family will have to feel comfortable enough with this team to divulge personal information.
  7. What can you expect to pay? Costs vary greatly especially whether you select a solo-practitioner or a national firm. Local firm can be $4,500 a day whereas a national firm can be $10,000 a day and more. Most professionals will offer their services for several months and as much as a year at a set cost to minimize expenses.
  8. What deliverables do you provide? Many consultants will arrive and setup a family council. They will seek to combine outside advisers, mentors and family members. Advisors should also bring an implementation plan for new Best Practices as well as a shareholder education program.
  9. How do you resolve conflict? A good consultant realizes that many times disputes appearing to be business related may actually have their roots in family histories. Resolving such issues usually involves identifying the initial cause. The consultant may then play the part of the mediator helping the family members acknowledge sensitive issues.
  10. How do you handle being the bad guy? Family business consultants must not allow themselves to become embroiled in the dynamics of the family. The consultant can offer advice and may share insight but the decisions are ultimately that of the business leaders and the family.