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What You'll Learn In Today's Episode:

  • The delusion that many people are under when they decide to hire family.
  • The upsides and downsides to running a family office.
  • An important question to ask before hiring family.
  • How to talk about airing grievances and ensure everyone is on the same page.
  • Techniques for success that will help you (and your family) from the start.
  • The importance of being willing to do the hard work in advance.
  • The key to hiring the right person.

Don’t hire your family members—just don’t do it. Matthew and Micah jump on today to discuss the dilemma of hiring family members and why it’s a bad idea 99% of the time. They both share from their own experience working with family, offering examples of how it can go really wrong. If you are considering hiring family, friends, or someone you would hesitate to fire for any reason other than performance, this is the perfect episode for you.

Listen in to hear about the best ways to navigate any kind of controversial hiring situation, whether it’s family or a client’s kid. Matthew and Micah share real-life experiences that have driven a wedge in families, as well as ways to succeed in the family business. If you must do business with family, do it right.

Podcast Article:

How to Work Effectively With a Family Member

Is it ever a good idea to hire a member of your family?

Financial advisors often dream of keeping their business in the family, but many learn too late that hiring a family member can be a recipe for disaster. If you’re committed to bringing your family into the fold despite the risks, here are Matthew and Micah’s top five tips for success.

Action Items in This Article

  • If you decide to hire a family member, be intentional about it. Do they have the experience your practice needs, or can they gain that experience somewhere else?
  • Any time you hire a new employee, but especially when that employee is family, have an exit strategy in place from the very beginning.
  • If The Perfect RIA podcast has helped you improve your business, please leave a five-star rating on Apple or wherever you listen to your podcasts.

Tried and True from the Trenches

Financial advisors often have this fantasy that if they hire a family member, they’ll never have to fire them or work on performance issues, and there will never be a conflict of personality. But in reality, working with family has the potential to escalate existing issues and add stress that can tear a family apart. “Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, it’s just not a good idea,” Matthew says.

Remember, your number one goal is to deliver massive value. If you put yourself in a position where you’re going to be at odds with your family down the road, that’s not massive value—that’s a massive headache.

But despite the risks, as both Matthew and Micah have demonstrated over the years, it is possible to work effectively with family. Here are five tips for hiring a family member without jeopardizing your business or endangering your personal and professional relationships.

Understand Your Family Dynamics

No matter how respected you are in your industry, a family member who has been in your life for years is going to see you in a different lens than the rest of your team. They don’t see you as an authority figure or an expert in your niche; they see you as the person who brings the meatballs to the family reunion.

Whenever the question of hiring a younger family member comes up, Micah thinks, “When I fire this person, what is my mother’s reaction going to be?” That’s why he won’t even interview them; it’s just not worth the risk. If you’re tempted to hire a cousin, sibling, or niece, ask yourself how the family at large would react if things went south, and proceed accordingly.

Help Them Gain Experience—Somewhere Else

Building a multigenerational business is a special dream for many advisors. The problem is when the dream gets in the way of what’s best for the business at that moment. You wouldn’t hire some stranger with no experience to take over your practice, so why would you bring on an unqualified team member who happens to share your DNA?

You may be in a position to help family members gain experience in your industry, but if they lack the crucial experience your firm requires of its employees, there’s no reason they can’t gain that experience at another financial practice.

Micah isn’t shy about explaining to hopeful but unqualified family members, “I’d be really interested to review your application. We only hire qualified candidates, but here are three other firms that I know do new hires. You’re welcome to work with them. Build up your resume, and then we can have a conversation about it.”

Maintain a Clear Work-Life Separation

For many family members who work together well, segmenting the relationship into professional and personal is key to maintaining the strength of each aspect. One important policy for many families is to only talk business during business hours and never bring it up during their personal hours.

Keep your family and work relationships strong by committing to separate weekly check-ins to discuss personal or professional issues that have the potential to affect the business—or into your family dynamics. As Matthew notes, “If you have a business concern with me, you need to say, ‘Hey, I have a business concern,’ not give me stink-eyes over margaritas on the boat.”

Stay In Your Lane

Once you’ve clearly defined your areas of responsibility, trust your employees to do their jobs, and don’t micromanage them. If you’re holding your relations to the same high standards as the rest of your team, you must allow their work to stand on its own.

Micah knows from experience how important it is to understand where everyone’s individual responsibilities lie: “I run a couple companies with my sister, Jamie, and these are things we have to be proactive with.” Without defining AORs—or areas of responsibilities—there’s no clear way out of a disagreement. But if everyone knows just where their role begins and ends and everyone is hitting their targets, everyone can focus on doing their best work and adding value in their unique ways.

Have an Exit Plan

Whenever you hire someone, but especially when it’s family, it is crucial to have a clear understanding of what will happen if you decide it isn’t working out—a prenup for businesses, so to speak. To avoid an unnecessary conflict later, that needs to start from the very beginning of your working relationship. As Micah’s dad always says, “You need to talk about how to split the sheets while you’re still drinking champagne.”

Put your exit plan in writing, then say, “Cousin Ed, if we decide to work together, here’s what’s going to happen as soon as I decide it’s not a good fit.” By coming to an agreement in advance and documenting your understanding in clear, documented steps, you can avoid stressing your personal relationships with confusion and hurt feelings.


Resources In Today's Episode:

Read the Transcript Below:

This is The Perfect RIA, in case you didn’t know. Bringing you all the strategies to help your business grow. Are you happy? Are you satisfied? Are you hanging on the edge of your seat? Sit back and listen in while you feel the beat. Another myth bites the dust…

Micah Shilanski: Welcome to another amazing episode of The Perfect RIA Podcast. If you are not joining us on YouTube, you are missing out, because we have a beautiful view going on in the background here, because we are in Alaska.

So, there’s going to be a little background noise. Hopefully, the audio will cut it out much as we can. It’s a little bit windy, but Jarvis, it is a beautiful day.

Matthew Jarvis:   Yeah, it really is. As we mentioned last week, we’re here in Seward, Alaska, and you can hear the helicopters, and the cruise ships, and the wind, and we’re just looking at Mountain marathon, here behind us, which by the way is a fun thing.

If you’re not familiar with Mount marathon in Seward, Alaska, look that up. And for those of you that are runners, that’s the next one on your list.

Micah Shilanski: Yeah. And the waiting list is like years out by the way. So, it’s always the 4th of July, is when they have the race. It’s a huge crowd down here, tons of traffic. So, it’s definitely something pretty amazing little race, and I love it.

Matthew Jarvis:   I love it. Well, Micah, today, we want to talk about hiring family members. So, last week, we talked about how to work with your team. We talked with Orion Matthews, our Chief Technology Officer, about running teams.

We’ve got a webinar this month for our Backstage Pass, and Invictus members on Teams with Colleen and Victoria. It’s going to be a lot of fun.

But a question Micah, you and I always get, or actually, it’s not often a question, it’s usually in the form of a statement of, “Great news, guess what? Just like you, I’m hiring my son, or my father, or my sister, or my cousin, or my daughter,” or whatever the case may be.

And people are often surprised, I think, when I respond to that with, “Don’t do it. It’s not a good idea.”

Micah Shilanski: Yeah. And that’s just a resounding second right here. Don’t do it, it is a bad idea. Like 99 times out of hundred, it’s a bad idea. Then people are like, “Oh, well 99 times, clearly, I’m the one out of 100. Therefore, this is a great idea.”

And then we explore it a little bit more. And they start saying like, “Okay, well, tell me why you want to hire?”

Matthew Jarvis:   Yes.

Micah Shilanski: “Well, my cousin, and really, I have to support her anyways financially, because she’s not really doing that well, and she has blah, blah, blah, niece going on. Therefore, so I’m going to hire her, because I already get paid for it anyways. So, might as well bring her on payroll, so that way I can get some work done at the same time.”

And it’s like, look, if you have to support them anyways, they’re not going to work for you as a rockstar employee. And I know that sounds harsh to think about, but would you advise anyone else to do this, or would you advise a client to do this? And really then, answer is no.

Matthew Jarvis:   Now, take a step back, for those listeners that are newer listeners — by the way, probably by the time this airs, we’ll have passed a million downloads on the podcast. So, thank you so much for the TPR nation for that.

As you may, or may not know, my father works with me, and has for my entire career in financial services. Micah, you’ve worked with your dad, your entire career, your sister, Jamie works for the company, as well-

Micah Shilanski: That’s right

Matthew Jarvis:   Micah and I started Retirement Tax Services with my brother, Steven. So, we do have a lot of work with family, and we’ve seen both the very good of it, and we’ve seen the very bad of it.

And I think Micah, to your example, we often have this delusion like, “Hey, because this person is family, I’ll never have to fire them. I’ll never have performance issues. We’ll never have personality issues.” It’s like this magical fairytale land.

Micah Shilanski: Oh, it’s such magical, because one of the best things about a family office, is it’s a family office. I get to see my dad. I get to see my sister. We get to talk, we get to do all the fun stuff.

The worst part about family office; it’s a family office. It never ends in that capacity. So, when there’s any type of strife, it is escalated so much more quickly than just a conflict between business partners.

But conflict between business partners is bad enough. Now, it’s the family side of it. So, great, now, mom’s getting involved in the conversation right now. Why is there tension at the Christmas table?

When all of these things happen, that really causes extra drama. And Jarvis, one of the lenses that I always look at, because sometimes we’re still approached by family, either older family relatives saying, “Hey, you need to hire this younger relative or some other thing like that.”

Whenever that question comes up, here’s my immediate response; “When I fire this person, what is my mother’s reaction going to be?” And they’re like, “Well, your mother’s going to be pissed, it’s not going to go over very well.”

“Okay, great. Not even going to interview them.”

Matthew Jarvis:   Solve that problem.

Micah Shilanski: Yeah. And I don’t even push it as an if, I push it as when. The same thing with the stock market. I don’t say if the market goes down; when the stock market goes down, what is my plan?

Now, if I go into this with that aspect of saying great, when I fire them (this is not some sugar coated, everything’s rosy honeymoon excuse), what is the real-life scenario this is going to be when I fire this person, at Christmas dinner, and is that something I’m willing to go through?

And I don’t know, family unity is really high on my end. So, there’s a lot of family members we will not hire and bring in, even though we’re asked repeatedly.

Matthew Jarvis:   Oh, totally.

Micah         And this is not just again, something that we’re preaching. Obviously, this is from experience. When I proposed to Micah that we start Retirement Tax Services with my brother, Steven Jarvis, CPA, Micah, your very first question was, “When we fire him, what happens at Christmas dinner? Will you still be invited to Christmas dinner?”

I knew that question was coming. So, I explained to Micah, that I’d already fired Steven once before in a previous job in a previous life, which was a fun family laugh. I laugh at it.

But it’s critical by the way, not just for family. Micah, when you and I started The Perfect RIA, our very first discussion (and I remember we were sitting in that coffee shop in Alaska, eating reindeer sausage); when this ends, when we have to part ways, what happens to our intellectual property? Who owns the company? What happens to the finances?

Let’s outline that before we spend too much time patting ourselves on the back saying it’s always going to be green lights.

Micah Shilanski: My dad always says, you need to talk about how to split the sheets while you’re still drinking champagne.

Matthew Jarvis:   That’s a good point.

Micah Shilanski: And that’s really what you got to go through. It’s a prenup for businesses, so to speak. But these things are super important, because one of the things we’re solving for so frequently is delivering massive value.

But again, that’s not just a client, that’s to ourselves and to our family. And if I put myself in a position where I’m going to be at odds with my family down the road, that’s not massive value.

And I think Jarvis, it also creates another issue that we can expand this past family members. And really, I’m not going to hire anyone, in which I will be beholden to in any capacity.

I’m not hiring the governor’s kid, I’m not hiring my client’s kids. I’m not going to do this, where I have any hesitation about firing them for any reason, except for job performance.

Matthew Jarvis:   Micah, to expand that circle, I have this same discussion anytime a friend becomes a client. When we first sit down, the very first thing, even before I ask them any other question, I say, “Hey, listen, we are friends first, and I want to always be friends, and friends are friends, and business is business. And if there’s ever a time that it doesn’t make sense for us to do business, I want you to say, ‘Matthew, this doesn’t make sense.’ And then we’re going to part ways so that we can still stay friends.”

“So, I just want to make sure that that’s clear. If you have a business concern with me, you need to say, ‘Hey, I have a business concern,’ not give me stink eyes over margaritas on the boat.”

Micah Shilanski: Yeah, exactly. And this goes a lot to, I think one of the reasons our partnership works out so well, is the airing of grievances. We are constantly looking for ways from a business partner level — and this isn’t just with TPR or Retirement Tax Services, also the other multiple companies that I run.

I’m always talking to the partners about what any airing of grievances we need to have, any potential issues that we have coming up. Like what are things that I’m doing that’s annoying you?

These are questions we’re constantly asking, because at the high level, we got to be on the same page that’s going to be there so we can make sure we nip things in the bud. But, all of a sudden, you bring a family dynamic into this, and man, that really complicates things.

Matthew Jarvis:   It totally does. So, what are techniques for success? I think Micah, one of the first things, obviously, we need to establish how the exit works, and you need to have that in writing, especially with family members.

So, if it’s your cousin Ed, “Cousin Ed, here it is in writing; if we decide to work together, here’s what’s going to happen as soon as I decide it’s not a good fit. Not for performance, not for whatever. As soon as I decide it’s not a good fit, here’s what’s going to happen. I’m going to give you two-week severance, or whatever you agree to so that it’s very clear.”

So, I think again, that’ first step is, what’s our exit strategy in writing. Not “Oh, no, no. Micah, you’ll understand if that has to happen.” Nope, in writing.

Micah Shilanski: Jarvis, can I modify that just a little bit?

Matthew Jarvis:   Please, please.

Micah Shilanski: Step one, don’t hire them. That’s our step one. If you fail that step, then step two (I love the one pager), you’ll really outline and be clear about what happens when this goes south.

And I’d love to put some weight in there that you are not that person making that decision. Bring in someone else, whether it’s an integrator, whether it’s a supervisor role, whether it’s somebody else to be able to come in and say, “Nope, you are going to be making these decisions on this person.”

And so, it’s not you doing the hiring and firing.

Matthew Jarvis:   Yep. That could be a coach. You could say, “Great, I’m going to hire Coach Joe Lucas and I want him to kind of mediate if this will, or John Barron or Adam Silverstein.” There’s great coaches out in the industry that you can use because you’re going to need some additional coaching.

This is more complex than a normal employee-employer relationship. You’re going to need some extra help, some mediation there, if you will.

Micah Shilanski: Yeah. So, the biggest thing here and really, we can expand this to all employees. It should be the same thing. It just gets very complex when we’re talking about family members.

So, you got to have these things written out in advance. You got to have that communication plan, and you also got to have your family communication plan.

When Bob fails, your cousin Bob, fails and is a crappy employee or your brother or sister, whatever, what are you going to tell the family why you fired him? How’s that conversation going to go?

And we’ve had it in our office, where we’ve had multiple family members as employees. And when they got fired, the story they told was not what happened. At least, it wasn’t our recollection of it.

But we’re like, “Look, we’re not going to get into this story. That was something else, we’re not going to talk about it.” And it created a lot of family strife (this is on my father’s end), created a lot of family strife because he didn’t want to share that part of the story.

He’s like, “No, this is business, that has nothing to do with my family dinner,” but the other person was bringing it up, causing all kinds of drama. So, this is not theory. This is real life, what happens. So, what’s the story you’re going to tell to the rest of the family?

Matthew Jarvis:   I’ll pivot this a little bit to some success stories. An advisor, friend of ours, he works very closely with his wife, in their advisory practice, and they have incredibly clear rules for where is their business relationship and where is their personal relationship?

So, during business hours (which they have to find), they don’t talk about anything personal. They don’t talk about their daughter, they don’t talk about their family vacation. They only talk about business during those business hours.

And then conversely, on their personal hours, they don’t ever talk about business during personal hours. They don’t talk about new prospects, they don’t talk about whatever.

So, it’s very segmented so that they can have their professional relationship and their personal relationship. They also (and I have a lot of respect for this), do a weekly check-in professionally, and then personally, to make sure again, if there’s some personal issue going on, is that causing issues in the business or vice versa? Because that will happen, it’s inevitable. And it’s a brilliant strategy for trying to mitigate that.

Micah Shilanski: And I run a couple companies with my sister, Jamie, so you can call me hypocrite, go for it because she’s in there. But these are things we have to be proactive with, because we’re really close as a brother and sister.

But then there’s going to be things that come up that her and I are disagreeing on. And so, great now, how do we resolve those things? So, a lot of it with Jamie and I (and Jarvis and I, we do the same thing), is we have AORs, areas of responsibilities.

And says okay, great. When we’re going do a project, when we’re going to do something, and it falls in my side of the ledger, something for me to get done, we are going to define what success looks like. It’s my AOR, area of responsibility. Perfect.

Now, my role is if I’m within my bands of success or greater, I’m doing better than it, then stay the hell out of it. Like if you want to come in and be like, “Hey, what’s going on?” And know as an owner, peek at it, like I have zero qualms with this.

Now, you jump in and start re-dictating and doing tasks with my team, you start overriding me in some decisions, you’re really going to piss me off. Now, it’s just my personality, it’s one of my many feelings, but it’s just who I am.

So, this gives a really clear guidance to the other team members. And it works the same way; Jarvis, I know you and I do the same thing. The things that you’re running, we get a chat about them, but I’m not getting in the middle of them, unless you’re not meeting your benchmark.

Same thing as me, if I’m not meeting my benchmark, Jamie has full permission, you have full permission to come in and says, “Nope, you’re off your benchmark. It was a clear defined metrics you’re behind. Now, I get to get involved.”

Matthew Jarvis:   Totally.

Micah Shilanski: By the way, these things that we’re bringing up are the same with all employee relationship, all business partners and relationship. But again, they’re exponentially compounded when it’s a family member,

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Matthew Jarvis:   Another area of setting expectations, we need to be really clear on what success looks like. Now, again, this is the same for every employee, but I find the mistake is made more often with family members.

An advisor will say, “I’ve decided to hire my son, my daughter.” And guess what? And they’ll tell us that, “Jarvis, guess what? They’re going to take care of all the marketing, they’re going to take care of all the prospecting, they’re going to take care of all these things.”

Cool, how are we going to measure that? What experience do they have? “Well, they got their degree in marketing.” Okay. So, they’re going to do a terrible job, check, but how are we going to measure that?

What specifically, if I ask you objectively in three months, is it working out? What numbers are you going to be able to point to? So, again, same for employees, it just seems to get brushed aside like we put rose colored glasses on, when it comes to family.

Micah Shilanski: We do, we get so excited about this being a perfect solution that we’re not really willing to do the hard work in advance. And that’s the same thing; we can get to it and we talked about it last week in the podcast, this theory that, “Oh if I hire the right person, all these problems go away.”

And the answer’s no. The real answer is, are you going to do the work to set that team member up for success? Yes, you got to hire the right person, but that alone is not enough.

You have to be able to put the hard work in to set them up for success, to make sure it’s taken care of, and it’s doubly. So, if it’s family, and that time and time again, is when it fails.

Matthew Jarvis:   Now, another level of complexity that gets added with family, especially I think immediate family, is you start to become very keenly aware of each other’s finances. And I’ve seen this slice both ways.

I’ve seen it slice of like, “Hey, I need to take an action here, but this person’s not in a financial situation for this action to happen.” And I’ve seen it slice the other way where people were too aware of my finances, and we’re starting to make kind of subtle comments like, “Oh, hey, Micah can take care of that.”

“Well, why would you say that?” “Well, you’re doing pretty well.” That’s none of your business how well I’m doing.

Micah Shilanski: When did we start socialism in this practice?

Matthew Jarvis:   Exactly.

Micah Shilanski: That’s not what we’re doing.

Matthew Jarvis:   Yeah. So, those things are going to come up, and you need to be ahead of that. And especially again, if you’re hiring a family member who needs your financial support Micah, as you started off this episode, you need to have set aside it.

And coach John Barron talks about this. He says, “Hey, if you feel a moral obligation to pay money to your family, then just write them a check. Don’t bring them into your company.” Like don’t double down on this mistake.

Micah Shilanski: Jarvis, I think as we’re looking at this, one of the things that also comes into the aspect, is a prophet is not recognized in his own village.

So, the problem is, you’re going to bring in a family member as well (and I guess another problem with this) — you bring in a family member, and just because you say something, they see you in a different lens.

They see you as the person they grew up with, they see you as this and that. They don’t see you as some authority figure  who’s an expert in your niche, in your practice, what you’re going to do.

And I’ve seen that where they start second-guessing everything that person says. It says, “Okay, well go do calls this way. And then do calls that way.” “Why did you do calls that way?” “Well, I don’t think it’s the right way.”

Who the hell asked you with your marketing degree and zero experience? I was like this was the process that you’re supposed to go through it, but they don’t see that as an authority that’s going to be there.

Matthew Jarvis:   Yeah, completely. And again, I keep mentioning this, but it ties back to, great good hiring practices, good management practices are the same whether it’s family or a stranger, or a friend, but it’s just so much more important.

Micah Shilanski: Yeah. So, someone that I think is going to hear this Jarvis, they’re going to say, “Well, hiring practices are same, Jarvis, just said that. Therefore, it’s okay for me to hire family.”

And boy, again, I’m just going to say it is just a giant red flag, and this can be the same thing when we’re working with clients.

Sometimes we’re working with clients and we can see certain behaviors taking place, that says, woo, this is a red flag. You haven’t crossed any lines of metrics just yet, that says we’re sinking the ship, but the behaviors in which you’re starting to do, is a red flag.

For me, working with clients, one of the behaviors is, “Micah, this is a once in a lifetime of experience. I just retired, it’s something I always want to do.” That’s a red flag, because we all know it’s not a once in a lifetime experience. It was that event.

Now, we’re going to start in a habit of doing these multiple times, and we got to be careful of that, as someone’s on the line to retirement, being successful or non-successful. The same thing can happen right here, is we say, “Oh, it’s going to be the same, I’ll just create these metrics.”

This is a red flag that’s there when you’re hiring family members.

Matthew Jarvis:   The other thing that comes up — and again, Micah, I’m not going to speak for you, I’ll just speak for myself; is that when you’re working with family members, a lot of times you don’t have as much patience, or when that needle tips from patient to inpatient, it gets — dark’s not quite the right word, but Colleen has pointed this out to me several times.

She says, “Hey, I can tell when you’re irritated with your dad, it goes much darker, much quicker than if you’re irritated with Alex.” And there’s just this line, and the shots get more personal, and it gets more aggressive.

And it’s not a place I want to be. So, I need to be extra aware, which is one of the ways I deal with that is, I love bringing in coaches, Micah, to your point earlier. If there’s something I want dad to work on, I’m not going to confront him on it, because it’s an interesting dynamic.

He’s my dad, I’m his son. We’re going to bring in a coach and we’re all going to work on this, instead of me profiting in his own land, stranger uniform, all that whole thing.

Micah Shilanski: Yeah. So, there’s a lot of compounding issues that come in here. I think another issue is, when do you stop being the boss?

So, Monday through Friday, eight to five or whatever, you are the boss, then at 5:01 when you leave, and something comes up on the weekend, are you going to bring it up?

I know I am, because my mind just never stops thinking about business. But when do you stop being the boss in that role?

Matthew Jarvis:   Funny story, Micah, on working with families. This is an odd side effect. Many years ago, my mom worked as my office manager. We looked similar because she’s my mother, and clients would often think that she was my wife.

And so, this would be really funny. So, a prospect would come in, and they would bring their spouse in and they’d say, “Well, this is Matthew and this is his wife, Cindy.”

And my mom was flattered by this. My mom was flattered. I was embarrassed by it. But then I started thinking, Micah, what if they saw me in town with my wife, Jackie? They might think like, “Wow, this guy’s a real bum. His wife is back at the office, working, he’s out on the town with this beautiful blonde, what the heck’s going on here.”

So, that’s a weird issue, but it’s an issue that can come up with family businesses.

Micah Shilanski: I didn’t even think about it, but people confuse Jamie and I for being married quite frequently. And Kelly, my wife, will definitely jump on that and correct that in a quickness.

But we have the same last name. We’re similar, the way we talk to each other is at a much more personal level than anything else. It’s a very easy assumption to be made.

Matthew Jarvis:   What else comes to mind Micah, as we kind of wrap up this episode, and again, I don’t want it sound like … well, I do want sound like it’s universally a bad idea. It’s like 99 times out of a hundred, it’s just not a good idea. That one time out of a hundred, you have to find somebody that you trust enough to objectively look at this.

Somebody who will tell you, “Dave, it’s not a good idea for you to hire your son, Larry.” A friend who’s going to pat you on the back and say, “Oh, I’m sure Larry will be a great fit.” Like if they can’t look at it and say, “Dave, here’s three reasons why this is a terrible idea,” you’re asking the wrong person.

Micah Shilanski: I’m going to tell you a story, a real-life story happened in our family of kind of what happened and why this is such a bad idea, then I want to leave some positive notes of some action items, and maybe some positives we’ve set up. That sound fair?

Matthew Jarvis:   That’d be great.

Micah Shilanski: So, not on a Shilanski side, but on my wife’s side of the family, really cool story how her family came over, her great-great great grandfather. My kids are sixth generations, whatever that math is, sixth generation Alaskans.

He came over, he was an immigrant. Two pennies to his name, like 5 cents in his name when he came to Seattle, came up during the gold rush, the Klondike. He went all the way to Dawson city, he started a business. Really cool story.

Business really grows, which is great family is doing really well. And so, because it’s a family business, they decide to hire all families for the executives.

Well, they get a little top heavy in the business, make some bad financial decisions, then Alaska goes through a tough time (Alaska goes through a recession), and now, the business is really in trouble.

And so, now they decide to fire half the executives, which are all family members. So, they fire half of them because it’s a heavy on payroll lift. And then the business goes under and the whole business fails. This is a very true story.

And now, what has happened is it took decades; not years — decades for time for people to come back to make amends for what happened. And the only time they made amends was literally on their deathbed.

So, in my wife’s family, this is literally what happened. There was a divide in the family that people would not talk to each other 20, 30, 40, 50 years because of the family business.

So, this isn’t a hypothetical saying, “Man, it’s going to be awkward at Christmas dinner.” You’re talking permanent divides in the family that are there. So, these are things you really got to be cognizant of. Now, you add to that how many partnerships fail? What is it? Like 85%?

Micah Shilanski: Almost all of them, yeah.

Matthew Jarvis:   Almost all of them. You add that with family, you’re really creating a recipe for disaster. So, you really got to be intentional about this. And this is the positive side that I want to be.

One of our core values is be intentional with what you’re doing, and what are you solving for? Am I solving for alleviating a financial stress for a family member? Or am I solving for hiring a good employee.

We get in trouble when we try to combine those two things at once. We have to separate those out. Be intentional with what are we trying to solve?

Matthew Jarvis:   Micah, I would add one last caveat or caution in there, which is don’t hire family members that don’t have experience. I love the idea of, “Hey, we want this practice to go on for multiple generations.”

I love that idea. Let them get the experience somewhere else. So, if you’ve built this great practice, and your dream is to leave your practice to your son, or your daughter (and we can talk about these financial decisions separately), and they’re interested in that, perfect.

Have them go get a job at another financial practice. Let them see how the industry works outside of you. Let them see how good your practice really is by experiencing bad practices.

At least send them to industry conferences and let them talk to other advisors, but don’t hire people without experience. Just like you wouldn’t hire a stranger. Let’s say you didn’t have children, you wouldn’t hire some stranger with no experience to take over your practice. You would never do that.

Again, don’t do with family what you wouldn’t do with a stranger.

Micah Shilanski: I love that. I love that aspect, and I use this several times with cousins and whatnot. That says, “Hey, I want to get into finance, I’d love to come up and work in your firm.”

It says, “You know what, I’d be really interested to review your application. We only hire qualified candidates. Here’s three other firms that I know do new hires. You’re welcome to work with them. Build up your resume, and then we can have a conversation about it.” And all that’s true.

I’m open to a conversation. The answer’s no, they don’t want to work for me, but they have to go out and get experience somewhere else. I am not going to be that point of education for family in these roles.

Matthew Jarvis:   I’m not sure that they’re going to touch on it or not. But of course, this month, Colleen and Victoria, from our respective offices, are doing our members webinar, and they’re going to talk about operations from their perspective.

They’ve seen from … well, not from the outside, from the inside, they’ve seen family businesses because they’ve been involved with Shilanski & Associates, or Jarvis Financial respectively, for many, many years.

So, that’s certainly a question that you can send to them in the Q&A when you attend that webinar.

Micah Shilanski: Boy, you want a good question for Victoria — ask her what happens when Micah and Jamie are fighting at the office? There you go. There’s some family drama for you.

Matthew Jarvis:   Well, and of course, if you want to go deeper on this, you can join Micah and I, October 8th in Denver at XYPN Live.

As I mentioned, last week, if you think the podcast is good, wait until you see us live. If you think the podcast is bad, in which case why you’re listening to it? You’re going to hate the live event. But if you like the podcast, the live event’s going to blow your mind.

Micah Shilanski: Awesome. This podcast is all about action items. So, number one, I want to lead this of with be intentional.

So, what do I mean by that? If you’re looking at hiring a new position family or not, I want you to be hyper intentional before you put that out there for the hire, and say, great, what’s the job role and what are the goals?

And what is someone who 12 months into this, they are going to blow it out of the park. If they did A, B and C, they’re going to blow it out of the park – you need to have that in writing first

Matthew Jarvis:   Action number two, have an exit strategy. For everything you do, you need to have an exit strategy. Before you say yes, you need to say, “Here’s how this is going to end,” whether that’s a third party employee, great.

What’s going to qualify for them getting fired, and what’s that look like — but especially with a family member, that needs to be in writing in advance; “If this doesn’t work out, here’s how we’re going to part ways as friends.”

Micah Shilanski: Absolutely. And this needs to be communicated on your home front. If you are going to look … you’re going to not follow our advice (well, congratulations, you’re an adult, do whatever you want) and you’re going to hire a family member, you need to talk about it with your spouse.

You need to talk about it with the other family members. Who’s going to be at your Christmas dinner, and you’re going to have to bring it up to them, and say, “When I fire Sue, what is this going to be like on Thanksgiving?”

And you need to have it. And if the whole family’s blowing up at that question, don’t hire that person.

Matthew Jarvis:   By the way, this entire same discussion applies to having family members as clients. We can do an entire episode on that later. All of these same things apply, probably more so if you’re looking at having a family member as a client.

So, again, apply all these same cautions to that.

Micah Shilanski: Yeah, my exception to that rule is my mother because I just won’t fire her. For me, that’s not going to work. So, she’s one of my five exceptions, everyone else I tell them, “Absolutely not, I will not work with family. Great news, I have other advisors that do fantastic job, you’re welcome to hire them.” Hire them, it’s not for free.

Matthew Jarvis:   Last action item as always, go on, vote early, vote often five stars on Apple or wherever you listen to the podcast.

Thank you again, to the entire nation. We’re just about to pass a million downloads. And with that, there will be some really exciting announcements around guardrails, around buckets, around a lot of really exciting stuff. So, stay tuned for that.

Micah Shilanski: Until next time, happy planning.

Matthew Jarvis:   Happy planning.

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