How to Engage a Family Enterprise Advisor (FEA)?

Published: Feb 21, 2022

The Family Enterprise Advisor designation denotes a specialist Family Enterprise Advisor, who has completed the rigorous classroom and team project training requirements and passed the oral and written exam qualifications established by Family Enterprise Canada.

It is a serious time and cost commitment to complete the FEA program, and not surprising most FEAs have other educational and professional qualifications and many years of experience in working with enterprise families.

FEAs understand the sensitivities and needs of all the interested parties in the Family circle, Business circle, and Ownership circle, and how to use a multi-disciplinary consulting style of facilitation to get the parties working together in an open, trusting, and co-operative participation to design and implement governance tools to help the family achieve its optimal continuity strategy.

As the FEA program follows a very detailed and demanding syllabus, and requires a considerable time commitment, it is no wonder there are only around 450 FEAs in all of Canada with this designated expertise.

If you have determined you are in need of the experience and disciplined approach of an FEA to build and implement an enterprise continuity plan for your family enterprise, this article is intended to help direct your search.

Thankfully, Family Enterprise Canada has a website with a directory of all FEA members, which can be narrowed down by Area of Practice, Company Name, Advisor Name and Location. Through this search capability, which can be found online here, you can find all the FEA specialists in the areas of practice you value most, by location.

The Family Enterprise Canada website also contains a wonderful Resource Centre which has articles and newsletters devoted to various subject areas of greatest interest to enterprising families.

Once you have narrowed down your search, you probably want to interview a few FEAs to choose the one of your preferred style to work with your family. And in fact, you may want to use more than one FEA and pursue a multi-disciplinary approach, as some will likely be more technically skilled, while others may be more soft skill driven with a strength in family facilitation, hosting family meetings, and getting the maximum co-operation from all family members in the development of best governance practices.

An FEA will be process driven and help you understand all the moving parts of being a family enterprise which is much more than just the operating business. If you are looking just for content and quick solutions that act as band aids, you may want to reconsider being a family enterprise.

It is important to note that some FEAs are sole practitioners (e.g. family facilitators), while others are part of a professional firm like lawyers and accountants, still others work for financial institutions and intermediaries like banks, trust companies, investment managers and insurance companies.

Many self-employed FEAs will charge by the hour or scope of task for their work. Typically, there is no cost for the initial meeting, where they will ask you about your facts and circumstances to try to then scope out the engagement you need and develop a fee proposal suited to the work you require. 

Professional firms like lawyers and accountants typically have a standard form hourly rate-based engagement letter.  

Insurance brokers, banks, trust companies, investment managers and other financial intermediaries may or may not charge a fee for their advisory work, as they typically earn their compensation from the sale of their core financial services like asset management, trustee or insurance fees.

Thus, there is a wide scope of difference in the fees charged by FEAs, and it may be possible for you to get some of the services delivered by some existing service channels you deal with already (i.e. your banker, investment manager or insurance provider) and other services from specialists who will make up the comprehensive multi-disciplinary team.

So where to start? No doubt, as a successful Family Enterprise, you already have some great relationships in place with your trusted advisors, including accountants, lawyers, bankers and insurance advisors.  Some of your trusted advisors may themselves be FEAs, and if not, they likely know some trusted FEAs who they can introduce you to.

Of course, if you struggle to find an FEA, you can always turn to Family Enterprise Canada. They will always be your trusted resource to find an FEA and access the many benefits of working with the FEA community. 

Decision Tree Question: Do you want to continue the journey to being a Family Enterprise?

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