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How to Communicate Effectively In a Collaborative Team of Advisors
by Colleen Kowalski on January 23, 2023
What is your communication style at work? Do you model effective communication strategies for your coworkers, employees, and clients?
Poor workplace communication may result in failure to complete key projects, low employee morale, missed goals, and a loss in revenue and sales. Ultimately, studies show that 86% of employees and executives cite a lack of effective collaboration and communication as the main cause of their workplace failures.
We spoke with a few Certified Exit Planning Advisors and EPI Partners to see how they foster effective communication in their practices and with their clients.
Facilitating Effective Communication on Teams
As a business professional, you undoubtedly work with numerous teams throughout your career. Whether you are leading a team in your practice or working on an owner’s advisory team, the team’s strength can be measured by the effectiveness of the communication between team members. Mark Hamilton, President of Versa Culture LLC, shares, “Business leaders, human resources specialists, culture experts, organizational psychologists, and others whose job it is to guide change are all aware of the critical role communication plays” in creating action in an organization.
Chloe Quigley, Business Exit Planning Advisor at Barrington Wealth Management and CEPA since 2021 emphasizes the importance of listening. She shares, “I can’t help a business owner until I understand their situation, values, goals, and outlook on the future. After a business owner says something, I believe that I should be able to repeat it in my own words back to them, while maintaining the same sentiment. If I cannot do this, I did not listen well enough.” By listening to the business owner and other members of their advisory team, Chloe states she “can understand what each brings to the table and we can see more clearly what we need from each other to move toward success.”
Kevin Entwistle, Private Wealth Advisor and Family Wealth Director at Morgan Stanley Private Wealth Management and CEPA since 2019, echoes the importance of listening during client engagements. He shares, “If we come in with preconceived notions of what we think the owner needs or wants, we have started to narrow the owner’s vision, and possibly their patience with us. Instead of projecting solutions or strategies, we listen, generously. “
Shelley Mann, Principal and owner of Strategic Sales Advisors LLC, shares that in order for teams to communicate effectively, there must be a high level of trust among all members. She continues, “The first thing I work on is building trust in the relationship. In fact, I work on building up a bank of trust and credibility. I have found that most people will give me the benefit of the doubt when there is ambiguity in communication if I have a strong ‘bank’.”
Challenges Impacting Strong Communication
When each member of a team is not aligned with or passionate about the same goal, communication can break down. Chloe Quigley explains, “It is understandable that each team member is focused on their own key milestones to measure the success of a project, however, it becomes challenging when one advisor begins to dominate the planning and disregard the considerations and milestones of the other advisors involved.”
Kevin Entwistle shares that the differing perspectives of the advisors on an owner’s exit planning team can negatively impact communication if they do not reach a mutual understanding of the owner’s goals. He states, “Once we run a valuation and a financial plan for the owner, we typically ask to meet with the estate planning attorney and the accountant, so we can show them the plan, ask for their input, engage their strategic thinking, and bring all parties involved closer together. As a group, the goal is to champion the owner, not fight for starting lineup as the quarterback.”
Chloe shares that successful communication is paramount during business planning. She states, “All team members must be able to acutely describe and demonstrate their value. They must understand each part of the business owner’s plan and encourage progress as appropriate. Working in silos, when it comes to business planning, does not work! When we stick to putting the client at the center, and our egos aside, we can maintain a healthy and productive work environment.”
Building Value by Strengthening Communication
According to a McKinsey report, well-connected teams see an increase in productivity by 20-25%. This increase in productivity among advisors on an owner’s exit planning team can ultimately lead to improved business value. While communication within your client’s business is a large component of their business value, the communication among members of an owner’s exit planning team can lead to improved business value as well. If the advisors do not communicate strategies, next steps, and timelines, they risk missing important steps in an owner’s exit strategy.
Chloe Quigley and her wealth management team often communicate with her client’s tax advisors to identify any planning opportunities and to ensure they are implemented on a timely basis by coordinating introductions to any necessary outside partners.
Kevin Entwistle shares a story of a current client engagement and the importance of communicating with the advisor team. He explains, “We are currently helping to sell a multi-generational, family-owned business and during the pre-liquidity planning 2 years in advance of the eventual sale, the owner had worked with our firm to determine that a self-canceling installment note (SCIN) was the appropriate vehicle for his wishes to sell the business back to his family. However, when we revisited this exit plan with the estate planning attorney, we decided that the current interest rate environment was not conducive to such an exit. Thus we went back to the drawing board, ultimately deciding that an intentionally defective grantor trust (IDGT) was the more appropriate vehicle for sale..”
Through effective communication with multiple advisors on the team, Kevin shares, “The owner will accomplish his goal of tax mitigation upon sale and also upon passing. Without the open line of communication to revisit and revise, the owner would have left his company with a payment plan they would likely be unable to meet, which would then put the owner’s lifestyle wishes post liquidity at risk.”
Making Your Voice Heard
In a team setting, it can be difficult to ensure your voice is heard, especially when every member of the team is an expert and a thought leader. However, without making a conscious effort to share your expertise with your client and other members of the exit planning team, you can fail to provide your client with the knowledge they need to successfully exit their business.
If you are being looked over in client meetings or within your organization, look for the source of the issue. Do your coworkers overpower you in their communication style? Is your work environment supportive of your contributions? Chloe Quigley states, “When we can examine the root of why we are not being heard, we can begin to take steps to address it.”
Shelley Mann recommends providing written content to her clients 48 business hours in advance of a meeting. This ensures her clients have had the chance to review her suggestions and can prepare questions for their engagement. She continues, “If possible, I hold all meetings in person or through a video meeting source. All communication channels are important but for anything of substance I present I also want to read facial cues.”
Kevin shares, “One communication style we like to practice is silence. Most people in life are unwilling to bear even a second of silence or dead air. The more silent we remain, the more our clients speak, and share information. Silence is our way of communicating to clients, ‘go ahead, keep talking, lead us to where you want to go, we’re here and we are listening.’”
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