Taking a Hard Look at the Soft Issues - Susan Schoenfeld

Susan R. Schoenfeld, CEO and Founder of Wealth Legacy Advisors LLC serves as a ‘thought partner’ to families of wealth through personal attention and human spirit. Susan is an award-winning Thought Leader; she provides guidance on Legacy, Next Generation, Stewardship, Governance, Leadership Succession, and Philanthropy.

Susan recently spoke at the Tacoma, WA Estate Planning Council’s virtual event.

“About 20 years ago I was invited into a new business meeting with a lovely couple — let’s call them Mary and George. George had developed a product, let’s say a widget, in his garage. He had just sold it to a huge company and had a major liquidity event — 100 million dollars — the classic American dream. All the while George was building his business, Mary was raising the kids, running the house, paying the bills, hiring and firing service managers, doing the investing — everything that was needed to free George up to build his business.

“Mary and George from small-town USA were ushered into this beautiful wood-paneled conference room at my former firm for the pitch meeting. I am sure those of you who work for wealth management companies do something similar. You usher them into your conference room, you go through your pitch book, you invite one person from every department to make a pitch about “if only you were a client of ours, here is what we could do for you.”

“I sat there watching as the investment guy told George all about the firm’s investment performance, and the tax guy told George all about the latest investment strategies. The business guy and relationship management guy took George through page by page of the pitch book. Everybody in the room was talking to George and nobody was talking to Mary. I was the only other woman in the room, and I leaned across the table and asked “Mary, tell me, what keeps you up at night?”

What she said to me surprised me and changed my whole viewpoint on how to approach clients — she said “I am interested in all the things they are talking to my husband about, but that is not what keeps me up at night. What really keeps me up is my children. I have two teenage sons and we live in a small town, and everybody knows we just hit it big, and my two boys are suddenly the most popular kids in school. I am new to this wealth too and I could use some help on how to help educate them on how to handle their newfound popularity. I am scared that they will lose the incentive to make something of themselves, separate from the family money.”

“I kept asking her more and engaging her. You can imagine what happened in the car ride home — Mary told George that we were the right firm for them because I showed that we cared about them as people — not just the almighty assets under management. And we won their business.

“That is the secret sauce, the secret to what clients care most about — how to raise their families in an atmosphere of wealth and still have them grow up to be productive members of society and not the proverbial “trust-fund babies”. Some people call these soft issues. But I call them taking a hard look at the soft issues.”

***

Susan Schoenfeld, a public speaker & thought partner to families of wealth and their advisors, is an author and award winning thought leader. Susan’s decision to switch from being a successful estate planning attorney and CPA to becoming a trusted family advisor and thought partner was inspired by families of wealth asking her searching questions beyond estate tax planning. As a conflict-free advisor who provides no investment, tax or legal advice and sells no product, Susan shares her insights directly with wealthy families and with financial services experts. She is active as a keynote speaker and a leader of break-out sessions and workshops at conferences throughout the US.

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