Here at Family Capital Strategy, we spend a lot of time thinking about what is required to build world-class professional services firms. A great family office is ultimately a tightly integrated, multi-disciplinary professional services firm.
While there are many great books out on business management, the vast majority are focused on traditional companies focused on delivering a product. The resources available to assist those tasked with leading and developing professional services are far fewer.
With that said, below we outline our top-10 reads that we believe are directly relevant to leaders of family offices. Included are brief blurbs from Amazon.
By Charles D. Ellis
“Having devoted a career that spans fifty years to consulting with and studying professional firms in the Americas, Asia, and Europe, author Charles Ellis learned firsthand how difficult it is for an organization to go beyond very good and attain, as well as sustain, excellence. Now, he shares his hard-won insights with you and reveals “what it takes” to be best-in-class in any industry.
Enlightening and entertaining, What It Takes explores firms that are leaders in their particular field and the superior people who create and maintain them. Along the way, it identifies the secrets of their long-term success and reveals exactly how they can put your organization in a better position to excel when properly executed.”
By David H. Maister
“Professional firms differ from other business enterprises in two distinct ways: first, they provide highly customized services and thus cannot apply many of the management principles developed for product-based industries. Second, professional services are highly personalized, involving the skills of individuals. Such firms must therefore compete not only for clients but also for talented professionals.
Drawing on more than ten years of research and consulting to these unique and creative companies, David Maister explores issues ranging from marketing and business development to multinational strategies, human resources policies to profit improvement, strategic planning to effective leadership.”
By James L. Heskett, W. Earl Sasser, Leonard A. Schlesinger
“Why are a select few service firms better at what they do — year in and year out — than their competitors? For most senior managers, the profusion of anecdotal “service excellence” books fails to address this key question. Based on five years of painstaking research, the authors show how managers at American Express, Southwest Airlines, Banc One, Waste Management, USAA, MBNA, Intuit, British Airways, Taco Bell, Fairfield Inns, Ritz-Carlton Hotel, and the Merry Maids subsidiary of ServiceMaster employ a quantifiable set of relationships that directly links profit and growth to not only customer loyalty and satisfaction, but to employee loyalty, satisfaction, and productivity. The strongest relationships the authors discovered are those between (1) profit and customer loyalty; (2) employee loyalty and customer loyalty; and (3) employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction. Moreover, these relationships are mutually reinforcing; that is, satisfied customers contribute to employee satisfaction and vice versa.”
Managing professional service team members is a different challenge. They are high energy, well-educated, and part of a competitive marketplace for talent.
By Andy Grove
“The essential skill of creating and maintaining new businesses—the art of the entrepreneur—can be summed up in a single word: managing. Born of Grove’s experiences at one of America’s leading technology companies, High Output Management is equally appropriate for sales managers, accountants, consultants, and teachers, as well as CEOs and startup founders. Grove covers techniques for creating highly productive teams, demonstrating methods of motivation that lead to peak performance—throughout, High Output Management is a practical handbook for navigating real-life business scenarios and a powerful management manifesto with the ability to revolutionize the way we work.”
By Stanley McChrystal
In this powerful book, McChrystal and his colleagues show how the challenges they faced in Iraq can be relevant to countless businesses, nonprofits, and other organizations. The world is changing faster than ever, and the smartest response for those in charge is to give small groups the freedom to experiment while driving everyone to share what they learn across the entire organization. As the authors argue through compelling examples, the team of teams strategy has worked everywhere from hospital emergency rooms to NASA. It has the potential to transform organizations large and small.
By Sean Covey
Family office teams members are always busy – managing that workflow while keeping the office moving forward is of paramount importance.
“Do you remember the last major initiative you watched die in your organization? Did it go down with a loud crash? Or was it slowly and quietly suffocated by other competing priorities? By the time it finally disappeared, it’s likely no one even noticed. What happened?
Often, the answer is that the “whirlwind” of urgent activity required to keep things running day-to-day devoured all the time and energy you needed to invest in executing your strategy for tomorrow. The 4 Disciplines of Execution can change that forever.”
Great family offices build a culture where the family values the services provided, while simultaneously offering a great place to work. Here are our favorite books on organizational culture.
By Danny Meyer
“Seventy-five percent of all new restaurant ventures fail, and of those that do stick around, only a few become icons. Danny Meyer started Union Square Cafe when he was 27, with a good idea and hopeful investors. He is now the co-owner of a restaurant empire. How did he do it? How did he beat the odds in one of the toughest trades around? In this landmark book, Danny shares the lessons he learned developing the dynamic philosophy he calls Enlightened Hospitality. The tenets of that philosophy, which emphasize strong in-house relationships as well as customer satisfaction, are applicable to anyone who works in any business. Whether you are a manager, an executive, or a waiter, Danny’s story and philosophy will help you become more effective and productive, while deepening your understanding and appreciation of a job well done.”
By Charles D. Ellis
“The Partnership chronicles the most important periods in Goldman Sachs’s history and the individuals who built one of the world’s largest investment banks. Charles D. Ellis, who worked as a strategy consultant to Goldman Sachs for more than thirty years, reveals the secrets behind the firm’s continued success through many life-threatening changes. Disgraced and nearly destroyed in 1929, Goldman Sachs limped along as a break-even operation through the Depression and WWII. But with only one special service and one improbable banker, it began the stage-by-stage rise that took the firm to global leadership, even in the face of the world-wide credit crisis.
By Horst Schulze
Horst Schulze knows how to win. In Excellence Wins, Schulze, in his absolute no-nonsense approach, shares the visionary and disruptive principles that have produced immense global successes over the course of his still-prolific 50-year career.
As the co-founder and former president of Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co., Schulze fearlessly led the company to unprecedented multi-billion dollar growth, setting the business vision and people-focused standards that made the Ritz-Carlton brand globally elite.
Schulze’s principles are both versatile and utterly practical to leaders of every age, career stage, and industry. You don’t need a powerful title or a line of direct reports – you have everything you need to use them right now.
By Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, et al
The vast majority of family office work is relational. The team’s ability to work together and the family is the linchpin that holds the office together. How to handle tough, sensitive conversations is a skill that no one can afford to go without.
David is the Founder and CEO of Family Capital Strategy, a strategy consultancy for family offices and family businesses based in Nashville, TN. We help families stay invested together through the design of the family office and the thoughtful development of the family’s investment program. We provide objective, conflict free advice in a strategic, customized and multi-generational manner.