Q&A With Our Trusted Community Of Resources

Combining art and science to serve business owners, philanthropists, and professional advisors.  Let's support one another's imagination and activate our purpose in this world.                                                  Editor:   Brady Marlow

Combining art and science to serve business owners, philanthropists, and professional advisors.  Let's support one another's imagination and activate our purpose in this world.                                                  Editor:  Brady Marlow


We asked Ralph Dovali, Lisa Lehan and Mike Anderson the following three questions:

1.  What tells you the most about a potential new client relationship?

       2.  What pitfall do you help owners of closley held businesses avoid?

             3.  What book or publication has professionally influenced you the most?

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Here's what they said - 

Ralph Dovali, CPA
Hancock Dana

  1. In an introductory meeting wherin I do not have a prior relationship, I always ask people to tell me their story.  In that, you find out very quickly what is important to a client, …what keeps them up at night, and what their goals are, all of which provides great insight on how best I can serve the client.
  2. The easy answer here is to say we help small business owners minimize their tax burden.  If there is one commonality, that would be it.  It comes in many forms – interim tax planning, structuring a sale of a business, tax deferred asset exchanges, etc.  While that role is pervasive across all of our clients, we find that our relationships often extend far beyond that.  As a trusted advisor, clients also engage us to discuss starting up a business, business financing, and other operational matters.
  3. Actually, thanks to the radical changes in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed in December, we have been immersed in tax literature.  It is not glamorous, I know, but as a professional in the public accounting realm, it has been most influential over the past year.
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Lisa Lehan, Attorney
Shareholder - Koley Jessen

  1. Tell me about your family. This is an open-ended question that generally helps ease into a conversation about the clients’ objectives for their children and grandchildren. I recognize that coming to a lawyer’s office to talk about their estate plan can be uncomfortable for clients, because it forces them to think about difficult topics. However, once the plan is implemented, my clients tell me they feel a great sense of relief knowing they have a comprehensive plan in place to protect their family.
  2. I help clients think of their business like any of their other assets - how does the business fit within their overall estate plan and objectives for their family? Many times, it is just a more “difficult” asset to handle from a succession planning standpoint, in that it takes more strategic planning and thought, which requires more time. Compare life insurance or retirement accounts, where you simply designate a beneficiary to get paid. With a business asset, we must discuss how the client intends for the business to move forward when he or she exits the business, and how that event is translated into the biggest benefit possible for their family.
  3. Crucial Confrontations, by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Swtizler. This book, together with the training, has helped me approach important conversations in my office, with clients, and even people in my personal life. Conflict is bound to occur and it shouldn’t be avoided. Crucial Confrontations teaches you how to appropriately handle the process necessary to deal with and move forward from conflict.

Mike Anderson, Managing Principal
Bridgepoint Merchant Banking

  1. Tell me about yourself. Do they focus on accomplishments, people they know, their staff, the work they do or their clients?
  2. We work with family owned businesses to help them understand the process, the need for the level of detailed information we need and how to maximize their value for the work they have done. One aspect of that process is getting them to act or “pull the trigger” and then when they finally do, they want everything done in 30 days. Difficult to do and harder for them to understand as they have been thinking about it for months or years.
  3. I’ll Know It When I See It. A Modern Fable About Quality by John Guaspari. I read it 25+ years ago. The part I remember or at least a paraphrase is about a customer walking into a men’s clothing store and the sales person asking, “Can I help you? What are you looking for?”. The customer’s response is, “ I’m not sure what I’m looking for, but I’ll know it when I see it.” Working with privately held businesses, they don’t always know what they want or what they are looking for, but if you keep asking questions and offering options, you’ll eventually get to something they were looking for as a solution.
Brady MarlowExecso