It’s not easy for most of us to work with clients who have much more money than we do. When Amanda Mills and Syble Solomon asked me to write a section of their book based on the money-related coaching and consulting I’ve done for the past 15 years, I was honored. And, it’s been rewarding to help other professionals learn what I have-that being affluent doesn’t automatically grant confidence, freedom from worry (even about money), and the majority of other problems of living.
Here’s a peek into the recently published book, Bringing Money Into the Conversation. The article this month captures the essence of what I wrote for this readable and useful book. I wanted to share some tips I’ve found valuable regarding attitudes, behaviors and emotions when working with people with wealth. Let me know what you think.
Tips for Working with Wealthy Clients
1. Try hard not to be intimidated by your client’s wealth. Your client may not be aware of your level of wealth, but will almost certainly pick up your sense of unease. In the face of someone else’s wealth, it helps to remember we are all human beings, with strengths and deficits. Try to avoid being placating; this can really compromise the work you’re doing and the help you are trying to provide.
2. Recognize that people of wealth have similar emotional stresses to yours. Money is stigmatized, so although they have most of the regular stressors that everyone has, they have learned not to share theirs. Because of actual experiences, they anticipate getting some version of, “I’d LOVE to have your problems” instead of the understanding for what they are going through.
3. Learn more about the down-sides and stresses of wealth so clients know you understand. For example: Inheriting money may make the inheritor feel very guilty, sad or overwhelmed.
4. Realize that often one person in a couple with wealth did not grow up in a family with money and is, in my colleague Dr. Jim Grubman’s words, an immigrant to wealth. Thinking in terms of natives and immigrants to wealth may be quite useful when talking with/working with couples, or with your client who is struggling with how their partner responds to money. (Dr. Jim Grubman is a psychologist who consults to Ultra High Net Worth clients and their advisors You can find this article at JamesGrubman.com).
5. Many people of wealth earned it. Those who grew up in moderate or low-income homes may be quite ambivalent about now being a part of this moneyed group. If they acknowledge their wealth to friends and coworkers, these relationships might change dramatically. Many feel forced to join a friendship group they feel nothing in common with.
6. Get comfortable discussing fees. This was a long time coming for me. I watched myself continually stumble and trip all over myself talking about fees. When one of clients actually said, “You have trouble talking about money, huh?” I knew it was time to get to work!
7. More about fees: The wealthy are used to being taken advantage of financially. Be sure to have a clear fee agreement so they know they’re paying what others are. No one wants to feel like they’re paying more than other people for the same service. And paradoxically, get comfortable charging enough. As a coach, I’ve learned that many, if not most, believe they are getting a seasoned therapist or coach if you’re charging $175 vs $75. Same principle applies in other professions like law, dentistry, etc. Offer service that justifies a higher fee.
8. It can be helpful to understand how much time and energy a wealthy person spends dealing with their money. It may literally be a part time or full time job for them. From a fiscal standpoint, this may be the best use of their time; however, many may feel burdened by this job. Often there is enormous pressure and a sense of responsibility to be a good steward of their money. If your client has siblings who are better at money than they are, this can create stress and feelings of inferiority. The family dynamics, as in most families, are tricky and complicated.
9. If a person of wealth grew up criticized and undermined, don’t be surprised if their self-esteem is low. For example, my clients who have ADD and/or learning disabilities still suffer from feelings of inadequacy accumulated from years of difficulty in school and at home. This struggle with confidence applies to many of my clients who are self-made millionaires, and to those who grew up with wealth.
10. Many of the highly successful clients I see feel like they don’t fit in and/or feel like a fraud. Take care not to get caught by your own stereotypes of “if you’re rich and you have an ‘important’ job, then you’re smart, you’re comfortable, you’re happy…” The pressure they feel walking into any important meeting can be tremendously stressful; they may never have ever told anyone about these feelings of worry and inadequacy.
11. If you want to expand your work to include this group, you can customize for each client. I offer variable length meetings (usually 60-90 minutes, though some are longer or shorter), email or phone check-ins , collaboration with other professionals including doing things like going to attorney meetings with them to be sure they are heard, or supported… You can keep boundaries clean and still offer some concierge services that can make a huge difference to your clients and certainly differentiate you.
A note from Amanda and Syble that’s worth paying attention to:
“As with all sensitive topics, your role is also being comfortable bringing money into the conversation when appropriate and to make it safe for your clients to talk about money. Be aware of your own relationship with money. As with any other sensitive topic, your own awareness will enhance your effectiveness. Because there are so many money messages and because you may not be aware of your reactions to some of them, it’s not uncommon that surprising emotions, judgments, associations and assumptions often surface during the course of money it or listen as openly as you would with other sensitive topics.”
If you and your team are leaving revenue on the table because you’re uncomfortable (maybe avoiding) talking about money, I can help both you and your clients become more comfortable with awkward conversations about:
- Family business
- Team assumptions about money (which are inhibiting business growth)
- Your own relationship with money
- Liquidity events
- Legacy planning
- How to raise responsible children with wealth
- Being an “immigrant” to the land of wealth (through marriage, sudden wealth, earnings…)
- Stresses of being wealthy (lack of purpose, retirement boredom/ennui, isolation…)
Enhanced Communication Programs for Professionals
You and your key team members can master simple-to-learn tools to:
* Become a better leader
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* Increase your ability to have difficult conversations
Birke Consulting offers an individualized “Enhanced Communication Program for Professionals” that is guaranteed to improve the way you communicate with clients and your team. This is a one-on-one or small group coaching and training program that builds on your strengths. Our exceptionally efficient approach produces practical results in fewer than three months, often less than three weeks.
Enhance your team’s ability to make better decisions and relate more effectively.
* Fits into the lunch hour
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“I’m a very driven, creative, successful entrepreneur, who doesn’t have time to waste. Szifra’s coaching has made me more productive by helping me focus on what I do best and enjoy most. She’s also shown me how to maximize my creativity and connect better with my prospects, clients and team at the heart level –something I thought I was very good at BEFORE I began working with her. She really understands entrepreneurs and business.
Bottom line: I’m a lot richer personally and professionally having worked with her. I heartily recommend her to anyone who wants to achieve more success in every area of their life– and love every minute of it.”
Steve Harrison, co-owner www.FreePublicity.com, Radio-TV Interview Report (RTIR), and Million Dollar Author Club
Have praise or criticism–or just some question you wish someone would answer? Please tell us about it. You can send email directly to me at Szifra@BirkeConsulting.com. I’m interested in your feedback.
I’d also be glad to discuss coaching and training options.
Until next time, all the best to you,