Beyond the Vision: Leveraging a Thinking Partner to Identify Blind Spots


In our latest episode, we welcome James Grieve, Founder & Principal Strategic Advisor at Catalyst Strategies Consulting and Past President of the Institute of Certified Management Consultants of British Columbia. Join us as we discuss the significance of humility, curiosity, and a purposeful process in uncovering blind spots, fostering alignment, and preparing businesses for successful transitions. 

James stresses the power of a strong strategic foundation, effective change management, and the vital role of the community in enabling leaders to leave a lasting legacy. James’ approach to developing purposeful strategies and managing change underscores the importance of having a trusted thinking partner to navigate the unique challenges and opportunities faced by family enterprises.

By showing up, being present, and giving his all, James provides effective guidance and support to his clients. He encourages an innate curiosity and the ability to pull together the right people and resources to deliver the best outcomes. 

About James Grieve

James Grieve is a Certified Management Consultant and Past President of the Institute of Certified Management Consultants of British Columbia (CMC-BC). He is passionate about strategy and has a keen understanding of working with organizations of all sizes, in a variety of industries, including clean technology, bioenergy, renewable energy, natural resources management, agriculture, manufacturing, and professional services. He has extensive experience in working with First Nations communities on economic development and empowerment initiatives in a variety of geographical regions and business models, including co-operatives. James is also a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP), a Certified Sales Professional (CSP), Certified Exit Planning Advisor (CEPA), and a Professional Farm Advisor (CAFA), and a Qualified Business Consultant – Agri-Foods Business Development Program – Agri-Business and Indigenous Agriculture. He brings a creative and customer-first approach to working with clients. He also holds an ISO 20700:2017 certification for management consultancy services. His Kelowna-based boutique consulting firm Catalyst Strategies Consulting specializes in strategy, succession planning, customer experience, and organizational transformation, and together with his team of consultants, he works with clients to analyze their operations, diagnose challenges, uncover blind spots, and mitigate risks in their businesses. James is also the co-creator of SuccessionReady, a simple, effective, and real-world approach to creating tailored Succession Plans for your founder and family led businesses.

Providing trusted advice, Catalyst Strategies Consulting and SuccessionReady help clients plan effectively, create processes to reach peak performance, and reach impactful, and sustainable outcomes. James holds an MBA, a Graduate Certificate in Organizational Design and Development, and a Bachelor of Commerce from Royal Roads University, and a Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Winnipeg. He holds Graduate Certificates in Circular Economy and Sustainable Strategies from Cambridge University, Digital Innovation and Leadership (DIAL) program from Simon Fraser University, and Employee Ownership as a Wealth Sharing Tool from Rutgers University. He is currently enrolled to become a Family Enterprise Advisor with Family Enterprise Canada. James resides in Kelowna and loves all that the Okanagan has to offer. He gives back to his community by mentoring business students at UBCO, Okanagan College, and female and aspiring entrepreneurs at We BC, Futurepreneur Canada, and Salmon Arm Economic Development Society.

Contact Cory Gagnon | Beacon Family Office at Assante Financial Management Ltd. 

Contact James Grieve | Catalyst Strategies Consulting: 

Welcome to Legacy Builders, strategies for building successful family enterprises. Brought to you by Beacon Family Office at Assante Financial Management Limited. I’m your host, Cory Gagnon, Senior Wealth Advisor. And on this show, we explore global ideas, concepts, and models that help family enterprises better navigate the complexities of family wealth. 

Today, we welcome James Grieve, Founder & Principal Strategic Advisor at Catalyst Strategies Consulting and Past President of the Institute of Certified Management Consultants of British Columbia. With his extensive experience in strategy, organizational transformation, and customer experience, James guides businesses of all sizes across various industries. Through his Kelowna-based consulting firm and as the co-creator of SuccessionReady, James helps clients analyze their operations, diagnose challenges, uncover blind spots, and mitigate risks in their businesses, providing trusted advice to reach peak performance and sustainable outcomes.

My goal is to be the most curious person in today’s conversation with James Grieve, where we explore his wealth of experience in helping family businesses navigate succession planning and strategic growth. We’ll focus on the significance of humility, curiosity, and a purposeful process in uncovering blind spots, fostering alignment, and preparing businesses for successful transitions. Together, we’ll uncover the power of a strong strategic foundation, effective change management, and the vital role of community in enabling leaders to leave a lasting legacy.

Now, let’s dive in! 

Cory: Welcome James! We’re excited to have you here today to share your wealth of knowledge and experiences with us. Let’s dive in, shall we?

James: Sounds great, Cory. Thanks for having me today.

Cory: James, imagine you’re delivering the commencement speech to the graduating class of 2024, and you have the chance to inspire them with your story. How would you begin your speech to convey the incredible lessons and expertise that you’ve gained along your career?

James: That’s a really great question, and, I’ll start with in preparation for this and understanding, there’s 4 key areas that are really important. The first one in its relative to my story is shown up.  

First thing is to show up and be present. So regardless of what you’re doing throughout life, it’s just showing up and doing what you’re saying you want to do and being there and present. Even though it may not be something that at the onset you’re really keen or interested in or if you commit to something you show up.

Number one is that you when you commit to something you show up and be there. Give examples. In this, my career and my life have been really diverse in the sense that I had the great opportunity to be on some really great teams and great experiences throughout my life.

I spent time working in professional sports and I worked in the gaming industry and a lot of areas where I stretched the boundaries of what I was, what I knew, or what was comfortable.

But after that, I had an understanding of flourishing in these areas, and isn’t even as it related to becoming a management consultant, just having this ability to show up and be present and then have respect for people.

I always believe it’s better to be respected than liked and when you’re when you’re showing up and you’re authentic and genuine, that’s the first thing. The second is to be kind and generous in everything that you do just when you’re showing up, show up authentically be there for people, and just have a curiosity for what they’re doing as well, which leads to the third point.

It’s really being curious and learning about what others are doing and having an academic curiosity but also a curiosity for your clients and people that you’re serving as well and the last thing is to give back and I think that this as you learn more and as you go through life and you have you’ve learned things or you’ve gained some experiences is to really give back to the people who might be up and coming or the people that have got you there in the first place.

So, that sets the framework for the 4 things I think are really important, then we can dive in if you like on examples of each of those if you like.

Cory: Absolutely. And just to go back to number one, show up and be present. Tell me, what does that commitment look like to you?

James: Great question. To me, there are a lot of times when I’m sure we’ve encountered this in our careers where people experienced either as a customer or we might have experienced this as a client or even as a consultant where people are kind of mailing it in.

I never want to be one of those people and I never want to be associated with that. I think when you show up, you’re giving all you have to that person who’s in front of you or to that organization that you’re committing to and being present and authentic in what you’re doing.

I don’t believe in doing anything halfway and also doing things I’m not qualified for. So, really being able to show up, understand and it allows you to be a better collaborator as well which has built my practice on this as well.

Showing up first, understanding, and having the respect of people to understand that, James is the type of person that when he comes to work with you, he’s going to be there and he’s going to do what he says he’s going to do.

Cory: Absolutely. Now, a couple of things that you said there, stretching your boundaries. I want to explore that a little bit and how that relates to the work that you do and how you’ve experienced collaboration as you stretch boundaries.

James: That’s a great question. The way I’ve done this so when you enter something or a situation, it’s not what it quite often appears to be and you’re going to find things out about yourself and the situation in your clients, and you’re going to have to uncover your blind spots or realize some blind spots.

You’re going to have some unknown knowns and some known unknowns in the situation. The way that I’ve approached this was I have an innate curiosity to learn about different situations, different businesses, different attributes, and that type of thing.

But also, to learn about others as well with always the lens on what’s the best value and impact for a client. If I don’t have those answers, I’m going to find someone who does, which gives me another opportunity to become curious and find another subject matter expert or someone who has skills and unique characteristics that can help that person.

So back to that showing up and then being curious about what that looks like and then finding out how I can pull things together and people together in order to provide the best outcome.

Cory: Right. James, let’s explore blind spots a little bit more because I like the fact that helping people go from that unknown to known is a big component of surrounding yourself with others. How do you approach that or how do you see that as a benefit to the clients that you’ve worked with?

James: Well, it’s really helpful. I’ll start with me and then move out from there and this isn’t saying start with me from a selfish side but it’s starting from a place of humility, of coming into a situation of understanding that I’m not going to know everything.

But if someone is engaging me to be a trusted advisor they understand as well that there’s going to be spots that I don’t know and there’s probably spots within their business that we’re going to uncover that they may not know as well.

If we look at the entire situation, let’s face it every business or every situation is an ecosystem and there are pieces that have they’re very strong and there are pieces that have to be fortified in some extent. If you have that innate curiosity and understanding of where this could be fulfilled then when to bring people in.

You have to really start at a position of not knowing and treat everything as being fresh and new. You could have that approach where you could say, I think that this might be the case and then there’s a duty of care to explore that to make sure that blind spot is uncovered or is dealt with appropriately.

Cory: As it comes from the clients that you’ve worked with, how have you seen mindset mindsets shift from that perspective?

James: Very good question. I think what we’re seeing is that sometimes people are so busy and this is an analogy for several times, I’m sure. People are busy working on their business, not in their business. 

It’s very easy for them to get caught up in the day-to-day, the minutia of their business, their family business, their family these are the dynamics they’re seeing every day.

Quite often, it’s very difficult to read the label when you’re standing inside the bottle. What you need is the opportunity just to take a bigger perspective and just come up from that.

They quite often sometimes, the client cannot do that but I think it’s our care and duty as consultants or advisors to provide that opportunity to ask the right questions so that they can start to see things a little bit differently.

Maybe we don’t have to physically remove them from that or take time away from it. But, just by asking the right questions, they can perhaps see things a little bit differently or provide them with some scenarios, and some what-ifs.

For example, what would success look like? What would you do if this were to happen? If this great event were to happen or something that was not so great to happen, just to shift their perspective a little bit because I think what happens is people are just so focused on the day-to-day, month-to-month, week-to-week, whatever the case may be that it’s very difficult to see that.

As advisors and trusted advisors, we can perhaps draw on our experience to do that and provide them with different ways of looking at things.

Cory: And so, James, your curiosity and desire to continue to learn is that something you find in the people that you work with? Are they looking to that from you because of your expertise or are they looking at it if we want to learn more and we’re on a learning journey?

I guess my question is, are they looking for the answers or are they just curious to learn and have that additional perspective?

James: What I’m finding is that right now, people, don’t know what they’re looking for. They have an idea in mind but they’re quite often looking for a thinking partner along the way that can provide them with objective advice. 

They’re not afraid to like me as an advisor to provide them with information that they may not get from people who are close to them or may be afraid to provide that information. To your question, they’re not coming for an answer necessarily. They’re coming for a way to find that answer and the process that comes into play, now evolves over time.

A lot of times people are hung up and think, well, what do I need a consultant or an advisor for? But as you develop time with them and you become more entrenched in what they’re doing they lean on you as a thinking partner to do it.

I have several clients that I’ve worked on with engagements that have been tightly scoped and framed that they come back again and say, how did we work on that one challenge? I have this other challenge over here. Can we kind of work through that again? And that’s built over time.

I would never position myself as saying I’m going to find the answers for you because that’s not appropriate. However, I would say that there is experience and you have someone in me who can provide you with objective advice that’s based on experiential learning or something that I’ve got a reason to have a seat where I am today.

Cory: What would be some of the catalysts that you see where people are searching out that thinking partner? 

James: There are several and this is a really good question. Some of the things that people have are all so let me just back up a second. Where people are finding that they need help is if they’re stuck.

Stuck can take several, connotations or different iterations of it. One of them is how do I grow my business? Or how do I grow it at scale? How do I get out of the day-to-day, so the business isn’t as onerous on me or they’re not they’re in the owner’s trap? 

Everything they have to deal with every customer. They have to make every decision, that type of thing. They’re getting tired so how do they get stuck in their business? They may want to take time away from it. They want to transfer it to their family members or to a new business partner, whatever the case may be.

There are certain things they’ve plateaued and they just have to get over that plateau. It could be that they have to move away from doing things manually. They may have to have a digital transformation in their business. Life and business changes so rapidly that it’s hard to keep up with it, particularly when you’re trying to run the business.

And quite often the founder-led businesses that I work with, are working day to day in this. They just need perspective. I think if there’s ever a way that one word provides is perspective for these people because they’re stuck in what they’re doing day to day. 

Cory: Now, the growing their business as a main goal or getting out of the day-to-day and as you mentioned the owner’s trap, is it an or can it be an and? 

James: I think it’s an answer to your question. Just let me reframe the question, you’re asking if they want to get out of the day-to-day and transform the business, is that fair?

Cory: Yes. Can they have their cake and eat it too is kind of what I’m asking here. 

James: I think they can and I’m glad you asked that question because it forms the root of why I do what I do and it’s all rooted in strategy.

I think if you’re rooted in a really good business strategy, then you can anchor your decision-making to that strategy but if you’re focused on tactical elements to transform your business without rooting it in a strong foundation of the strategy, it’s very difficult to do.

An analogy I’m going to use is that I build launching pads not rockets. If we’re to help build a better system to launch that business to the next level and it’s a little bit of hyperbolic here but if you use the analogy if they have a better launching pad then they can determine where that rocket’s going to go.

It’s just really important, it can be an end, but it has to start at the strategy and then build from there in order for them to get unstuck.

Cory: Yes. I like that and where does the succession component come in? You’re building the launching pad and now we’re bringing this element of well, let’s talk about succession. Is it after? Is it before? Is it during? How do we incorporate that into the conversation?

James: I think it’s before but typically; the clients have an idea that they want to get to this end state, which is succession. They may have an idea in their mind where their business is going to be 5, 10, maybe a year down the road, depending on where they are in that journey.

What’s really important is for them to get ready for this right at that front edge of the strategy of getting them ready to achieve that. I think with this to your question, when does succession come in?

If you have a really strong understanding of what your strategy is and who’s going to help you along the way then they can start to see clarity and alignment of where they’re going. If you start with succession in mind and ideas, you can have an idea of what it may look like or your ideal future, your vision for this but unless you’ve taken the steps to get there, it’s going to be a rough road.

What you’re going to end up with is a faster caterpillar and not a butterfly.

I’m using mixed metaphors in our talk today but I think that’s what you’re going to get you’re just going to be faster and put more stress on the situation. If you don’t stop and say listen this is where we want to transition to or This is what we can be but in order to do this we have to take some very specific steps to get there and we have to be really very just tight in what we’re doing there. Purposeful, I guess, is the right word.

Cory: Purposeful, I like that. There’s a vision of here’s where I’d like to be in x amount of years. That vision then can transform into strategy and from there, how do you go forward? As you said, you’re not building rockets. To me, that’s the execution and some of the tactical is what I’m guessing.

James: Yes, what I found, it’s a really good question Cory, and what I found through my experience in both academic and practical experience in working with clients is that it comes down to some really key components to this.

People every business without people working within a 

company or in conjunction with so example customers, suppliers, and the people who are actually employed by the company management leadership. People process the systems that are in place, the leaders that are there, and then what legacies want to live. All of these things are combined in order to build that strategy.

You can have all the vision that you want but you anchor it into that and it helps to set a framework that people understand as well that are actually going through this transition.

So then if there’s a challenge you could say, this is kind of a people issue, let’s focus on that for now, and then it’s all interdependent but how do we move these things together again with purpose and intention so that they’re intertwined and that into itself builds the strategy.

You can’t just say we’re going to have a people strategy without considering how that’s going to impact the system or how it’s going to impact leadership or whatever the case may be.

Cory: Now let’s talk a little bit about strategy as it relates to the ownership of the business so we’ve got maybe we’re not founder-led at this point.

We’re talking about building good strategy in the business but now from an ownership perspective, maybe we’re stepping back and saying ownership will change hands and we’re looking for some alignment here to make sure that management knows where we’re going. How does that work from that people’s perspective and strategy?

James: No. I think it’s so important because, as owners transition out of business, they’re going to be they may leave the business, but there are people who are we shouldn’t say left behind, but they have to run the business.

The managers of the business, the continuity in what got this business to where it is, in other words, it’s the unique value that it provides in the marketplace and the character of the business should transition between the owners to the next ownership group that could take a lot of forms in that. 

You may have owners that come in and learn as hands-on but then they have to be able to have those managers that are in there that management team, have a smooth transition. And that’s where the leadership piece comes in more than ever. 

Because if the owners are going to change and they’ve built this strong business with the characteristics that caught them there, what’s going to keep them where they are or better yet move that forward then we talked about humility earlier. It’s the humility of the person transferring out to say that the person coming in is as strong if not stronger and the willingness to let go. 

It’s change, right? And change is difficult for people and I think if it’s articulated well and people are involved all the way through the process. 

Again, coming back to involving people at the early stages and understanding their role and how this is tied to a strategy, not that it’s just a triggering event that we’re going to have a change of ownership.

Cory: So that change management that goes on and is I hope managed. What does that look like when it’s done well? 

I think when change management is done well, it’s something that is shared among the people who are involved in the change, and the vision for the change is shared and expressed with the people who are actually going to undertake the change, and who are going to be affected by the change.

Having a strong sense of who will be involved, what risks are inherent here and strong scenario planning or robust scenario planning is really important as well. What I’ve seen sometimes where change doesn’t work really well is when things are done in isolation and surprises are made to people who are impacted by the change.

We may see this in a succession of businesses where the owners don’t want people to know that they’re exiting the business because they’re afraid of what impact it’ll have on the people. If you don’t have those conversations, they seem like tough conversations, and they are in the moment. 

It only becomes tougher if they’re not involved and understood and some of the best nuggets of information are from the people as closest to doing the work. They have the relationships with the customers and they have the relationship with the suppliers and with one another and the dynamics of this are incredible.  

When change is on the positive side of things, where change management works well is when there’s a framework and a system for change. We talked about blind spots earlier, there are subject matter experts. I know several that we’re I know a few great change management experts who are consultants that I would lean on to say, okay, what system do you have here?

There are several other methodologies for it but I think it’s really important as advisors to understand that change is inherent in all models. If you do have to bring in someone who has a strong methodology for change bring them in and not think you could do it all yourself because that component is the thread that tie that binds it all together.

Cory: Absolutely. Now, I want to go back and visit robust scenario planning because that’s something that you mentioned when building that strategy. What does that look like as being that strong thinking partner and developing some of those scenarios?

James: Absolutely. When we’re looking at this, you look back to the worth of vision of the person who’s changing their business to have whatever the case may be. Like, is it a monumental change or is it a change in the business succession whatever the case may be.

Asking those questions of what success looks like throughout that and to achieve this, what steps have to be made along the way? Who has to be impacted? And then a lot of what-ifs. 

What if this leads to 5x growth of the company? What if it results in 33% decrease in our business? What if our people leave?  What if people want to join? So back to those pillars of that methodology of people process systems leadership and legacy asking what the scenarios are within that methodology and what that’ll look like good, better, best, and how do we deal with that if the situation remains status quo elevates or in some cases, reduces for a while or in the short or long term and how well can we sustain this.

And what’s the heart of this is the culture of the company and the people that can adapt to that, and can we actually weather the storm? There’s going to be externalities as well. 

There’s one thing just nothing operates in a vacuum. How well are we equipped to deal with this and where do we draw from if it doesn’t? How are we going to adapt to this change?

Cory: I like that. I want to go back to the comment on the front end about how it’s better to be respected than liked and I think that in some of these decisions and what-ifs, there can be some challenges in wanting to be liked through those decisions. 

How have you found your methodology of thinking to be able to help alleviate some of those obstacles?

James: Very good question. I think having a methodology to share with your clients, you don’t have to expect them to know every intimate detail of how you’re doing it but share a process. If they feel they’re following a process, they understand that this is something that, again, with purpose and intent you’re not just there to be a friend.

You’re there to actually say, okay, at this stage, we’re going to be looking at this. This is what we heard, here’s some themes that we have. In essence, it’s what they’re telling me as an advisor. 
Then we have to take that information, disseminate it into themes or commonalities that we’re seeing, and then present it back to them and say, this is your words but this is the way I’m interpreting it. 

Don’t be afraid to say, well, if we continue down this path, we’re either going to have this great outcome, this mediocre outcome, or a bad outcome on that. Your point of provide them with information that they respect. The easy thing to do is just tell people what they want to hear. 

In my opinion, that’s not the professional approach. The professional approach is to say, here are the facts, here are some options, and allow them to decide on what option or what path to take based on that versus everything is great or whatever the case may be. It could lead to bad outcomes and it puts the lens too much on the consultant to the adviser in that case without the client making informed decisions based on what caught them to where they were before they met that adviser.

Cory: Now following a process you made a comment about some of your work from an educational perspective and what you learned along the way. I think it’s all about our experiences that shape what we are and what we deliver.

How do you find that a process to be able to bring people from where they are to what success looks like? How do you do that, James?

James: Yeah. Well, it’s really interesting Cory because it comes back full circle where we started the podcast on those value drivers of what I would say to commencement speech. By showing up and understanding where people are at and just really taking a genuine interest in what their current situation is.

Being kind, right? You’re not coming in as someone who’s full of hubris or anything. Kindness is not to be confused with weakness, kindness is to just have a genuine curiosity and understanding of their business where they feel they can share and then disseminate that information.

I think that’s what’s really important with the process is it all starts back at those things and then just saying you alluded to my academic kind of how I formed this process.

It’s through a lot of research and by doing those things, if you go into companies, you understand where they are and then I found commonalities between them which were those kind of 5 pillars, people, process, systems, leadership, and legacy, which form a process.

But it takes time, it’s not just something I saw once. That must be the way it is, it’s understanding over time the themes that come through there and then testing, iterating, reflecting, sharing with people, and getting feedback, not just from clients but other colleagues of mine that remove the blind spots that I always like to surround myself with people smarter than me.

And then to say, I think we have something here and not be afraid to change it if required, but still stay within a framework that is working and then just have it so the client understands. 
People understand what you’re doing and what you’re coming at them with, they’re not a black box because I think that’s really frustrating for people.

It’s very hard for them to refer you after the fact as well, it isn’t about mystification or mutual mystification. It’s like, here’s what we signed up for, here’s the process that we underwent, and ideally, after our work is done as advisors, it’s something that you should be able to carry on with that mindset as we continue on.

That’s when our best work is done, when is that they don’t need us anymore but they’ve learned something along the way.

Cory: Absolutely. Yes, I think equipping the people that we’re working with to be able to stand on their legs and go from where they are forward and work on that is important. James, I wanted to touch on your 4th pillar a little bit here because we talked about being kind and generous.

We didn’t really touch on the generosity but that giving back component, I want to just visit that for a little bit here. 

James: Absolutely, so it takes many forms, I think but in there’s philanthropy and that type of thing, which really help is helpful I find in the succession space and the transition for owners because the legacy piece of succession planning is so very important.

That means so many different things, so many different people when I mentioned giving back from my perspective is giving back the information that I’ve learned and shared so I can help people get some reflection on that.

So, in other words, words enable them to have a bigger mirror to look into so they can see. All the information that I’m a continuous learner. I put myself out there, meeting with people, learning, and collaborating, but also presenting that to a business owner.

Quite often, business owners aren’t formally educated but they do understand how to run great businesses and they have a great business education because they built businesses that are superior to others that maybe are built by people who have formal education.

But it’s to provide them with tools that they don’t have to do so they don’t have to go and spend them 8 years in university. Let’s just give back these pieces of that and I don’t have all the answers. 

Another way I give back is to introduce them to people who may be able to help them with collaboration. I think that’s a key part of giving back and what I found is that people really appreciate that and introducing clients to clients is helpful as well too.

So, it brings back kind of this network mentality on this but giving back is really important to me. I think if you have education or are put in a position where you can share, I think it’s a duty of care to share that but also to provide people with a safe space to get that information, learn it the way they want to learn it, and then move, move on from there.

Cory: I love that humility in that we’re talking to people who’ve created fantastic businesses. They’re already successful and to come in and say, I have something to teach you and you have something to learn is probably not the right approach.

You have an adviser coming to you and saying, I’ve got something for you. You’ve got to learn this well, hold on a second, maybe that’s not the right approach there. James, I want to touch on community because you mentioned connecting clients with each other.

I believe that having that strong community, those people who are in the same situation, is a very important part of everything that we’re talking about. How do you see that working successfully?

James: Well, I believe that community is so important because there’s a common thread that people have. I mean, I genuinely believe that people are good and I genuinely believe that people would love to meet like-minded people but there are constraints of common constraints for time, people, and money.

And maybe there’s space, and maybe they just need a connector or a catalyst, if that will, that connects them to people, but also people that they can they can trust. I’m a big a large proponent of givers gain.

I think that the more you give, it could be a matcher or you could be a giver and there’s a big difference here. You can match people but if you are actually someone who gives back to people, you’re providing something of value and you don’t always have to be there for the person but you’ve known enough.

You’ve taken interest in them back to being kind and curious well enough to make a good introduction and that’s a giving relationship. That’s not a match, a match is you’re in this industry, and you’re in this industry, I should match you together.

That’s not enough in my opinion, It doesn’t really build community. That’s why I think amongst ourselves as advisors, the multidisciplinary advisory approach is so important, as surrounding yourself with people that are closely vetted.

Because I know Cory, when I put someone in touch with you, they’re in good hands, and others that I work with in my network who I think very highly of as well. I keep my circle tight, so when I say I build community, it doesn’t mean that I’m everybody’s best friend or that I’m not a friend finder.

I don’t want to do that but what I want to do is know that and that comes back to that respect thing that when I provide an introduction, it’s a respected thing, and that builds the community, and then that community builds upon itself and so on and so on and so on.

Talking legacy, I would love it for my greatest legacy to be the fact that I’ve connected people to allow them to leave it better than they found it in their interactions with one another and that type of thing as well. So to me, what community means, it just isn’t people sharing the same postal code.

It’s people sharing things that actually make them better, and then that creates a flywheel for them, and a great, great impact for themselves and value for the people that they serve, the people that they employ, the people that they work with, and their customers as well.

Cory: Absolutely. I love that, that’s so many things there that I feel like we share James, and that was well said. I think so many times people will make those introductions because as you said, it’s on the surface that looks to be here.

Let me let me introduce you to this person but really deep underneath, is it the right introduction and is this the right person to be spending your time with? We all face challenges, the world is not an easy place and just finding those people who either have been there and done that or maybe are going through those same challenges helps that flywheel as you mentioned. That’s awesome.

James: No. Thank you.

Cory: Now, James, as we near the end of our conversation today, there are a few questions that I ask each guest before we wrap up. Are you ready for the tough ones? 

James: Let’s do it. Alright.

Cory: What is one key strategy you believe is most essential for building successful family enterprises? 

James: Start early and be ready. What that includes is, so I guess multiple prongs here. Start early and involve all the key people to be ready for your succession.

So in other words, a lot of this a lot of times succession involves talking to different subject matter experts. 

What I believe is getting the or having the ability of the platform to get all the people involved at the front end of this to provide better handoffs as it goes through the process.

Cory: Awesome. I love that handoff, it’s a key component for sure.

And what is the most common challenge that you see family enterprises encountering when it comes to wealth transition and generational continuity? 

James: Getting everybody on the same page and what I mean by and where I’m going with that kind of builds into your last question is that quite often these conversations seem difficult, but if there’s a mechanism to be able to humanize this and get those conversations amongst all of us to have that conversation, all of us, meaning the key people who are involved in this early, then it doesn’t have to be so difficult. 

Cory: In your experience, what are the top three key qualities that successful family enterprise leaders possess? 

James: Well, it’s similar to the ones that I identified earlier, but I’m not trying to portray myself to them. I think being coachable is important and having an open mind. 

Those are I think a a coachable person is someone who has a willingness to learn. I think it’s someone who also is willing to engage others in the process.  

Let’s sit down and let’s have that conversation with our family members. Let’s have that conversation with extended family members. Let’s have it with our subject matter experts. 

Also, people who realize that it takes all of us. It’s a multidisciplinary advisory approach to this, which I’ve seen to be most successful. 

The situations that haven’t been successful have been I’m just going to ask my lawyer that question or my accountant or my consultant or whatever the case may be.

So, that’s your question. The most successful are people who are willing to realize that it takes all of us to make this move forward to an ecosystem.

Cory: Yes, and before we conclude our discussion, I’d like to highlight where listeners can engage more in the conversations you’re having or the conversations that you’re listening to.

Could you provide us with where they could find some of that?

James: So where they can find me personally? My practice is Catalyst Strategies, Consulting. Find me at One thing I’m proud of is that we’re launching with my co-creator of Succession Ready as a fellow certified management consultant.

So SuccessionReady. The human-centered approach of getting everybody in the same room, creating that strategy that we talked about on this podcast, and then greasing the wheels as it moves forward.

If you go to my website, or we have a great podcast as well on SuccessionReady.

Cory: Awesome. And I wanted to make sure that we covered everything today.

Is there anything else, James, that you’d like to share with our audience that we didn’t get a touch chance to touch on? 

James: No. I think that’s great. I really appreciate the time. This has been time well spent, and we’re looking forward to engaging further with you.

Cory: Awesome. Well, thank you, James, for taking the time to share your expertise and experience with us today. your insights have been incredibly valuable to me, and I’m sure that our listeners will be grateful for your contribution to this episode.

James: Thank you.

As we wrap up this episode, we invite you to reflect on the wealth of insights James has shared about navigating the complex world of family business consulting. His emphasis on curiosity, humility, and building strong relationships with clients highlights the key factors in providing effective guidance and support.

Whether you are part of a family business or provide consulting to them, James’ approach to developing purposeful strategies and managing change underscores the importance of having a trusted thinking partner to help navigate the unique challenges and opportunities faced by family enterprises.

Throughout our discussion, James emphasized the importance of showing up, being present, and giving your all to the person or organization you are committed to serving. He stressed the value of approaching situations with innate curiosity and pulling together the right people and resources to provide the best outcomes. James also highlighted the significance of anchoring decision-making to a strong business strategy, comparing it to building a launching pad rather than a rocket. Ultimately, his insights underscore the importance of humility, generosity, and fostering a strong sense of community in helping clients navigate the complexities of business transformation and succession planning.

For those seeking additional guidance on navigating the complexities of strategy, succession planning, customer experience, and organizational transformation, James Grieve and his team at Catalyst Strategies Consulting are ready to help. You can reach out to him via his website and we’ve included his contact information together with additional resources in the show notes to support you on your journey.


This program was prepared by Cory Gagnon who is a Senior Wealth Advisor with Beacon Family Office at Assante Financial Management Ltd. This is not an official program of Assante Financial Management and the statements and opinions expressed during this podcast are not necessarily those of Assante Financial Management. This show is intended for general information only and may not apply to all listeners or investors; please obtain professional financial advice or contact us at [email protected] or visit to discuss your particular circumstances before acting on the information presented.

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