Most business owners and senior leaders build a relationship of trust with their service providers. The bulk of these relationships, generally, are the outsourced activities of accounting and legal work performed by accounting experts and lawyers.
When Private Equity partners are making an investment, it is my experience that they appreciate and respect those relationships.
One warning to family business owners, particularly those approaching the age of 50 who need to begin succession plans, your accountant and lawyer may not want to start any conversations that may change their circumstances. It pays for them to keep the Status Quo, the river flowing along the same route, so to speak, even if it is at a detrimental cost to the owner.
From years of observing the familiar level of complacency with lawyers and accounting firms, I often ask the same question, "Are you out for what's in it for you or for what's in it for the business owner?" As Adam Smith will attest, humans do go for the "What's in it for me?"
Getting an owner to change their goals for growth, for example, is just too risky. Getting a family business owner to contemplate a CEO other than themselves is just plain suicide.
As a business owner, understand this human fear of upsetting the person who is paying the bills and who could fire the lawyer or accountant from a nice, regular source of income.
Watch for complacency in your law and accounting service providers.
Often, the mere introduction of a competitive scenario from the introduction of Private Equity partners on the board, will yield better service at the same or even reduced cost. This is most often true with auditors, senior lenders and insurance and benefit providers.
Providing services should not be an evergreen annuity for the service provider. Yet it is too often the case.