Uncovering the World of Family Business Consulting: A Q&A with Julia Chung
We're thrilled to welcome Julia Chung to the Trella team. With in-depth experience in the areas of financial planning, business and entrepreneurship, Julia brings her unique expertise to helping families make informed decisions that support their vision and values.
- Judi Cunningham
What do you enjoy most about consulting with family businesses?
Ooh, it’s hard to pick one thing. I really like learning about people, and the ways they interact with the different eco systems in their lives. I love supporting people as they learn what does and does not fit for them then showing them how to use that information to design purposeful lives. Families can be so incredibly powerful in creating opportunities for growth, contributing to their communities, resulting in a better world. I love being able to help people do that.
What in your background has prepared you for this work?
I grew up in an entrepreneurial and academic family. We talked about business, finances, and big fluffy philosophical ideas all day long. We shared resources and responsibilities across generations, and the struggles that come with that, are normal to me, as are the natural conflicts that exist when family members are spread across countries and cultures.
My dad and his entire family have built and maintained businesses, my mum taught business students, and her parents taught educators. There has always been a push-and-pull for me as to whether to build businesses or to teach. I’ve built several businesses, written a few books, and I think I’ve now landed in a place where I get to do both, all the time.
What are the key qualities that you bring to this work?
I love this question. When it comes to consulting, I think that everyone has their own little toolkit of technical expertise, and then they have their qualities as a human being and the ways they interact with the people they support. I know that the goal in helping families is not to use every tool in my technical kit. It’s not to be the best consultant. It’s to help people be successful in the ways that are meaningful to them. This means digging into questions and conversations with each person in a way that helps them think about stuff they’d perhaps not given a lot of time in the past. We’re all just living our lives, and it’s not that easy to step back and really work through what it means to create a meaningful life, a great family, a successful business, or whatever floats your boat. I think the most important attribute I bring to this work is my ability to guide people through a process, so they gain clarity about what they want for today and might want in the future. I help them devise unique strategies that will get them where they want to go, and the motivation to keep going. My knowledge in the world of finance really helps people understand what is possible, but my drive to encourage people into being the leader of their own lives is what helps them achieve it.
How do you help people get comfortable talking about money?
Getting comfortable talking about money starts with acknowledging that talking about money is HARD. Money is this weird, fluid thing. It’s literally a construct we made up as human beings. Money wasn’t created when our planet was created. It was created by us, as a trading tool. It’s a proxy for the farmer’s goat that he might have traded for the planks of wood needed to build his barn. The function of money as this replacement for other things makes it easy for us, psychologically, to give it all kinds of meaning, from purpose and status to love and peace. It’s perfectly normal to have a meaning in our lives that is associated with money, and in many cases, we learned that meaning at home with our families. It’s not good or bad. It just is. Getting comfortable with that, first, really helps. From there, we start to realize that money and all its iterations are simply a blank page on which we can write our own story.
How would you introduce what you do to a family?
What I do tends to be so odd for most people, I like to start with just understanding what they need and want when it comes to advice in this world of finance and laws and tax and business. I fit somewhere in the middle of these competing areas of expertise and focus on helping people make sense of it all so they can make thoughtful and informed decisions. I know a little bit about a lot of things, but most important is… knowing what the client wants and needs.
What do you love about your work?
I love that the work I do helps people break free of some ideas that might not be useful anymore and develop the autonomy to create what “amazing” looks and feels like for them. Sometimes we feel like we don’t know enough about some esoteric area of knowledge, or that we don’t have permission to do that thing we really want to do or be that person we really want to be. Working with families who are navigating these big decisions is inspiring. It can literally change how that family exists with each other and in the world.
What part do you play in the Trella team?
At Trella, I’m often the person turning the complex financial, tax, and legal structures into something understandable, so people at least know where they are and what all these years of work with their advisors actually means. From there, I help them make tweaks or redesigns that are built around what the families want to achieve. Sometimes families think they must recreate their family around what tax and legal structures allow. Instead, I like introducing the idea that we build the tax and legal structures around the family. It’s harder than trying to cram people into a pre-constructed “box” of rules, but it’s a lot more effective.
Learn more about Julia and the rest of the Trella team on our About page.