How to work for a Billionaire – 7 Proven Strategies

I have had the opportunity to meet many billionaire family offices through my association, the Family Office Club, and my buy-side advisory work at Billionaire Family Office.  We have buy-side contracts in place with several billionaire families and assist other billionaire family offices through our executive search division.  As a result of our educational work in the ultra-high-net-worth and family office community, we have been cold-called or cold-emailed by 70 billionaire families to-date.  Given the size of our network, many family office executives request our help in securing a job with a billionaire family.

The following is a concise rundown of strategies for gaining employment with a billion dollar family, based on our experience working with these families:

  1. Identify a Single Primary Source of Value: The laws of supply and demand still apply in the billionaire community.  Just as an item that is generic and in steady supply will not be assigned a high value, neither will an applicant with common skills and an average CV.  On the other hand, an applicant with a particular rare expertise is highly prized even by ultra-wealthy families.  It is wise to position your skills to solve problems in a way that allows you to work a very specific role for many types of families.  For example, you could specialize in real estate tax optimization, multi-generational estate and trust planning, direct investment deal origination, or holistic family office investment portfolio reporting and analysis.  If you become too specialized in a particular service you may find yourself serving multiple billionaire families instead of just one–though there are worse problems to have than too many billionaire clients.
  2. Be Comfortable Wearing Several Hats: If you do want to work directly for a billionaire family you will typically be adding value in more than just one area; this is true especially once you have earned the family’s trust.  While some large corporations with thousands of employees may allow you to stay laser-focused on one specific area or skillsets, most single family offices and billionaire families employ just 3-25 professionals, and each is responsible for multiple responsibilities.  For example, a portfolio manager may have several other responsibilities beyond running the portfolio including: sitting on the investment committee, handling reporting for the family, and overseeing other assets such as fleet management, personal real estate, and direct investments.
  3. Serve First: If you want to serve billionaires you should first serve them without being paid to do so.  This can be accomplished by connecting them to each other, creating new joint ventures between large companies and industry titans, or simply sharing best practices from your core area of expertise–without seeking a consulting retainer or hourly rate for your assistance.  If you are genuine in your intentions to help then you will build a referral network organically over time.  In the meantime, you will also learn what these families value, which will further speed up your success in this area.
  4. Share Your Expertise: One form of serving first is to use media to leverage the value you would give in person by sharing your expertise in print, audio, or speaking format instead.  This blog post is an example of this method. Other examples include: our recent book, The Single Family Office; the Family Office Monthly newsletter; Family Office Podcast; our Qualified Family Office Professional (QFOP) training program, and our quarterly family office conferences.  Each of these examples adds value to family offices who can consume the family office media resources at no cost.  Whatever your field of expertise is, you can use that knowledge and experience to self-publish unique, valuable content or to use existing channels such as ours to syndicate your content.  For example if you have experience creating a highly customized IT reporting system from the ground up for a family office client then you may consider writing a book on Family Office Reporting Solutions. Furthermore, you may want to syndicate articles from that book on 10 different websites, in our Family Office Newsletter, etc. to gain market share and attract opportunities.  You may be thinking, “That’s a lot of work without a guaranteed payoff.” Yes, that is exactly right.  That is why few use this strategy and why it works so well.
  5. Meet in Person:  In all cases, an in-person meeting is more valuable than an email or phone call.  If you want to make an impact, do everything you can to make sure you get a face-to-face meeting.  The ultra-wealthy are busier than the typical business managers and they want to quickly assess how seriously to take someone.  One look at you will speak 1,000 words.  Are you professional? Do you appear to be just out of college? Do you appear to be successful already or struggling? How genuine and honest do you appear while you explain how you could add value to their family?  Everyone makes subconscious–if not explicitly conscious–notes on your ability to communicate and articulate your value.  So you want to make the most of that judgement and remove the question mark next to your name on whether you are worth their time.  One last note on this, which we mentioned on our training webinar last week, is that many times if you send an email it will be deleted or read by someone else, if you call they could put you on mute while they answer emails or only half-listen to you for other reasons, but when you meet in person (even for 5 minutes) you will have their full attention.
  6. Stay Top of Mind: While writing a newsletter or column can keep you top of mind almost automatically for most clients, that  approach is not what is needed to keep in front of billionaire families.  Meeting in person once a quarter, making a new introduction or connection just twice a year, or making sure you attend the same events as the family are all ways we have kept in touch with some harder-to-reach families.  These families are pinged daily by sales professionals, investment bankers, recruiters, IT firms, etc. and if you only keep in touch once a year and don’t add value on each exchange you will find yourself getting ignored.  Even if the family does not mean to dismiss you, the sheer volume of inquiries for a typically resource-constrained team might make it hard for your infrequent and unmemorable touches to register.
  7. Be Available When They are Searching for a Solution to Their Headaches:  Our last recommendation is a combination of the ideas above: be known as a solution for a particular type of headache they may experience.  If you clearly position your expertise and abilities you will generate more referrals and meeting invitations compared to someone who makes a vague offer to help in several different areas and doesn’t stand for any one thing.  The most important takeaway here is bringing it to the next level by making sure you are available and on top of mind just as a headache occurs for the family.  This could mean making sure you are at least known by connectors in your industry or by the advisors who might be well-placed to refer a family your way. This could also mean belonging to certain charities (which you also genuinely support).  Or it could mean providing public value via publications and forums as discussed in point #4 so that families find your name in several places while searching for solutions to their challenges.

There are probably 100 strategies you can employ to break into any competitive industry, but I have found these 7 to be the most critical for attracting high-quality billionaire families and single family offices. I hope you have found these helpful.

About Richard C. Wilson

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