This material originally appeared as one of Jim’s Daily Herald columns


Hard-working visionary and creative force.  Inspiring leader.  Innovator.  Respected industry newcomer.  Successful entrepreneur – all identifying terms we thought would fit when we started on the entrepreneurial path.

Grief counselor.  What?  Wait!  That wasn’t on the list.

But, especially in the small and mid-size business world, grief counselor is a responsibility that comes with the job.  Because you own the business, and because you may feel a desire to help when trouble strikes, you’re likely to be called upon to step forward when there’s a death:  Your best client’s spouse has died.  An employee’s child.  Dementia has taken a loved one out of a family.  Illness has robbed a long-time mentor of freedom.

The problem with being thrust into a grief counselor’s position is that most of us don’t know what to do.  Life’s transitions are not always pleasant.

Enter Amy Florian, CEO of Corgenius Inc., a Hoffman Estates firm that counsels advisors, consultants and other business types.

“What I teach is grief support,” Florian says.  “It’s more than death.  We grieve when we must leave things behind.  A lot of grief goes into retirement, for example – or if someone’s house burns down.”

But how should we react when, for instance, our best client has a death in the household?  How do we help a friend, for transitions are not all business related, deal with grief?  What mistakes do we make, even when we try our best to help?

“We make a ton of mistakes,” Florian acknowledges.  “The worst is ignoring the situation – not going to the service because you don’t know what to say.

“Always go to the service.  Have a story or two to tell about the loved one, how the loved one made a difference.  Survivors,” Florian explains, “want to hear positive things about their loved one.

“’I’ll really miss Amy’s sense of humor.  I remember one time when she. . .’

“Don’t ask ‘What can I do for you?’” Florian continues, “because everything needs to be done.  Instead, ask, ‘Can I drive you to the grocery store?’ or ‘What would be most helpful to you?’”

Florian’s advice makes sense – and works.  Theresa (Terry) Hannon, a financial counselor and president of The Hannon Financial Group, Oak Brook, says her attendance at a Florian presentation two years ago “gave me coping skills that helped take the knots out of my stomach” when she responded to client death issues over the past few months.

“We shared stories.  We were able to laugh.  I could talk about (the deceased individual’s) beautiful smile,” Hannon says, adding, “It’s important to remember that (the survivor’s) normal is different.  That person is gone.”

Hannon’s comment reflects Florian’s approach.  “Grief changes our level of ability,” Florian says.  “People respond differently.”

As a practical matter, that means the company bereavement policy may need some flexibility – including, today, different definitions of family.  Check the Corgenius website, www.corgenius.com, for short videos and other information.


© 2017 Kendall Communications Inc.  Follow Jim Kendall on LinkedIn and Twitter.  Write him at Jim@kendallcom.com.  Listen to Jim’s Business Owners’ Pod Talk at www.kendallcom.com/podcast.