MarketWell Voices: Mallory McGrath, founder and CEO of Viive Planning
This month we spoke with Mallory McGrath, founder and CEO of Viive Planning, a company that facilitates conversations around aging and end-of-life planning among families and loved ones. What does this mean? “Think of Viive as playing the role of a general contractor in the estate industry. We review the whole project (the life of our client), help them draw up a customized blueprint (their Aging & End-of-Life Plan) and then coordinate with trades (our Trusted Partners) to ensure a smooth process and the family’s satisfaction,” reads the Viive website.
What insights and/or personal experiences fueled you to start Viive?
I worked as a litigation law clerk and focused primarily on estate litigation for a decade. By the time that families came across my desk they were hurt, insulted and grieving. Once a litigation process was started, there was only so much that I could do to help. Their families were destroyed. You don’t come back from suing your sibling. It started to upset me and I wondered “Why is this happening so much?” I started looking back at past cases and realized that most of the time it stemmed down to a lack of communication between family members. We as a Canadian society do not like to talk about death and money. Elder parents think that they are protecting their adult children by not having conversations about their aging process and end-of-life wishes. However, by not having a conversation about it, they are setting up their children for the possibility of confusion, resentment and jealousy. I realized that to make an impact, I would need to create a company that promoted collaborative planning with families and with trusted service providers and work to change the mindset that we as Canadians have about traditional estate planning.
How have you evolved Viive’s offerings since you started it? What prompted this?
When Viive launched in November 2020, I had a vision of how I would work with families and move them through the service model that we had established. What I learned very quickly is that although the structure is important to establish progress, flexibility must be available as well. Every family is completely different and complex. I quickly realized that I can walk into a household with a plan in my mind of how I would work with a family and would need to be willing to flip that plan upside down moments later after meeting the family, learning about their estate and watching their family dynamics unfold. The work that Viive does with clients is intimate. There is no better word to describe it. And because of the level of intimacy we are asking our clients to share with us, we have to be willing to work within their set of boundaries and limits and make changes to our services to accommodate that.
What are some of the biggest challenges you have to overcome in terms of inciting your target audience to undertake planning?
We have a mindset as to what traditional estate planning is in our country. We think that if we have a Will and enough money to retire, we are set. We also do not like to talk about aging and our end-of-life. When meeting with people (and possibly their families), and trying to entice them to come on board as clients, the most common comments I hear are “Well, I already have a Will so I don’t really need this service,” or “My family all gets along so I don’t know why we need to involve them and why I need to pay for someone to help us talk.” I use a visual aid to help people to see that having a Will is a small piece of the planning puzzle (gotta love a good ol’ pie chart!) and I also remind them that human relationships can change in an instant—even ones with our closest family members. We cannot rely on our family to always be happy, accepting and respectful of each other. We can never truly know how someone will react to grief and loss. It takes some added effort, but it is worth the patience and effort when a family comes on board as clients and we are able to witness their mindset changing as they welcome this new, inclusive and holistic style of planning.
It’s human nature to be driven by immediate gratification. How then have you overcome this to encourage people to invest in a process from which they may not reap the benefits for several years?
I’m very straightforward with potential clients from the very first time we meet or speak. This is not a fast process; this takes time and requires patience, communication, collaboration—oh, and then more patience! Most people just don’t realize how many situations can disturb a family and the plans that we have for our future. Once you outline them and illustrate how any number of situations can affect a client’s family, they are very open to the idea of collaborative planning. They see the value and choose to invest their time and money. Most people do not have someone in their life who takes the time to lay out how complicated aging and end-of-life planning can be and how many different variables there are in any given family. Once those questions and thoughts are posed to them, it is hard for them to ignore them. Most want to be proactive and do something about it.
The pandemic has changed the way the world thinks about wellbeing. What are the top three changes you have observed? How would you say this has impacted Viive?
Death was being pushed into our faces by the media and has been on our minds for the last two years. Whether it was friends or family being sick with or dying from COVID-19, or even deaths occurring because of lack of room and resources in hospitals, it was a highly traumatic time for so many people. I have observed a change in how people think about end-of-life. There is more of an openness to the topic, both in older and younger generations. Being a Millennial myself, I found it interesting how many more of my peers were open to the conversation and I think that stemmed from what we as a species went through the past (almost) two years.
Mental health and well-being are more important to people now. I see that in my clients. They share plans with me that they had for their future pre-COVID, and then describe their plans now. They are focused on joy, wellbeing and letting go of stresses and “the little things” that might have kept them back from other plans for the future in the past.
Viive has benefited from this new mindset in people. they have started to realize the fragility of their lives and they want to have as much enjoyment as possible now, instead of waiting for “the right time”. They see the value in putting plans in place that creates a sense of peace of mind so that they can enjoy their lives as much as possible.
What are the biggest growth opportunities for Viive? if you have a clearly-defined set of values and you stick to them no matter what.
We have been in business for just over a year now. What we’ve seen is that more and more people are open to the idea that aging and end-of-life planning should be a collaborative process. They want someone to shepherd them through that process as they feel ill-equipped and ignorant on the topic. This is a huge growth opportunity for Viive. We provide a service that no other organization in Ontario provides. We help families to plan for their aging process and their end-of-life in a holistic and collaborative way. We connect them with vetted Trusted Partners who provide a wide range of services related to all elements of planning for their future. The more we talk about the importance of holistic planning for everyone’s future, the more we will see a change in the way our society views aging and end-of-life and no doubt, the more we will see Viive grow and help families.