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Atlanta Succession Planning

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Atlanta, Georgia

       850.294.3042 (T)
       407.578.4480 (F)

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T. Jeffrey Faulkner, M.S

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Jeff’s private practice in the counseling industry allowed him to gain specialized experience in working with families in crisis and achieving mutually satisfactory resolution of significant family dynamic issues.

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David Weaver, CEC

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David's career spans over 30 years as a successful business executive, where he specialized in the launch and growth of independent startups and new business units across multiple industries. In these roles, he worked with CEOs and executive management to achieve aggressive growth goals and prepare their organizations for eventual sale.

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High Expectations are Confirmation of Your Family Standing

I have the unique opportunity to work with a lot of fathers who are also very successful business owners. Many of these men are regarded by their children as control freaks. I have written before about how to effectively deal with and manage these strong personalities, and it essentially all boils down to learning to set effective personal and professional boundaries and risk the relationship by challenging dad. Today, I want to offer a different perspective that entails getting into the mindset of your control freak dad. 

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Business Growth - Why Determining the Underlying Motivation is Critical to Success

I was interviewing the 4th generation son of a business owner recently and asked about his vision for the company. He described a very aggressive vision for growth through acquisitions and diversification into other locations and channels. This kid has been in the family business all of two years! The business has afforded him a very lucrative and flexible job during difficult economic conditions. Having never even been responsible for running a department within the business, I found this vision astounding. 

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Evaluating Successors - Have You Clearly Communicated Reasonable Expecations

For up-and-coming successor candidates in family businesses, oftentimes their evaluation is not altogether objective or even reasonable. Family member employees live in a fishbowl where nothing they do is seemingly ever good enough. The good stuff they do is seen simply as par for the course. And frankly, that's often because no one in the organization gets a lot of affirmation for their hard work, so why should the "heir apparent." Yet, the errors of successor candidates often become mountains rather than the molehills they are.

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When Sybil Shows Up At Meetings - How to Deal With Emotions that Impact the Succession Planning Process

In some of my recent client meetings, I’ve felt as though some of my clients that have shown up were completely different people compared to my previous interactions while working through their succession planning issues. When I called one of my clients out on this “difference” recently, it was her remark that “Sybil had shown up,” calling to mind the movie depicting a character suffering from a multiple personality disorder. Not meaning to make light of a true multiple personality issue, I’ve been using the analogy ever since, applying it to the dynamic process that I’ve learned succession planning can be.

So, how can an advisor work effectively with the dynamics of succession planning? First and foremost, we all need to remind ourselves that we’re dealing with people and people are, fundamentally, emotional. Therefore, we are dealing with emotions. Further, we need to understand that those emotions are playing out in the relationships of the people involved in and impacted by succession planning.

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Keys for Resolving Conflict in the Family Business

Recently one of my partners and I were facilitating a meeting between a father and his daughter to work through some mismatched expectations between them in the family business. We had already had several prep meetings laying the ground-work for aligning their expectations, which were all positive and headed in the right direction. They were both excited that we were going to be able to help them get some things out on the table as they typically would avoid one another and leave issues unresolved.

However, once the meeting started, the dad took the opportunity to unleash on his daughter with unanswerable questions and acted like a prosecuting attorney trying to corner the defendant into a guilty plea. My partner and I were completely unprepared for this, and of course, the daughter was equally caught off guard. When I gained my composure and realized what was going on, I interrupted the dad by checking in with daughter saying, “if I were you, I’d feel like I’m on trial right now.” She broke down into tears acknowledging that I was spot on with her emotional reaction. Fortunately, this led the way to salvaging the meeting and beginning the process of working through their differences. Later, we apologized to her for not seeing that coming and for not protecting her from her dad’s onslaught quicker.

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How Emotions Can Triumph Over Reason

Whoa! I was totally not prepared for the meeting I just had with my client. I thought I was. In fact, I was very prepared based upon our last meeting and all the decisions that had been made.  However, life, and clients, have a way of throwing you curve balls. Sybil showed up again!

The bottom line is that I came into this meeting ready to facilitate the client making some substantial asset transfers to his youngest son – it was supposed to be a slam dunk. The transfer was going to be of B-Member units in a real estate LLC.  The transfer was for tax planning purposes and to bring the youngest son up to parity with his older brothers on transfers that the father had previously made to them. The transfer would have had no impact whatsoever on the client’s control of the asset or on his income. Simple, right? No brainer, right?

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Feel Lost In the Game? Take A Half-Time Break and Re-Review Your Game Plan

In my previous two posts, I’ve discussed a couple of situations in which significant changes occurred that necessitated updates be made in the succession planning arena. Fundamentally, succession planning is a strategic planning process. Just as in your annual forecasting for your business, you have to review your plan on a regular basis to determine where you are relative to where you want to be, and make adjustments as necessary. 

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When Tax Laws Change, Estate Plans Need Review

I sat down with a long-term client earlier this week and was reminded once again of the importance of regularly reviewing your estate and succession planning. This client is the majority owner of a family owned company and has his children involved in leadership roles. He is in his second marriage to a woman who is not his children’s mother.

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Change In Heart, Leads to Change in Plans - Is Your Succession Planning Strategy In Alignment?

Another situation I dealt with recently during an annual review of planning involved what I refer to as a “five minute bomb.”  Five minutes before the end of the meeting with a client, when I’m preparing to leave and go home, he says to me “oh, there’s something else I forgot to tell you” and it is inevitably an intense subject that requires much more than five minutes to handle.

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What $180,000 Will and Won't Buy You - Evaluating Family Successors

This past week I was with an auto dealer client, and we spent some time evaluating the progress of one of his children in the family business. It quickly became apparent that this heir doesn’t know his way to the bottom line of the financial statement. In the car business, razor thin profit margins are the norm. In fact, in a well-run store, for every one dollar that comes in, only about three cents finds its way to the bottom line. That’s a remarkable statistic, but even in other industries where the margins are higher, a deep understanding of how much makes its way to the bottom line should be drilled into the heads of all employees, especially family members seeking to take over someday.

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8 Seconds After the Boss Is Gone, I'm Gone - Keys for Building Respect Between Your Successor and Key Managers

Over the course of the last decade in working with family-owned companies, I cannot tell you how many times I have heard horror stories of family successors driving their family’s business into the ground. Often times, it is our clients’ fear of this happening in their own businesses that motivates them to hire us in the hopes that we can help prevent this tragedy. In spite of situations that I  have been involved in where, after some time, I begin to share the business owner’s concerns, I maintain hope that I can be helpful in creating solutions to avoid this disastrous downfall.

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Evaluating Successors - Have You Communicated Clear and Reasonable Expectations

In fairness to the up-and-coming successor candidates in family businesses, it should be mentioned that often times the evaluation of them is not altogether objective or even reasonable. Family member employees live in a fishbowl where nothing they do is seemingly ever good enough. The good stuff they do is seen simply as par for the course. And frankly, that’s often because no one in the organization gets a lot of affirmation for their incredibly hard work, so why should the “heir apparent.”  On a side note, that’s a sad commentary on many businesses across our fruited plains in and of itself. And the errors successor candidates make often become mountains made out of molehills.

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Employee Appreciation-Motivation - Unexpressed Gratitude Communicates Ingratitude

At the risk of sounding like I’m contradicting my first two posts, I don’t believe that the business owners, their children, and their employees who all benefit from one another’s contribution are completely ungrateful..  I do believe they suffer from the same thing I suffer from, and perhaps that you suffer from; they are thankful, but just haven’t expressed it. Maybe they are unsure how or they have communicated to everybody their gratification, except for the person that made the contribution.

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Effective Leadership - How to Express Gratitude and Impact Lives

In my first post on this topic I discussed a dangerous trap that many business owners fall into of “ungratefulness.” As the business owner, you were likely the holder of the big idea, capital, cutting edge strategy, or great leadership skills, however; no matter the great skill you may possess, your empire was most likely built by a team of people who bought into your mission. 

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You Didn't Get Where You Are By Yourself - The Importance of Employee Appreciation

One of the ugliest words in the English language is “ungrateful.” Nobody wants to be ungrateful. 2010 was a particularly busy year for succession planning. Many business owners capitalized on the opportunity to transfer assets to their children at deep discounts due to de-valuations and low interest rates in this struggling economy.  Subsequently, I have had the opportunity to  coach people in expressing gratitude.

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Using a Revocable Trust for the Sake of Asset Continuity

One of the most powerful truths I have learned in working with family owned businesses, is that the world of entrepreneurialism moves at a very rapid pace. I have not worked as an employee of a company for 20 years, but my recollection is that being an employee was a more forgiving place, at times with little sense of urgency. Those workers with an “employee mind-set” were more concerned with making sure they got their ½ hour lunch breaks, 15 minute breaks every 4 hours, and punching the clock right on time. The world of entrepreneurs doesn’t work that way. It’s 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. There’s a reason entrepreneurs are referred to as “movers and shakers.”  They eat, sleep, and breathe their business.

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Why Use a Revocable Trust

In my travels around the country working with family owned companies, I am always amazed at the significant and very public role these entrepreneurs play in their communities. Because of this we often recommend the use of revocable living trusts as a part of their succession planning environment. I’m also frequently amazed at the pushback on this powerful planning tool that we get from local attorneys. In one recent situation, our client’s attorney told our client that we did not understand this particular state’s laws and that probate in this state is not a big deal.

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Revocable Trust - It's Now or Later

Having heard, on multiple occasions, from local attorneys that probate is not a big deal, and knowing from experience that, indeed, probate is a big, fat, hairy, expensive, time intensive, insensitive, and emotionally challenging deal, I have asked these attorneys to share with me, from their perspective, just one compelling reason to not use a revocable trust.  Here are the two most common responses I have received:

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Changing Culture by Creating It

As I've said in the previous two posts, the Arizona immigration law is highlighting the obsession our country has with our perceived civil rights with little to no acknowledgement of our responsibilities.  Even to the point of extending these civil rights to individuals who are not legal citizens of our country. No matter where you stand, it’s a very interesting dilemma without an easy solution, because our country is the great American melting pot.

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Likability or Accountability - Do You Have the Right People Driving Your Organization?

In my last two posts, Likability or Accountability: Leadership and The Right People- I discussed the idea that there are several businesses I’m currently working with that are performing and several that are not. The difference between the two is that they either have a culture of likability or a culture of accountability.  The immediate differences between the two suggested differences in leadership, people, and focus on results.

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