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Working Towards Working Together

When I first met my wife, Patricia, I was head over heels in love. Although, just a few years after our honeymoon, our marriage appeared to be less than ideal. However, we decided we wanted to be married so we found a counselor to help us understand and deal with the good and bad we brought to our union. After 30+ years of counseling we have a marriage that isn't perfect but one that is getting better every day.

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Don’t SWOT the Small Stuff

Probably since the beginning of strategic planning, business owners and their key leaders have been sitting around tables talking about Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.  Maybe you’ve even done engaged in the SWOT process with your team.  The primary reason for a SWOT analysis is to identify and deal with the critical issues affecting your business.

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Family and Business = Harmony or Fireworks?

A dealer recently told me, “I have one brother who is my best friend and one who I don’t talk with, all because of business and financial issues.” Tragic yes, but not uncommon. Having worked with auto dealers and their families for 27 years, I have witnessed situation after situation in which the family business has resulted in lots of family heartache. Fortunately that does not have to be the end result and there are many examples of family dealerships being run successfully by harmonious family members. So what are the landmines that you need to avoid?

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Tips for Approaching Succession Planning with Your Franchisor

A few years ago I encountered a franchisee who had successfully transferred more than $2 million of business value to his children by taking advantage of available minority discounts in conjunction with depressed goodwill and depressed real estate values — a brilliant estate planning move. The only problem was that he had not received permission from his franchisor as stipulated in the franchise agreement.

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I Love My Kids Equally but They Don't Produce Equally

“How do I resolve this issue? If I don’t address this, there will be a mess after I’m gone, but if I open up this can of worms, my life may be hell and my family will be in a uproar.” I asked this frustrated dealer if he was paying his sons the same amount and not surprisingly he said, “yes”. “Do they own equal amounts of stock?” Again, the answer was “yes”. Clearly he had identified the problem but did not know how to resolve it. In almost 25 years of working with car dealers, I have heard this story retold many times. Why? What is the impact upon Succession Planning? 

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Why I Always Encourage Prenups

Returning on another prenup mission I count my blessing that I did not cause a problem endeavoring to avoid one. An important component of succession planning is addressing the potential issues of successors which no doubt includes the considering the dark sides of marriage: death with a dependent widow and divorce. 

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How to Deal with the Sensitive Issues of Succession Planning

If you’ve been thinking about succession planning, you already know there’s a lot to consider.  Dealing with estate minimization, tax avoidance, gifting, buy/sell agreements, etc., etc., can give people major headaches.  And then there’s the human element associated with the transition of wealth, family leadership, and business concerns from one generation to the next, where we sometimes trade headache for heartache.  

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50/50 Partnership Not Working Anymore - How to Resolve While Still Maintaining a Working Relationship

Partnerships are curious animals.  Two or more people start off with a great idea; decide there’s some synergistic benefits in working together; shake hands; and start off with the very best of intentions.  And then everyone lives happily ever after.  

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Family Business Harmony Best Practices

As a business succession planner I believe family harmony is a component of the Succession Matrix®. On a day to day basis I deal with the good, the bad, and the ugly of family business. The good gives me encouragement that family business succession is worth the brain damage and affirmation that there is no such thing as a perfect family. The bad provides me a sense of job security and confirmation that all family issues can be resolved if the parties will just remain engaged. And the ugly makes me question my career choice and acknowledge that the problems on the have side can be worse than those on the have-not. Based upon my 40 years or so experience within this Matrix, I have concluded that facts are stranger than fiction when it comes to inter-family dynamics and no matter how bad circumstances are within a family it can always get worse. Furthermore, I have had an opportunity over my career to identify best practices of families who relatively speaking have achieved family harmony.  

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Family Business Issues: How Do I Play with My Predecessor's Team?

At some point in time, the ownership and leadership batons are going to be passed to the next generation.  When that happens, there's going to be some level of trauma for everyone involved, including the new owner/leader.  When the company becomes "yours", it comes with a team of leaders and advisors that you may or may not like and whom you may or may not trust.  If you are the successor, how do you make the best of this situation?

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Family Business Harmony – DNA Doesn’t Always Cut It

As a family business succession planner I am commonly asked

  • How do I help families find harmony? - And then more specifically;
  • How do I convert skeptical, envious, petty, self serving, back-biters into unified families? And;
  • How do I help them find agreement on goals and processes that will help achieve a mutually agreeable mission?

My response is that I don’t deserve too much credit because family harmony issues on their lightest days are far bigger than this little guy. What I can really take credit for is being a diehard optimist about the potential of family and not knowing when to give up. As you would expect, like most conundrums, there are multiple answers to questions about family harmony. I’ll take a shot at shedding some light on how some families find harmony and others just remain in a quagmire of resentment, angst and anxiety.

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Remembering to Forget - The Secret to Building Family Business Harmony

My final thought on why some families are more effective at achieving harmony and unity is that successful families dwell more in the present than in the past. As even the presumed role model families will admit, it is not always hunky dory on the family front. The fundamental family motivation is “the good of the present outweighs the bad of the past”. My encouragement and advice to clients seeking family harmony and unity is to “remember to forget.” You have choices. First, do I want this/these relationship(s); do I want to have family in more than name only? If yes, you have to remember to forget the pain of the past as it can and will totally pollute the relationship prospects of the future. Being practical, I am not talking about forgetting that your brother-in-law is a convicted bank robber or that your son is a struggling drug addict. I am talking about the personal stereotyping and resentment that if allowed to taint every personal interaction will build and sustain insurmountable boulders in the pathway to strong interdependent families.

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Effective Successor Leadership - Being a Leader Means You Can't Always Be Liked

Let’s continue with my letter to the “Successor,” reflecting my frustrations with his recent performance. We pick up where my straight talk begins to focus on “Successor’s” effort to buy affection and respect...

I hope you found our recent Board meeting worthwhile. As I expressed leaving the meeting, I regret the need for my grinding in regard to you establishing and communicating reasonable performance expectations and formal protocols for expenses, 401k match, profit sharing, pets and hiring family members. All these things continue to support my concern about your compulsion to be known as a good-guy and a propensity to attempt to buy respect and favor from family and employees.

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Increasing Organizational Productivity - What Could Be Impacting Teamwork in Your Organization

Organizational productivity is dependent upon teamwork, which I describe as two or more people working together productively for a common goal. Team can be expressed or implied, conscious or unconscious but irrespective, organizational productivity depends upon the effectiveness of interdependent, collaborative effort. Teamwork can be fair, good or great, but teamwork cannot be bad because the contingency of teamwork is enhanced productivity. The English language does not give us a word that that describes the negative side of group collaboration which we generally associate with uncooperativeness, inter-organizational competition, backbiting and under productivity.

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4 Steps for Building Family Business Synergy - Changing "Dreawork" into Teamwork, Part 1

Trust is the single most critical component of teamwork. In the absence of trust in owners, leaders and colleagues, members of the “dream” (versus team) are looking over their shoulder and subsequently handicapped in their ability to focus on their assigned task.  Building trust is the first answer to how we convert a “dream” into a team that optimizes productivity and creates the Success Margin®. 

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4 Steps for Building Family Business Synergy - Changing "Dreamwork" into Teamwork, Part 2

Trust is the single most critical component of teamwork. Unfortunately, some people are just untrusting and believe in survival of the fastest and the fittest. Employment is just another opportunity to compete, win and validate their belief that they are capable of looking out for number one. Untrusting people expect others to disappoint and their fatalistic attitude generally creates a self fulfilling prophecy to the failure of a team. All forms of personal interaction have one purpose for the untrusting, improve their own circumstances.  They may be referred to as part of a group but the untrusting think individually and functionally, are team members in name only. 

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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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4 Simple Steps to Make Change Easy

We have become conditioned to believe that change is hard.  That is not always true.  For example, we do not even think about the change we made from lying down to rolling over to sitting up to crawling to standing to walking to running.  It happened so naturally that many of us do not even remember when we did not have the requisite skills to perform any of those activities.

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Create Family Harmony Using These Three Words

Family communication and harmony are components of the Succession Matrix® that can support or undermine succession planning strengths and weaknesses. As I work with families engaged in business, I come to the conclusion that harmony is a common goal of all except those consciously committed to terrorism and chaos. Although there is a limit as to how long we can hang out with some family members, putting aside current resentments most of our wants are stable emotions and to interact with family members as joyfully and productively as possible.

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How to Find Common Business Goals Amongst Diverse Family Members

 Families consist of diverse personalities which inherently reflect the greatest challenge to harmony and productivity. There appears to be no end to the challenges presented by divergent personalities within a family. Nothing appears to accentuate inner family personality differences more than an attempt at business collaboration. Those families dedicated to unity and harmony achieve admiration and those who are prepared to do whatever it takes to get attention or make their point, regardless of the emotional collateral damage, create stress and achieve bizarre goals.  Just like the evening news, little attention is paid to the good guys who are affirming unity while headlines are given to the ones who are making life miserable for the rest of the family. In reality it takes conformist to start and build a family business and it generally takes “self aware” eccentrics to achieve extra ordinary levels of success.

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