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Transfer Stock: Gift or Sale

Recently a business owner approached me with the following: I am considering transferring some company stock to my son and possibly some talented managers. He stated, each person has made significant contributions to the business and a few of them feel they have already earned the right to some of the stock via sweat equity. He asked, should I gift or sell the stock to them?

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Succession Planning Techniques Often Overlooked

“Is there anything you would have done different than your father regarding estate planning?”  “Yes”, replied the son.

The son, now a highly successful auto dealer, was emphatic in his response.  “Dad was unwilling to do anything. He thought he would lose control.  We were lucky he died during good market conditions - our dealership products were hot and the real estate market allowed us to sell assets to pay the estate taxes.  We could have lost everything!”

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Are You Missing Out on the Successor Right In Front of You?

 "Loyd, thank you for coming to see me. Please sit down," Mr. John Doe, the elderly but fit gentleman, offered as we settled into his office. Settling back into his chair, he continued. "My accountant attended one of your succession planning seminars and suggested we talk. We have three dealerships. I have a son who is pretending to run our stores. I also have a daughter and a son-in-law who work here. I own 35% but 51% of the voting stock. I don't know what to do," he continued apparently relieved to have someone to speak to. "My son will not listen to me. And unfortunately he is the only capable family member. I doubt he works 40 hours a week; he says he works from home. I know he trains for marathons, coaches his son’s baseball team and never misses a school meeting. Meanwhile, the businesses underperform. When I threaten to fire him he just smiles and says do what you have to do. My son-in-law wants me to appoint him the Dealer but he's had some issues with drugs," he offered with a conciliatory shrug of the shoulders. 

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Fifty-Fifty, Not So Nifty

As a business succession planner, I encounter the full gamut of dealership business structures, Regular C corporations, S-corporations, partnerships and limited liability companies. I have had clients owned by public corporations and foreign corporations, and even one client who boasted he was the only sole proprietorship dealership in the United States. That relationship was short-lived - he was not pleased with my response.  

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Are You Overpaying Your Children? Be Aware of the Potential Long-term Impact

So, in my first two posts, How "Over Giving" to your Kids Can Impact Future Succession Goals, and Did Your Child Earn That Title? The Impact of Giving What One Doesn't Deserve, on this subject I have discussed how a past pattern of giving can have a negative impact on the eventual gifting of business assets.  The previous posts focused on two common areas where business owners "give" to their children, which can create havoc on the business, successor development and family dynamics - giving your child a job or a title without earning them. 

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Did Your Child Earn That Title? The Impact of Giving What One Doesn't Deserve

In my last post How "Over Giving" to your Kids Can Impact Future Succession Goals, I discussed how past gifting behavior can impact and create unnecessary challenges the transfer of business assets to your children. A common first thing given to children, which sets a tone for future gifts is a job, I recommend for you, your business' sake and for the development of your children, they should earn it.

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How "Over Giving" to Your Kids Can Impact Future Succession Goals

The eventual transfer of business related assets to children is a common concern shared amongst family business owners. As a result, client meeting discussions often turn towards evaluating the most effective approach. 

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Family Business Issues - It's All About Perspective

"I cannot handle this anymore. Dad does not respect me. He questions my decisions, charges jet fuel and dinners with his friends to our credit card. I cannot stand this any longer." 

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5 Keys to Building Your Personal Influence

Not too long ago, a General Manager and I began working together to enhance his communication skills.  However, as we worked together I realized his real desire was more about influence versus communication.  He wanted to have a 360◦ level of influence.

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Family + Business = Harmony or Fireworks?

A business owner 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 business owners and their families for over 30 years, I have witnessed situation after situation in which the family business has resulted in family heartache. Fortunately, that does not have to be the end result; there are many examples of family businesses being run successfully by harmonious family members. Some landmines that you need to avoid that will enable success in business operations include: 

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Complications of an In-Law Employee

Succession planning takes a business owner in many directions. Not all families have natural successors, and not all family members are cut out to work in a family business. Furthermore, in many circumstances business owners desire to supplement the finances of unemployed family members. Therefore, I am commonly asked what to do about employing in-laws. My common answer is to tread carefully; hiring an in-law is a big deal and a complex undertaking.  

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Succeeding the Old Fashioned Way

The look on my face when the 54 year old dealer told me that he was promoting his 28 year old son to be the GM was a dead give away. “Why is that a problem? – I was a GM at that age!, he said.” And obviously it worked out great for this dealer, so why was I questioning his decision to promote his son? The issue I told him is that he grew up in an entirely different set of circumstances than the world his son experienced and the maturity levels created by such are hard to replicate. 

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Planning Techniques

“Is there anything your father should have done that he didn't regarding his estate planning?" "Yes" said the son...

That question was posed by the father’s original dealership partner (now in his 80’s) to the son several years after the father’s death at a meeting in which I participated. The son, who is a highly successful auto dealer, was very emphatic in his response. “Dad was unwilling to do anything because he thought he would be losing control. We were lucky – the timing of his death was during good market conditions when our dealership products were hot and the real estate market allowed us to sell assets needed to pay the estate taxes. We could have lost everything!” 

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Living in Dad's Shadow - When Kin Can Cash In

"I love coming to work every day!” exclaimed the 81- year old dealer. No doubt and he definitely still had plenty of gas left in his tank! Energetic and mentally sharp, his idea of “retirement” was to come in to work at 10:00 a.m. (“but I stay at least until 5:00 p.m.”). As the founder of his dealership empire, he was extremely proud of what he had accomplished and still felt he could contribute and run the business if he had to. So what’s the problem? 

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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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Successor Development: 5 Key Indicators for Evaluating a Successor

If multiple successor candidates are available, it is important for you as the business owner to objectively approach selecting the successor leader. To evaluate the candidates, you can use what I refer to as the 5 C’s, which are five key traits your ultimate successor should have. 

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Is Your Successor Ready to Take Over Today

I saw a cartoon recently in which the owner of a business said to his son as they gazed out of the window on the family business, “Someday Son, this will all be yours, unless I can come up with a better solution!” That statement echoes the sentiment of many dealers I’ve worked with who are worried that their son or daughter is not prepared to be able to lead the company if something happened to Dad today. 

The question that needs to be answered involves the following: Is your successor identified, trained, approved by the manufacturer/s, respected by management and able to run the company successfully today? This may involve your son or daughter, or possibly a key manager. Unfortunately, in most dealer’s situations, the answer would be “no” or “I hope so”, neither of which is a satisfactory answer.

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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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Tips for In-Laws in the Family Business

There are many potential landmines for in-laws in a family business environment. To navigate them successfully, keep the following simple steps in mind: 

  1. Acknowledge your role as an in-law. You are “family” with a caveat. Tread carefully and treat everyone with respect.  
  2. Understand the family’s unwritten laws. Observe and strive to uphold those laws. 
  3. Maintain pure motives regarding your involvement in your spouse’s family business. 
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