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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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Family and Business: Have You Been a Cheater?

Recently a friend shared a book with me titled Choosing to Cheat, by Andy Stanley. Choosing to Cheat is a quick read, but it is very intriguing and prompted me to do a little introspection. The author begins the book by stating that everyone cheats. Now before you wonder why a succession planner is talking to you about cheating, let me explain. This is a book about what can happen when family and business collide. 

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Take a Succession Snapshot - Do you Know Where You Stand?

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Sample - Operating Covenants

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Sample - Successor Development Program

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About The Rawls Group - Business Succession Planners

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Family Business Succession Planning Process

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Sample - Family Member Performance Expectations

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Sample - Family Member Employment Policy

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Family Dyamics and Governance - A Positive or Negative Influence

 “Families” comes in all forms, shapes and sizes including in-laws, cousins, children, step children and even business partners who are also best friends. The relationships you have with those in your formal and informal family have a positive or negative impact on the achievement of your business goals and succession vision. Bickering among active and even inactive family members can frustrate, distract and weaken the focus and commitment of the management team that includes you!

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Case Study – No prepared successor and CEO ready to retire

Industry: Manufacturing

Location: Midwest United States

Company Overview: Second generation, family-owned company 

Succession Matrix® Issues: Leadership & Management Continuity, Management Synergy & Teamwork, Successor Preparation, Family Governance


Challenge: The owner is ready to retire, yet no successor is fully ready to take over. Two of his three children are working in the business with the inactive son uncertain about his future involvement with the company. The two active siblings and senior managers are all trying to compete for the opening CEO position.

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Case Study – Strained Family Relationships Impacting Potential for Successful Succession Plan

Industry: Automotive 

Location: Northeast United States

Company Overview: Family-Owned Group of Auto Dealerships 

Succession Matrix® Issues: Family Dynamics, Management Synergy & Teamwork


Challenge: First generation car dealer looking to pass the business on to the second generation, yet no clear successor. Environment for children full of sibling competition fueled by dad as well as fear of the impression their father has created of them with the other managers and employees. The active son in the business was at odds with the CFO who he felt was his biggest threat for becoming the successor. The daughter was a stay-at-home mom who wasn’t sure where she would fit in if she did decide to come into the car business. The younger son was unhappy and floundering without a clearly defined role (but still taking home a paycheck).

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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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How to Deal With Addiction in the Family Business

Addiction is an unfortunate but common issue that many families have to deal with, and families in business together are no exception. When a family member has an addiction—be it drugs, sex, gambling, or alcohol—the issue must be addressed in order to have long-term family harmony and stability. This is especially critical if the addict is the anticipated successor. Un-addressed, addiction can wreak havoc on a succession plan. 

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Choosing Your Successor - Who Gets to Wear the Crown?

During my first meeting with a client, he pointed to a picture of his two sons on his desk. The boys in the picture were 7 and 8 years old and both were wearing golden paper crowns. He said, “That’s my problem today, they both work in my business and both still want to be the one who wears the crown! 

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Succession Planning - Art and Passion

His ball was moving right and settled in the grass about ten feet away. As the leader of the senior tournament approached, I moved close to watch an amazingly small, relatively elderly, scrawny yet pot bellied gentleman size up his next shot, consult with his caddie and select his club. He briefly simulated his desired swing, appraised the challenge and nodded to his caddie to confirm their planned ball flight over a distant tree. Without apparent concern he addressed the ball, confidently drew back his five iron in a long, fluid swing and effortlessly launched the ball in an amazing high, left to right trajectory towards the green. "Oh my Lord, can you believe how he compresses that ball to a fade? The acceleration of that ball off of his club took my breath away. And the ball cleared the tree and landed on the green like a butterfly. I'm twenty years younger, outweigh him 75 pounds and there is no way I could ever pull of that shot!"

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Family Dynamics - The Different Child

What happens to the child who was different from the rest of the family and was ignored and neglected during childhood? This is a family dynamic that deserves attention. Children need to be noticed, comforted and nurtured to help them find their way in the world. Some children are an easy fit for their parents while other children are much harder for the parents to understand and manage. 

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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 and Business - Have You Been A Cheater?

Recently a friend shared a book with me titled Choosing to Cheat by Andy Stanley. Choosing to Cheat is a quick read, but it is very intriguing and prompted me to do a little introspection. The author begins the book by stating that everyone cheats. Now before you wonder why a succession planner is talking to you about cheating, please let me explain. This is a book about what can happen when family and business collide.

Cheating in the context of this book refers to giving up one thing in favor of another. Each day we make choices with regard to how we spend our time at home with family and in business. When we choose to spend the majority of our time at work or building a business, many times family suffers. Several of my clients and countless prospects over the years have channeled a tremendous amount of time, energy and money pursuing business endeavors which has resulted in not only business success and amassing impressive personal wealth but also failed marriages and fractured relationships with their children. An overwhelming majority that have achieved what they define as the pinnacle of their business career want nothing more than to turn back time and recapture what they no longer have: a successful marriage or a meaningful relationship with their children.  

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Having A Hard Time Creating Buy-In? You May Be Confusing the Business with the Legacy

Not too long ago, a client asked how he could get his family members more excited about the family business.  "What would you do?” he asked.  "Well, what are you trying to sell them: The business or the legacy?"  I asked.  He paused and then replied, "I don't know the difference." 

Does that sound familiar to you?  If you're the family leader, can you distinguish between the business and the legacy?  While they may be one and the same to you, other family members may not make the same connection.

The farther away potential successors get from your motivation and perspectives, the more likely they are to have different understandings of what the legacy really is.  As an example, one of my clients has done quite well for two generations by pretty much ignoring the "green" movement.  Now comes the tail end of the third generation, and guess what repulses them about the business? 

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