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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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How Do I Motivate My Children to Choose a Career in the Family Business?

I am commonly asked "How do I motivate my children to choose a career in my business?" Motivation is the ability to influence others to take action. Exterior influence, both positive and negative can generate short-term influence. However, as soon as the source of the influence is no longer present, the motivation begins to dissipate. My belief is that you cannot genuinely motivate someone. Your best hope is to help them internally choose a positive opinion towards your desired actions. 

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Succession Planning: Is There a Right Time to Start?

During a recent presentation, someone in the audience asked if there was a right time to begin putting a succession plan together. I didn't want to sound arrogant, so I simply replied, "Yes, of course there is. What time is it now?" 

Sooner or later, one or more generations involved in a family business wants to talk about succession planning. Sometimes the idea comes from the next generation to lead the business; other times it comes from the generation currently leading the business or from multiple generations simultaneously.

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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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Help! My Parent Won’t Give Me the Chance to Lead the Business

Sometimes when my partners and I make a presentation at a national conference for one group or another, we go through a skit in which members of successive generations go back and forth over which generation should “call the shots.” It ends with the younger generation member saying something along the lines of, “Dad, when am I ever going to have THE seat at the table?  I’ve been carrying this business for the last 20 years and you’re still telling me what to do.  For crying out loud, I’m 53 years old!”  

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Busting a Succession Myth: Talent and Intelligence Are Overrated!

I know.  You thought you were supposed to pick the best and the brightest. Once upon a time so did I.  And then I learned a very important lesson:  The most talented person is not always the best person, and some people really are too smart for their own good.

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Thoughts on Succession Planning and the Business Life Cycle

As a succession planner I am avidly seeking to motivate business owners to take action. Unfortunately, I am not batting 1,000 due to a variety of reasons. Beyond my personality quirks and communication shortcomings, there are many business owners who do not want to become engaged. Irrespective of my attempt to demonstrate how "succession planning builds value" they have limited, if any, interest in addressing the issues that impact the continuation of business success. Timing may be bad or other priorities may be dominating if not consuming excess mental energy. Or perhaps these business owners lack the motivation and experience to spend time and money on something that will not fall strictly into their personal column of benefits. 

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The Importance of Conveying Your Message to the Successor

The immigration debate rages on, as today a federal judge put Arizona’s immigration law on hold, therefore upholding the idea that illegal immigrants, or undocumented workers, depending on your leaning, have rights in the U.S, namely the right to enter our country on their own terms.

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Succession Planning Builds Value

The valuation of a business is an assumption of future productivity based upon the perception that the multiple value drivers at play within a business will continue.  An appraisal (of value) is simply an analytical assumption of the future productivity of current value drivers supported by historical performance combined with assumptions as to how those value drivers can be or will be impacted by future circumstances.  

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Skip Generation Cross Purchase Agreement

A new client consisting of two 50/50 partners expressed a desire to develop a buy-sell agreement around life insurance policies that they had been sold prior to my engagement. This was an extraordinary business reflected by the unique synergy created by the 50/50 partnership. Each partner had brought unique skills sets to their business that had been affirmed by success beyond anyone’s imagination. The values involved were tens of millions. The planning initiative also involved the updating of estate document and the initiation of strategic gifting.

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The Difference between a Family Member Employee and a Successor

A client who managed the family business alongside his two siblings recently told me his son was graduating and he wanted to develop a plan for his son to join the business. The client wanted this successor development curriculum so he could give his son the assurance that he was being fast tracked.  He stated it was very important for his son to catch up to his cousins who entered the business six years earlier, otherwise his son may not be considered as a viable successor candidate.  I responded with an explanation that a family business could have the good fortune to have more than one successor. 

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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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Rediscovery: The Secret to Life Transitions

Regardless of the kinds of activities you follow – sports, music, movies, politics, etc. – you’ve probably wondered why some people hang around for so long, and sometimes too long. Brett Favre may have played one season too many. Frank Sinatra may have sung a few years too many. Why it happens is fairly simple; and how it happens should be a lesson to all of us. 

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Succession Planners, Exit Planners, Family Business Advisors: What’s the difference?

Succession planner, exit planner and family business advisor are terms often used interchangeably providing the assumption that they all share the same meaning. While the exit planner and family business advisor endeavor to address some components of succession planning, there is a clear distinction between their limited scope and the comprehensive mission of a succession planner.  

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How Do I Get People Focused on a Model of Excellence?

If you want people to focus, you have to give a clear picture of what you want to have happen. Business is a funny animal. Sometimes we start out building a racehorse, and we wind up with a camel that can be more stubborn than a mule. All three are useful; all have their place; and all can get you where you want to go. But the ride’s ease and comfort in getting there will be different. 

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The Pope and the Catholic Church: A Succession Planning Case Study

 As I embark on my first article as a member of The Rawls Group, I figured I might as well throw myself into the deep end and entertain a topic that is undoubtedly surrounded by controversy: religion. The recent changes occurring in the leadership of the Catholic Church have not only fascinated me, but have also led me to ponder how such a significant change to this steadfast organization will affect the group as a whole. And I am not simply talking about those directly involved in the selection of the next leader of the Catholic Church; I’m also referring to the millions of citizens around the world that look to the Pope for guidance, purpose and support. 

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