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How To Define Your Vision - First Comes Confusion, Then Comes Clarity

Last week, we began talking with a client who is just beginning the succession planning process.  His comments were telling:  “We have been talking about this for years; and until now, we’ve managed to avoid dealing with some of these questions.  We did not like pushing ourselves so far out of our comfort zones.  It was uncomfortable; it was disorienting; it was confusing.  Last week, it all began to come together; and now, we wonder why we waited so long.”

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Successor Development: 5 Key Indicators for Evaluating a Successor

Once there are available successor candidates, business owners should take a less instinctive approach to selecting a successor from the candidates by evaluating some key traits. We refer to these traits as the 5 Cs: Character, Confidence, Capability, Competence, and Community.

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Bigger versus Better: Business Growth and Succession Planning

Succession planning is all about the long-term continuation of success through the next generation of owners and managers. Discussions of long range success generally bring up the subject of growth. This is a natural discussion because inherent with the concept of being successful is the assumption that successful businesses are vibrant and “growing” businesses. Furthermore, there are many who believe that succession and growth are synonymous. This belief is based upon the assumption that if you are preparing for the continuation of success there must be growth because competition is increasing and margins are decreasing.

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How to Use Your Imagination to Improve Business Performance

“I've really got to use my imagination - To think of good reasons - To keep on keepin' on”        .....Gladys Knight and the Pips

Have you ever heard this song?  It’s an early version of an almost worn out contemporary expression – think outside the box.  Generally, when we have performance/behavior issues within the business (or the family), we tend to follow a relatively safe process:

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Move Beyond Your Limits - The Imaginary Power of "What If"

Last Saturday, four of us took in “Letters to Juliet”.  It turned out to be much better than I had expected; and a few of the lines reminded me how powerful two simple words can become when they are placed right next to each other.  As the title suggests, those words are “what” and “if”.

For the moment, clear your mind (and your heart) of everything except those two words.  Use them to begin a string of sentences.  The sentences can range from the ridiculous to the sublime.  Here’s what I mean:

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Why Do You Have to Market Business Succession to the Family?

How much cash does your business invest in marketing?  No, not marketing to your customer base.  I mean how much do you spend on marketing to your employees and to your family. If your answer is anywhere from “Where did you buy that tobacco?”  to “Nothing.”, then you need not be surprised if your employees and your family members are somewhat less than engaged in your succession dream.

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Can You Be Too Optimistic for Your Own Good?

What do you think?  Can you be so optimistic that you are completely out of touch with reality?  Can you believe so strongly in your own dreams and ambitions for yourself, your family, and your business that you just do not “get it”?

Just a few days ago, I discovered that one of Frank Sinatra’s trademark songs from a few decades ago is now a ringtone for cell phones.  Written by Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen, “High Hopes” is all about the need to believe you can overcome great odds against success. 

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How to Inspire Your Family With Your Succession Planning Goals

A classmate named “Howie” had a signature response to almost every exhortation that was meant to move him from one course of actions to another.  No matter how gifted the speaker or the written communication, Howie could be counted on to raise a simple question:  “And I should care because . . . ?”

We often believe that the power of what we say and/or do has the immediate impact of creating a compelling interest to do, buy, or follow.  When it does not, we generally think that others “just don’t get it.”  That is probably true.  But why do they “not get it”?

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Keys to Effective Leadership for a Family In Business

Family in business can be a significant advantage or a reciprocally significant disadvantage. The absence of respect and/or trust between the members, regardless of a common gene pool, confirms just a struggling Blood Related Business Group not a family. The struggles are known to all group dynamics as in rivalry, resentment, pay-back and other bizarre behaviors and attitudes that attempt to provide protection from perceived flesh eaters. Love is no antidote to the ills of this environment and predictably amplifies the frustration and anxiety associated with the disrespect and distrust from loved ones. In the absence of love, the rational members of the BRBG generally stop taking the abuse and move on to a more tolerable and reasonable environment. Whereas respect and trust provide inherent productivity advantages, distrust and disrespect provide an equally if not greater disadvantage.

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I've Sold My Business, Aren't I Done With Succession Planning?

Recently I was invited to speak to a group of successful business owners about the various aspects of succession planning (what I refer to as the Succession Matrix). The Succession Matrix consists of ten interdependent factors that business owners must successfully address to improve the odds that their business will successfully make the transition to and through the next generation of owners and managers. Addressing these factors is important regardless of whether you plan to sell your business or plan to keep it in the family. Often times these critical factors are ignored and unfortunately result in the business becoming another casualty.

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Effective Leadership - You Set the Tone

A few days ago I came across the following piece titled IT'S UP TO ME by Haim Ginott

“I've come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It's my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child's life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or de-humanized.”

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Is Your Success Left Up to Chance?

In the movie Lawrence of Arabia, Captain T. E. Lawrence has to shoot someone he had once saved.  One of his Arabian allies slaps him on the back and says “It was written.”  Lawrence promptly responds with “Nothing is written. “  Both men had a strong conviction.  One believed in destiny, the other in choice.

Belief systems powerfully shape your culture, impacting your business strategies:  how products and services are manufactured, designed, marketed, and delivered.  How successfully you implement these strategies will determine business performance.  And, how successfully your business performs may decide whether your enterprise is a golden goose or a dead duck.

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Successor Development - How Good is Good Enough?

I was recently in a meeting with a son of a business owner, who was the identified 3rd generation successor leader to his family’s business. We were talking about some communication challenges he was having with his dad. His dad is a larger than life kind of guy, one whose shoes are hard to fill.  So, I asked, “What seems to be causing the difficulties?”

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Is Your Family a Liability to Business Value?

“We want you to be part of our family” is the common accolade. “We want to think of you as one of our children and we hope you feel the same. Make yourself at home and we will treat you like one of our own.”

To be considered a part of the family is a compliment in any social setting. You have standing. You can be counted upon and you can expect the benefit of the doubt. The more perceived social, political or financial power imputed to a family, the greater the compliment. Within the family business realm, being told you are a member of the family generally creates an immediate feeling of prestige reflective of the depth and breadth of the family’s business.

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Dream for Success - How to Turn Your Dreams Into Successes

In my last post, I told you that I have a unique advantage of working with the leaders of America. I also have the unique opportunity of working with their successors. One of the hardest things to do in this environment is convey the years of experience and the intuitive business sense of a current leader to the next generation.  So, I try to learn from these leaders to determine what it is that they have that can help the younger generation bridge the gap of inexperience. The first essential for success that I shared in the first post is that they take personal responsibility.

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Personal Responsiblitily - How Successful People Leverage This Characteristic

Conveying the seemingly intuitive business sense that comes from years of experience is a leadership trait that cannot be had by any other method than experience.  Closely related to the gaining of experience is that business leaders have learned to take initiative.  Without initiative they would not have learned some tough lessons along the way that, in essence, is what experience is all about.

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Are Your Bases Covered? - There are Loved Ones Dependent Upon You

Although many of us feel we are in control of every aspect in our lives, the first week of November rudely reminded us how fragile life truly is. The unexpected massacre in Fort Hood, Texas changed the lives of countless families and friends, especially those who lost loved ones. Imagine for a moment you went to work today and due to some unexpected tragedy such as the deadly shooting at Fort Hood, did not make it home? How would that financially and emotionally impact your spouse or significant other? How about your children? What about your business? Be truthful. On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the best, how well have you prepared for the unexpected?

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Financial Affairs - Eliminate Surprise For Your Loved Ones

Thirteen years ago, a new client who lost his wife prematurely came to me with a large box full of papers that included several pieces of financial information including a dozen or so old life insurance policies. He had no idea if the life insurance policies were in force or not. Needless to say, investigating the content in this large box was quite time consuming. During one of the lowest points in his life, losing his wife of thirty years, this gentleman and his children were tasked with pulling the pieces of their financial puzzle together.

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8 Tips for Growing Your Capital Assets: Time, People, and Money

Businesses have three primary resources or forms of Capital:   Human Capital (people relationships); Temporal Capital (time management); and Financial Capital (liquid/illiquid assets).  Each of these is interconnected adds or detracts from the value of a business.

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Stumped By Succession Issues - The Succession Matrix Will Help You Find Your Way Out

Two weeks ago I received a phone call from a business reporter who writes mostly for and about one specific industry.  The reporter reads the blogs that my partners and I write, which are about succession planning; and he/she wanted to talk with one or more of us for background information on a story being written about succession planning for families in the industry.

After the usual exchange of pleasantries, we got to the article.  The first question was really quite typical:  How much succession planning experience do you have in this industry (i.e., how many industry clients)?  In a way, this is simply a variation on the wicked queen’s “Mirror, mirror on the wall” question from the Snow White fairy tale.

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