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Succession Planning or Building Business Value Planning?

There are many reasons why succession planning may be an unpopular topic. Some of which may be:

  • It appears to overwhelming and too emotional to address

  • A fear of giving up control, not wanting to retire, or addressing the inevitable of all humans – our mortality

  • The monetary/ time investment appears to much for the business

  • To excited and focused on growth to think about “the end”

I am not going to minimize any of the reasons above for avoiding succession planning, as they are very valid arguments however; I would like to challenge your thinking on the concept to see if I can move it up on your popularity scale. To do this, I am first going to provide a definition of succession that is much more comprehensive than misconceptions may lead you to believe.

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Regrettable but Reality – Facing Challenging Family Business Decisions

In spite of family dynamic issues, ABC Auto, a second generation multi franchise dealership group was “successful.” Dad, our original client from 35 years ago, was quite the dynamo. He had been a very successful domestic dealer in a prosperous community. Back in the 80's he also accumulated an assortment of lucrative import franchises before they were hot. Both of his sons came into the business and worked their way through the various seats with energy, enthusiasm and varying degrees of success. Against my recommendation, however; their dad did not hold them accountable for performance, elevated them quickly to management, paid them and passed ownership to them equally. He just could not bring himself to make a decision as to who would lead and who would follow.

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Identifying Successors - Can I Have Multiple Successors?

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~ An Excerpt from Family Business Heartburn Relief™~

The vast majority of businesses have a designated "successor leader." However, a business can have multiple successor candidates, who can provide support to "the leader." Successor candidates include any family member or key manager who brings value to the business and is prepared to serve as a leader with a goal of perpetuating the success of the business.

Multiple successor candidates ideally generate a team of successors who are led by the successor leader. The interaction of multiple successor candidates can be complex especially if there are no expressed parameters for sibling/cousin/Key Manager interaction; or if back biting, resentment and rivalry are tolerated. However, assuming there is mutual respect among the group of next generation successors, the more successors who have skin in the game and a vested interest in continued success, the merrier. Multiple successors, effectively managed, create organizational strength, resilience, power and leadership bench strength. 

Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for an electronic version of Family Business Heartburn Relief

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Why Do I Procrastinate and How Can I Stop?

A friend of mine believes very strongly that no one should do today what they can put off until tomorrow. He is the ultimate procrastinator; and he's quite happy with where that's taken him in life. He simply does not buy in to the notion that any non-emergency has to be dealt with today. His rationale is all based on a Rolling Stones' hit titled "Time Is on My Side."

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When is the Right time to Discuss Succession Plans with Family Members?

In 1988, Jack was thrust into the leadership position of the family business his father started in the late 1950’s. At the time Jack took over the family business there was only one dealership and approximately sixty-five employees. Over the years the business had become highly productive and profitable in large part due to his father’s incredible work ethic, customer focus, business savvy and knack for attracting quality employees. Jack’s father was a humble man who attributed much of his success to luck, good fortune and being in the right place at the right time. “Timing is everything” was a phrase Jack’s father used frequently. From a business perspective, there very much could have been some truth to timing and being in the right place at the right time but for Jack, timing could not have been worse!

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Interview - Key Issues Impacting Dealership Succession Plans

Check out Dan Schneider's Interview on Car Business Today where he discusses key issues impacting your dealership's succession plan. 

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Interview - Why Your Dealership Needs a Succession Plan in Place

Check out Jeff Faulkner's Interview on Car Business Today where he discusses why your dealership needs a succession plan in place. 

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Keys to Preparing Your Successor

Just as there are many roads that lead to Rome, there are many paths that can be taken when it comes to preparing your successor. Many Dealers believe operational experience in the front and back ends of the business and participating in learning opportunities such as Dealer Academy are all that is necessary to become a successful auto dealer. Operational rotations and successfully completing industry education are extremely valuable steps in the successor preparation process. However, this approach often results in a false sense of security for both the Dealer and the aspiring successor as other critical developmental opportunities are omitted. So, what else can you do to ensure your successor is adequately prepared to lead your business in the future? Here are some tips to help ensure your successor is equipped to take the leadership baton and successfully run with it.

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How Many Hats are Too Many?

There are many elements that are key to a successful business and it is not a walk in the park. Most often, some of these characteristics include:

  • A strong leader who is on top of their business
  • Someone who is able to wear many hats and put out fires as they arise
  • Someone who has earned the respect of their managers who would follow them anywhere
  • And someone who is aware of the daily activities of their business and operates with an open-door policy their managers are happy to take advantage of

While this leadership style is currently an asset to operations, it is also a liability to succession.

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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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Changing Family Business Perspectives for the New Year

Reflecting back on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years you may be thinking I have had all the family I can handle. No doubt, these are wonderful family holidays but within the realm of the family business it is very easy to get "over-famlied" and conclude "I need some space; I don't need more of the same crap I get at work at home". The ambient stress, frustration, resentment and acrimony with parents, siblings, cousins, in-laws or children can drain your enthusiasm and consume your patience, blocking your ability to apply your skills and talents towards the productivity of your family's business. As a result, you may be looking at going back to work like another opportunity to stick your hand in the garbage disposal. If family relationships have drained your New Year family business enthusiasm it is time for you to consider new perspectives that will relieve relationship pressure and potentially reinvigorate Family Dynamics and Harmony.

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Wills and Trusts - How to Keep Your Family and Business Matters Private During Probate

As a succession planner, I am in constant dialogue with my clients’ attorneys about appropriate estate planning structures. Depending upon the state of residency, the training, and the perspective of the attorney, the dialogue can be interesting, especially when it comes to a few of my preferred structures, simple Pour Over Wills and Revocable Trusts. As we discuss these options, I commonly hear, “We can accomplish the same objectives with a Testamentary Trust Will.”, which is a Will containing a trust that is funded after the completion of probate. However, my classic response is, "Our clients who own a family business, and to varying degrees are subject to greater publicity and scrutiny, would prefer to remain private, and depending upon the state, avoid the hassles of probate, which cannot be guaranteed with a Testamentary Trust."

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OPPORTUNITYISNOWHERE

Take a close look at the letters above. Now, without changing the sequence of the letters, break those twenty letters into a sentence.

If business has been tough or you don't feel passion or commitment from your people, your sentence might read "Opportunity is nowhere." You might be thinking, "What have I done with that list of business brokers? I know it's around here somewhere."

Tempting as that broker search might be, don’t jump at it. Those same twenty letters can create another sentence: "Opportunity is now here." Same twenty letters, same and yet a completely different approach to finding a solution.

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How Financial Independence Can Impact Succession Goals

What is financial freedom? In the context of business succession, financial freedom means accumulating sufficient liquid resources independent of the business whereby the owner doesn’t have to rely on business profits to maintain their standard of living.  Why is attaining financial freedom so important for a business owner in a family business setting?

Developing wealth independent from the business is paramount to an effective business transition. Financial independence affords the owners freedom to transfer some managerial and leadership responsibilities to successors without fear of them burning the entire house down. In essence, you have the opportunity to see your successors in action and determine if and to what extent additional coaching and mentoring may need to take place.

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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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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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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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Avoid Having “Have” Problems – Understand Your Responsibilities as a Successful Businessperson

Business succession planning is not a well understood profession. Consequently, I am commonly asked what do I really do? After confirming that "No, I am not a life insurance salesman," I commonly express that I deal with problems on the have side. After contending with the chuckling I endeavor to defend the virtue of what I do by explaining that have problems don't get much sympathy because of the assumption that people who are not wanting, really don't have problems. From my unique perspective, I assure you this is not the case.  

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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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Wimps Lose Out! Plan for the Future of Your Business

Succession planning is not a project, but an ongoing process requiring strength, resilience, and sometimes pure guts! Here are some steps to help you navigate the process of planning for the future and continued success of your business. 

  1. Develop a Vision – Affirm the concept that “the end must justify the means,” and take the first step for planning for the future of your business by developing a vision. This vision should be an inspiring and motivating mental image of what you want to see happen in the future such as: 

    • In 10 years, I want to be cruising on the Riviera while my business remains profitable! 
    • I want to build x-amount of value in my business so I can sell it by 2030 and live off the proceeds! 
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