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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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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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How to Use Your Business Processes to Build a Solid Reputation

A client and I were walking back to my car when she asked, “When should we start to get concerned about our business reputation?” After a few seconds of thought, I answered “Well, if you wait until you have one, it could be too late. So I suppose the best time to be concerned about your reputation is before you actually have one. Then you still have time to help shape it rather than recover from it.”

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The Value of Pre-Marital Agreements

Building a healthy, strong, and long-lasting marriage requires a lot of hard work. Good marriages don’t happen by default, they require intentionality and equality of contribution and effort by both spouses. Unfortunately, even the best of relationships endure many significant challenges. As one marriage psychologist said, “Marriage is really, really, really, really, really hard work for about the first 20 to 25 years…and then, it starts to get kind of good.” This may be an overly negative statement, but it reflects the reality that establishing the foundation of a long-lasting, healthy, and fulfilling marriage is not easy.

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Dealing with In-laws in a sibling partnership

I recently facilitated a reconciliation meeting between a brother and sister-in-law. Since the relationship between the brothers was good, I wondered how did the relationship between the brother and sister-in-law go sour? The sister-in-law was admittedly harboring bitterness toward her husband’s older brother because of her perception of how her husband was being treated in the family’s business. 

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3 Tips for In-Laws in the Family Business

The third step to navigating in-law in the family business is to avoid giving off the appearance that you are motivated by the opportunity to live on “easy street.”  If you see an opportunity to work in your spouse’s family business as just one of many options, and that the job in the family’s business is the best opportunity to fulfill the expression of your talents, strengths, capabilities, and training, then you may achieve success. If it doesn’t work out, that’s okay with you, as you will just move on to the next best option.  This will position you to make an unreserved commitment to the mission of the business and the existing leadership, which will provide for you the highest probability of success.

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In-laws - How to Avoid Becoming an Outlaw in the Family Business

Family dynamics are usually fairly intense among immediate family members. Throw in-laws into the equation and you can have potential build up of underground pressure leading to explosions of volcanic proportions.  Put this pressure in the context of a family business and the lava and ash flows can suffocate the life out of the family and business.  If you’re an in-law connected to a family business, beware, lest you become an outlaw.

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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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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 Perfection Fallacy and How It Holds Us Back

Winston Churchill, perhaps one of the greatest leaders of all time, continues to be a leadership muse for me.  There are a number of highly regarded people writing books and blogs about leadership, often suggesting that following their formulaic approach ultimately makes the difference between a good leader and a great leader.  Such people do us all a great disservice.  To quote Churchill:  “They say that nobody is perfect.  Then they tell you practice makes perfect.  I wish they’d make up their minds.”  

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Does the Perfect Successor Really Exist?

Many people have been told about “snipe hunts” or have experienced “wild goose chases.”   There’s a funny thing about those two expressions.  There really are wild geese; and snipes really do exist, but they are hard to find in the real world.  

Looking for the perfect succession candidate is much like the proverbial wild goose chase or the “hazing induced” snipe hunt.  In some cases, the perfect candidate just doesn’t exist, either within the family or within your traditional circle of candidates.  

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We’ve Got This Great Business No One Wants. Now What Do We Do?

For some of us, this is a classic conundrum – you know, a riddle sometimes having no “good” options.  Fortunately, succession planning almost always involves one or more “good” options.  For our purposes, those options include transition of the business to the next generation; sale to employees or to an outside third party; or, liquidation.  The sooner you know which of these makes the most sense for you to follow, the better off everyone will be.

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What You Should Know Before You Make Someone a Partner/Owner

If you haven’t been in this situation yourself, you probably have one or more friends who have.  They  have rewarded a  highly productive employee by making him/her a non-family partner (NFP) in a family owned business.   

Maybe you’re about to do the same thing yourself.  That’s big of you, really; and some people might actually appreciate the honor you’re bestowing on them. Others will probably think “It’s about time!”  And then, it gets worse.  The loyalty formerly shown to the organization seems to vanish, and the imperial partner syndrome emerges. 

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