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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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Struggling with Your Business Partner? 5 Ways to Find Common Ground

If you happen to be an active majority partner in a business, you may sometimes find yourself struggling for alignment with your minority partner or partners, especially if the minority partners are also involved in the business.   They assume because they have some percentage of ownership that they have the positional power to make unilateral decisions that move the business in a direction that suits their liking, regardless.  In short, they throw their “weight” around; and they pay little attention to the unintended consequences of doing so.

 

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50/50 Partnership Not Working Anymore - How to Resolve While Still Maintaining a Working Relationship

Partnerships are curious animals.  Two or more people start off with a great idea; decide there’s some synergistic benefits in working together; shake hands; and start off with the very best of intentions.  And then everyone lives happily ever after.  

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Successor Development - The 360 Slam Dunk!

As a sports enthusiast, when I hear the term "360 slam dunk," images of Michael Jordan soaring through the air high above the rim in a Chicago Bulls jersey flash through my mind, which I assume is the case for some of you as well. Unfortunately, this article is not about how to do a 360 dunk a la Michael Jordan but rather the benefit of utilizing a 360 Assessment as a successor preparation tool. The utilization of a 360 Assessment to help identify leadership gaps and coaching opportunities for prospective successors can be an invaluable tool.

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Reflecting On the Future - Succession Planning and Constant Changes in Federal Tax Law

What will the future bring after the last year or so of frenetic estate and business succession planning? I don't have any better crystal ball today than I had last year when I was advising clients to play "use it or lose it" with their gift and generation skipping tax credits. However one thing is for sure, estate and gift tax rates have increased to 40%. That means more liquidity will be required to transfer business interest to the next generation. After adding the State inheritance taxes most taxable estates will be taxed at 50% or more. A 50%+ transfer tax would lead me to believe that there will be no significant let up in estate planning.

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Reflecting On the Present - Succession Planning and Constant Changes in Federal Tax Law

Here it is late January 2013, and I know I am not alone feeling both emotionally and physically tired. The holidays went by like a runaway Power Point presentation. My get-up-and-go has got-up-and-left. Clients that were calling every other day are not to be heard from. They don't want to talk to me, and for a spell the feelings are mutual. With the last minute tax deal which affirmed all the estate tax, gift tax and generation skipping tax credits and exemptions that we were afraid of losing were here to stay for the moment, there is a bit of an empty feeling. There's been some soul searching generating questions such as:

 

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Reflecting On the Past - Succession Planning and Constant Changes in Federal Tax Law

The last two years have been very exciting and challenging. As soon as the Republican leaders figured out that President Obama's definition of finding compromise and achieving consensus meant everyone acknowledging that he was the only brain in the room and agreeing with his ideas, it was assumed that that the President Bush tax cuts were going bye-bye. Consequently, the estate and gift tax rates were going back to 55% and the estate, gift and generation skipping tax credits and exemption were going back to $1MM.

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Where in the World Did You Get The Idea That People Never Change?

Sometimes our beliefs hold us back.  I am talking about what we consider to be “a fact”.  If I had more time and room, I could cite comment after comment that was proven to be inaccurate. Perhaps one of my favorite misquotes is attributed to a former Director of the Patent Office, who supposedly said in 1899 “Everything that can be invented has been invented.”  There’s really no proof that Charles Duell ever said that, so I use it to prove my point and not to trash the former Director.

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The SOAKWU Epidemic and It's Great Threat to Succession Success

Recently a client – Steve – expressed great concern about complacency.  “I think it’s creeping into the organization and the family; and I’m not sure I know what to do about it.  Our numbers still look good, but we seem to have lost the ‘fire in the belly’ that drove us for so many years.”  When I asked him to be more specific, he talked about “cruise control” management; “no one is as good as we are and we’ve paid our dues attitudes”; and entitlement episodes among immediate family members.

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How to Use Coaching to Develop Successor Leaders

Studies conducted by various authors and organizations indicate that it is becoming increasingly difficult to be a successful leader.  In fact, among the Fortune 500 CEOs over the last 20 years, 30% have lasted fewer than 3 years.  According to the Harvard Business Review, an astonishing 40% of new CEOs fail in their first 18 months on the job.   Statistics like those aren’t important.  Usually.  But suppose we’re talking about your successor.  Do you want your successor – and in a family owned business that means your daughter or son – to be one of those casualties or do you want them to become part of the 60% who succeed?

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Successor Development - Trust the Trustworthy

As I go about the closely held business market working with clients and meeting prospects, Successor Preparation and Development and Exit Strategy are very active subjects. The states of mind I encounter in these business owners range from peace and excitement of their impending succession to turmoil and anxiety. Those at peace tend to have a diversity of interests beyond the business and are excited about what they will be doing when they transfer leadership and management responsibility. They are also excited about what their successors will do when they get their time at the plate as they’ve spent quality time and effort training and mentoring them. These owners are proud of their achievements with respect to making the business not dependent upon them. They neither profess perfection nor expect perfection recognizing that their successors will make mistakes and learn from them just as they once did. Most of these at peace owners believe that their successors need to hit only about as well as Hall of Famer, Ted Williams (.402), to take the business to even higher levels of success.  

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Succession Planning Builds Value - Manufacturers Are Beginning to Understand and Promote the Benefits, Part 2

“Big Boy” corporations such as manufacturers and franchisers are in recovery mode from the business downturn of the last four or so years. As these organizations reflect back to lessons learned, they have identified that poor distributor succession circumstances was a critical reason they took such a financial beating.  Simply, their dealers and franchisees had spent all their time working in their business rather than on their business, which would have better prepared them to be able to weather the storm.

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Successor Development and Talent Management: What Makes It So Hard?

Companies like to say that people are their greatest asset.  If that’s really true, why are so many organizations unprepared for facing the challenges associated with recruiting, selecting, and retaining the right people in the right seats?  

According to one COO I interviewed recently, “Talent management puts you under strain because it stops you from doing what you are rewarded for.”  This COO’s sentiment, one that I find many executives agree with, is one of the major obstacles to developing talent, family or otherwise: people simply don’t believe that’s what they’re paid to do.

Whether your business is privately held or publicly held, talent management and successor development in your organization probably share a common financial thread.  In both cases, development is expensed rather than capitalized.  Now you might be asking, “What difference does that make?”  Keep reading.

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Leadership Succession - Whom Do I Develop?

Not too long ago, I spoke to a fairly large gathering of people involved in Human Resources, Organizational Development, and Talent Management.  Some worked for privately held businesses, some worked for the publicly held sector, and some worked for the government sector.  Regardless of their affiliation, all had questions about what groups of people get the benefit of development dollars.

When this topic inevitably came up, I shared a story that goes back more than fifteen years.  My client and I were finishing the definition of the scope of the development project under negotiation.  Tom made it clear that he wanted family members involved, and then he added, “I don’t have to do everyone do I?”  To that I replied, “Of course not, Tom.  You just tell me whom you want to leave ineffective and non-productive; and we’ll skip right over them.”  Tom decided to include everyone.  

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6 Steps For Engraining the Succession Planning Mindset Into Business Habits

As a Certified Succession Planner™, I have the great privilege of talking with business owners, family members, family member employees, and key managers in those businesses.  In one of my most recent sessions, one of the participants asked, "How do you form the habit of thinking about succession and taking action to make sure that it happens?"

That really is a good question. We see later generation leaders vowing that what happened to them will not happen to their spouses, children, or key managers.   Even with the best of intentions, however, we still seem to set ourselves up to repeat history.

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