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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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Manufacturers Are Coming Out of the Succession Ether, Part 1

The big boys are coming out of the succession ether. These "big boys" are the franchisers and manufacturers representing a wide range of industries that rely on entrepreneurs to sell their products and make their customers happy.

Until recently, these big boys acted as though they didn't respect the talents of their distributors nor acknowledge their vested interest in their ongoing success.  The predominate opinion was:

“We don’t need to worry about the succession of our distributors; there is an endless source of replacement candidates; it is really to our advantage if a distributor fails because we get to pick a replacement that will drink our Kool-Aid.” 

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4 Keys for Picking the Successor that is Best For Your Business

There is another Dan Schneider walking around somewhere is the U.S.A.  I don't know where he lives, but I know a little bit about what he does.  Apparently his skill sets include acting, television productions, and related work that particularly attract the attention of early teens. 

I know this because someone who publishes celebrity phone numbers on the web has posted my office and cell phone numbers on that site.  So, when I get calls now asking if I am the "famous Dan Schneider", I simply say "Yes, I am the famous succession planner; the other guy is the movie star/television producer."

 Now most of these callers have no idea what succession planning is all about, so the calls do not usually last very long; and the caller is almost always disappointed that I cannot make them a screen star.

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Did Your Successor Just Leave?

Sometimes a telephone ring sounds ominous.  When I answered a call from Cliff last Wednesday, that proved to be the case.  "You're not going to believe what just happened.  Jack came into my office and told me he is leaving in two weeks!  I can't believe it - he's the person I've been counting on to be my successor! Now what do I do?"

"You start looking for another one," I replied.  "And this time, let us help you find someone who really wants to be number one of your organization and fits your culture.  Ambition may open the door.  It's commitment that keeps what's inside appealing."

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OPPORTUNITYISNOWHERE

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

If you've had a particularly difficult day or few days, your sentence might read "Opportunity is nowhere."  That's most likely the case if you've gotten disappointing results after completing the "Where Are My People" (WAMP) analysis discussed in my previous blog post.  All of a sudden, you have no successor and things aren't looking real bright when it comes to the key managers and leaders within your organization either.  You might be thinking, "What have I done with that list of business brokers?  I know it's around here somewhere."

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How to Hire the Right People

Regardless of what business you are in, you and your business are only as good as the people that work for you. This sentiment has been shared with me consistently over the past seventeen years regardless of where I have traveled in the United States or the type of family business I have been engaged with at any given time. Recently I attended a local Association for Corporate Growth (ACG) event in Orlando titled “2012 Smart Awards” which recognizes companies in Central Florida that have distinguished themselves culturally, creatively and through the economic impact they have made in the community. Without exception, each of the CEOs that were recognized expressed gratitude and appreciation to their employees who in large part are responsible for the daily success of the company. Having the right people on your team and in the right position can be the difference between success and failure.

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How Financial Independence Can Impact Succession and Growth Goals

We live in the greatest country in the world! As we prepare to celebrate Independence Day, I thought it would be an appropriate time to reflect upon how fortunate we are to be Americans. Each day when we wake up, we have the freedom to choose how we will invest our time, talents and treasure. Thanks to God and our fellow Americans who have gone before us and who have made the ultimate sacrifice to provide us this luxury, we have the ability to make choices each day.  Some of us choose to invest our time, talent and treasures pursuing the American Dream by working for others while some of us choose to build businesses to provide opportunities for others and in an effort to achieve financial freedom and independence. Achieving financial freedom and independence is a challenging endeavor that requires focus, commitment and discipline.

What is financial freedom? Financial freedom implies that one has enough income to maintain their standard of living and therefore has the ability to pursue other interests outside of employment.  Financial freedom in the context of business succession means accumulating enough liquid resources independent of the business whereby you are not financially dependent upon the business to maintain your standard of living.  As a business owner in a family business setting, why is attaining financial freedom so important?

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Strategic Planning and Succession Planning: What's the Difference?

I am often asked what the difference is between strategic planning and succession planning. Strategic planning and succession planning have significant similarity, both being long term endeavors with significant overlap.  The stakes are high in each endeavor. The success or failure of either will have a long-term, lasting impact upon the business. Likewise, unawareness of the importance of the initiatives or an unwillingness to address either initiative will also have an undesired, lasting impact. Therefore, this is a legitimate question meriting an extended answer to avoid confusion. 

Strategic planning is an important component of succession planning and is one of the ten interdependent factors of the Succession Matrix® that also includes: Owner Motivation and Perspective; Successor Identification and Preparation; Key Manager Motivation and Retention; Teamwork and Synergy; Business Structuring; Personal Financial Planning; Family Governance; Leadership and Management Continuity and Family Communication and Harmony. Each of these factors and their interdependence are explained in more detail on our website.

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Strategic Planning and Succession Planning: Different Goals and Teams

As I discussed in my last post, strategic planning and succession planning both are long term endeavors with significant overlap and many similarities. However, the defining and distinguishing characteristics of succession planning are reflected in the differences in these two very important leadership and management initiatives.

The differences are reflected in the goals, scope, focus and the term of these two endeavors. The purpose of strategic planning is the confirmation of goals and priorities and the optimization of business performance through the effective alignment of business resources with performance objectives. Business resources can be broken down into three general categories: time, people and money. Strategic planning endeavors to optimize synergy, productivity and efficiency by confirming priorities and establishing compatible plans for the achievement of realistic performance benchmarks.

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Strategic Planning and Succession Planning: What You Should Know About Expertise and Time Frames

As we have been discussing, strategic planning and succession planning are two different long term endeavors that have many similarities. In my previous post, we looked at the differences in the goals and scope of these two very important leadership and management initiatives. So that we can achieve even more clarification between these two, we will consider the focus and term of strategic and succession planning and how they differ.

If you have a succession plan you have a strategic plan because the Succession Matrix®considers strategic planning one of the ten interdependent factors essential to a complete succession plan. However due to the difference in scope of these two endeavors, it is important to remember that just because you have a strategic plan, you do not necessarily have a succession plan.

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Developing High Performance Culture - Forget About Accountbility, Build Commitment

“We desperately need a culture of accountability around here!    How can I make people more accountable around here (including, in some cases, my children, my parents, my spouse, my siblings)?” 

Well, you can use your power and emotionally or financially abuse people; but that may be what’s gotten you into a commitment bind in the first place.  If you rely mostly on organizational power and position to drive results, you will generally wind up with malicious compliance. 

Why?  When most people think about accountability, they usually picture heads rolling, feet held to the fire, nose to the grindstone, or any other metaphor that refers to people being punished or hurt in some way for not having performed at a high enough level (which is usually either ill-defined or undefined and, on occasion, unrealistic). 

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Family and Business - Have You Been A Cheater?

Recently a friend shared a book with me titled Choosing to Cheat by Andy Stanley. Choosing to Cheat is a quick read, but it is very intriguing and prompted me to do a little introspection. The author begins the book by stating that everyone cheats. Now before you wonder why a succession planner is talking to you about cheating, please let me explain. This is a book about what can happen when family and business collide.

Cheating in the context of this book refers to giving up one thing in favor of another. Each day we make choices with regard to how we spend our time at home with family and in business. When we choose to spend the majority of our time at work or building a business, many times family suffers. Several of my clients and countless prospects over the years have channeled a tremendous amount of time, energy and money pursuing business endeavors which has resulted in not only business success and amassing impressive personal wealth but also failed marriages and fractured relationships with their children. An overwhelming majority that have achieved what they define as the pinnacle of their business career want nothing more than to turn back time and recapture what they no longer have: a successful marriage or a meaningful relationship with their children.  

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