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What is the True Meaning of Survival?

How do you define succession? It’s a mouthful – so be prepared. The definition is “The formal definition is the continuation of success through the next generation of owners and managers through proactive reconciliation of predictable, probable and possible contingencies.” Yes, that is an intense definition, so let’s not dwell on the formal definition any more. So what’s the practical definition of succession? SURVIVAL!

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Success - It is a Shared Thing

As a survivor who has passed the foremost trial of succession, it’s a good time to make an assessment of the things you have done right.  There is no future dwelling on the negative. On the bright side, your survival affirms my theory that as a survivor, there is nothing you do wrong that cannot be many fold reconciled by the things you do right. As expressed earlier, success is not always defined in terms of those thin disguises purchased with prior profits. How many examples have you seen of people with mansions, yachts and jets going bankrupt? Success, which comes from the things you are doing right, is a NOW thing. 

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Does Survival Mean Success?

Hopefully you buy the Right Reconciliation Theory: assuming you have survived, there is nothing you do wrong that cannot many fold be reconciled by the things you do right. I know there are many ways of taking exception to this theory but from a succession planning perspective, it works. There are ten diverse components to the Succession Matrix that give plenty of opportunity to do things right and wrong. We all have our strengths and our weaknesses which from a realistic perspective means that on the norm, we are doing some things right and some things wrong. As an example we could be knocking the market dead with profitability while being totally insensitive to the development of a successor. Or reciprocally we could be so involved in the development of our successor that organizational productivity falls through the basement.

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How to Build Value in Three Forms of Capital Assets

I like to use the words capital and resources interchangeably.  So, from my perspective, there are three kinds of capital and/or resources available to us all the time.  Those three kinds of capital or resources are basically:  People; Time; and Money.

Let’s put people first, so we will begin with building the value of human capital.  There are probably several varieties available, but the more recognizable forms include Leadership Capital, Family Capital, and Culture Capital.

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Let Your Successor Experience It All

Confirming the optimum role for a family member entering the business is an exciting process that takes patience, honesty and proactive aggressive coaching. For the family member to have the opportunity to achieve their ultimate role the most important developmental activity is establishing, monitoring and refining a three to five year on-the-job-training plan that exposes the candidate to most if not all the departments of the business. This development track should offer diversity and challenges that provide sufficient feedback to confirm the optimum job role.

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In-Laws - You Can be a Positive or Negative Force, Your Choice!

The second step to navigating the role of an in-law in the family business environment is to seek to understand the family’s unwritten laws -  if you don’t know them, you will not know whether you are about to break them.  Knowing the laws allows you to discover how to best live within them, and potentially even have a positive influence on those laws over time. However, you must understand as an in-law that no one has asked you to come in and be the rescuer and change all of the dysfunctional dynamics that occur in your spouse’s family.

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Beating the Odds: Four Building Blocks to Create Change

recent survey of 3,199 business owners and executives indicates that only about 30 percent of programs addressing “change” succeed.  Where 30 percent sounds low, that is considerably higher than the success rate of programs addressing generational changes of business ownership or succession.  If both programs involve managing new behaviors, why is the success rate for one so much higher than the other?

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3 Keys to Inspire Change

There are four building blocks that serve as cornerstones for successful change and, by extension, successful business and family transitions.  These four are:  Inspiration; Stake in the Game; Tools; and, Feedback.

A truly rational person, Star Trek’s Mr. Spock, relies on common sense to convince others to move in a certain direction.  This approach, with all its logical merits, often results in misdirected resources of people, time, money, and unintended consequences for one simple reason.

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How and When to Turn Over or Sell the Reins

Today, let’s talk about how you set the stage for a graceful and timely exit.  Depending upon your disposition of the business – sale, family transfer, outside management - some of the steps listed below may take anywhere from a few years to a couple of decades to implement effectively.  So, the sooner you begin this process, the sooner you will be able to begin climbing other mountains. 

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Are You Falling Victim to the "Can't Leave" Syndrome?

In August of 1972, the celebrated childrens’ author Dr. Seuss addressed the issue of succession planning.  His chief character in the book, “Marvin K. Mooney – Will You Please Go Now!” just couldn’t bring himself to get out of the way and let someone else take center stage.  Almost two years later, in July of 1974, Dr. Seuss changed his main character’s name to Richard M. Nixon and sent his revised book to columnist Art Buchwald.  Buchwald received permission to publish the revised lyrics; and nine days later, on August 8, Richard M. Nixon went.

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Goals: Turn Them Into Reality

We probably all know a lot of people and businesses with bold, audacious goals.  Some of them get accomplished.  Some of them don’t.  What happens to those that don’t?

After years of working with individuals, families, and various types of business organizations, I have come to the conclusion that people who realize their goals have a plan for doing so.  They are not content to be “dreamers”; they focus instead on being “doers”.

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I Have No Qualified Family in the Business - What Are My Succession Options?

In previous posts we touched lightly on the staggering statistics that show nearly 75% of all family businesses will have difficulty with perpetuating business success. Continuing business success into another generation is often dependent upon a variety of key managers, especially if you do not have family in the business or your family is unqualified for ownership. In effect, they become the “Succession Bridge” because a committed group of competent, capable, and committed managers can keep the company moving forward.

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What Happens When There Are Multiple Successors and the Eldest is not the Best Qualified?

In many, if not most, family owned businesses, there seems to be at least one member of the next generation who wants to take a crack at being Number One.  What happens when there are multiple successors and the eldest is not the best qualified? 

The wrong choice can, and probably will, have devastating consequences on future family harmony and business success.   Picking a successor simply because (s)he is the eldest or rejecting someone based on gender can be fatal.  Unfortunately, we still see far too many businesses being lead by incompetent sons when highly competent daughters were stereotyped into inferior roles. 

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One Simple Way to Give Your Business a Morale Boost

For the past several months, we have awakened to a steady stream of depressing bad news regarding the economy. Retirement plans have turned from 401(k)s to 201(k)s, people are getting laid off, companies are desperate for bailouts and the list goes on. There is no doubt we are in extremely difficult economic times. If your employees are like others I have recently encountered in other organizations, they are in wonderment about whether they will have a job tomorrow and what the financial implications could be to their families. Have you reassured your employees lately?

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Down Economy...Could This Be the Opportunity of a Lifetime?

There is no question, we are in one of the most difficult economies we have faced in decades with oil prices through the roof, rising steel prices, housing market collapse, inflation concerns, political uncertainty, and the list goes on. Surely I do not have to elaborate any further as your business is likely feeling the impact. A decline in profitability is almost never a good thing…that is, unless you are looking to transfer equity in your business to a family member. This indeed could be an opportunity of a lifetime!

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Business and Family Success - Can You Have Both?

One of the mantras around our offices concerns the health of interpersonal relationships in a family owned business.  It’s quite simple, and I really like it.  Are you ready?  Here it is:  No business success is worth a family failure.

Over the years, I’ve come to realize that everyone’s family, my own included, experiences some level of dysfunction.  It can be anywhere from somewhat comical to outright tragic.  Imagine reaching a high level of business and financial success only to learn that your spouse wants a divorce and your children don’t want to be around you. 

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Likability or Accountability - Do You Have the Right People Driving Your Organization?

In my last post, "Effective Leadership - Are Your People Loyal to You or Your Vision," I discussed the idea that there are several businesses with which I’m currently working that are performing and several that are not. The difference between the two is that they either have a culture of likability or a culture of accountability. The immediate differences between the two suggested differences in leadership, people, and focus on results.

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Employee Appreciation - What Message Are You Communicating?

Apathy, skepticism and disgust are sentiments shared by millions of Americans as a result of the greed and selfishness pervading our society today. For some, it is definitely all about the money even if generating business profits is at the expense of others. Others see money and profitability as a measuring stick/scorecard of how well they are leading and operating their businesses or how many lives they are impacting through their businesses. So I ask, which category do you find yourself in?

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Recipe for Success

Recently I had the privilege of attending a business Hall of Fame induction ceremony in the Midwest for one of my clients and several other business owners and leaders in his community. While each of the inductees had diverse business experiences and backgrounds, they shared several common traits which include: developing and articulating their vision, passion, humility, supportive families, winning attitude, innovative, surrounded themselves with the right people and promoted teamwork. These individuals knew where they wanted to go and were relentless in their pursuit to achieve excellence in their business and also giving back to their community. After hearing each of the individuals speak, it was apparent to me that the common traits listed above could be a recipe for success in your business as well.

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Effective Leadership - Are Your People Loyal To You Or Your Vision?

I have worked with three business leaders recently who are struggling with performance of their business during this economic downturn. I have also worked with several who are having record years during the same economic downturn. All of these businesses have a few things in common – they are all in the same industry and have similar business models. So, why are some performing and some not performing?

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