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Why Do So Many Businesses Underperform?

When the opportunity to work with a team of business leaders presents itself, one of my first questions is "How many of you are ready to go to the next level"  Depending on how I ask people to respond, either a lot of hands go up or there is a chorus of "Absolutely" that deafens the room.  It seems like everyone is in love with the idea of going to the next level.

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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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How Giving Too Much to Your Kids Can Impact Your Succession Goals

There are 3 common "giving" pitfalls that create future havoc on your succession plan.  Most of the time family business owners believe they are doing the right thing, but are unaware of the long-term impact of giving or creating unearned rewards such as a job, title or a paycheck.

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Operating Your Business Like it’s Always For Sale

In early October, Berkshire Hathaway announced it had agreed to buy Van Tuyl Group, the nation’s largest privately held auto dealership group. Warren Buffet, having dipped his toes into the automotive industry by taking a stake in GM, sees the opportunity to replicate Van Tuyl’s success by consolidating dealership groups throughout the Sunbelt.

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Bulk Up and Charge Up - How Vacation Can Reveal Your Business' Bench Strength

I recently wrote an article about managing one’s business as if it were always for sale. One of the key points was getting management proficient at running the business successfully in the owner’s absence. But what about management’s absence?

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Transfer Stock: Gift or Sale

Recently a business owner approached me with the following: I am considering transferring some company stock to my son and possibly some talented managers. He stated, each person has made significant contributions to the business and a few of them feel they have already earned the right to some of the stock via sweat equity. He asked, should I gift or sell the stock to them?

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Succession Planning Techniques Often Overlooked

“Is there anything you would have done different than your father regarding estate planning?”  “Yes”, replied the son.

The son, now a highly successful auto dealer, was emphatic in his response.  “Dad was unwilling to do anything. He thought he would lose control.  We were lucky he died during good market conditions - our dealership products were hot and the real estate market allowed us to sell assets to pay the estate taxes.  We could have lost everything!”

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Developing Your First Round Draft Pick

Your family business is like a professional sports franchise: You are the owner and your successor is a first rounder. The future of the organization depends on you and your team’s ability to properly develop your first round pick.

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Are You Missing Out on the Successor Right In Front of You?

 "Loyd, thank you for coming to see me. Please sit down," Mr. John Doe, the elderly but fit gentleman, offered as we settled into his office. Settling back into his chair, he continued. "My accountant attended one of your succession planning seminars and suggested we talk. We have three dealerships. I have a son who is pretending to run our stores. I also have a daughter and a son-in-law who work here. I own 35% but 51% of the voting stock. I don't know what to do," he continued apparently relieved to have someone to speak to. "My son will not listen to me. And unfortunately he is the only capable family member. I doubt he works 40 hours a week; he says he works from home. I know he trains for marathons, coaches his son’s baseball team and never misses a school meeting. Meanwhile, the businesses underperform. When I threaten to fire him he just smiles and says do what you have to do. My son-in-law wants me to appoint him the Dealer but he's had some issues with drugs," he offered with a conciliatory shrug of the shoulders. 

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When-ing and Then-ing: A Common Succession Planning Pitfall

I recently agreed to be the wingman for Dr. Merlot who was calling on a succession planning prospect, Victor. Doc described this gentleman as a 65-year-old, second-generation owner of 17 dealerships with a son and a daughter employed by the dealerships and another daughter who was not actively employed in the business. 

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Fifty-Fifty, Not So Nifty

As a business succession planner, I encounter the full gamut of dealership business structures, Regular C corporations, S-corporations, partnerships and limited liability companies. I have had clients owned by public corporations and foreign corporations, and even one client who boasted he was the only sole proprietorship dealership in the United States. That relationship was short-lived - he was not pleased with my response.  

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How to Assemble Your Succession Planning Team?

Engaging in the succession planning process can be a daunting task. Being transparent, identifying current and potential issues and developing a plan for the greater good of the business and family requires substantial energy. To add further complexity to this process, getting family and key managers to mutually come together for a shared purpose can seem impossible at times. However, you have decided in order to reach your objective, you’ll need help. So, who should be on your team?  

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Are You Overpaying Your Children? Be Aware of the Potential Long-term Impact

So, in my first two posts, How "Over Giving" to your Kids Can Impact Future Succession Goals, and Did Your Child Earn That Title? The Impact of Giving What One Doesn't Deserve, on this subject I have discussed how a past pattern of giving can have a negative impact on the eventual gifting of business assets.  The previous posts focused on two common areas where business owners "give" to their children, which can create havoc on the business, successor development and family dynamics - giving your child a job or a title without earning them. 

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Did Your Child Earn That Title? The Impact of Giving What One Doesn't Deserve

In my last post How "Over Giving" to your Kids Can Impact Future Succession Goals, I discussed how past gifting behavior can impact and create unnecessary challenges the transfer of business assets to your children. A common first thing given to children, which sets a tone for future gifts is a job, I recommend for you, your business' sake and for the development of your children, they should earn it.

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How "Over Giving" to Your Kids Can Impact Future Succession Goals

The eventual transfer of business related assets to children is a common concern shared amongst family business owners. As a result, client meeting discussions often turn towards evaluating the most effective approach. 

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Feedback – The Breakfast of Champions (and High Performing Cultures)

Feedback is a peculiar animal.  While many of us tell others we want it, we often abuse the messenger brave enough to give it.  Or, if feedback is delivered by a “system”, we look for faults in the way the system was designed to deflect the message and save or rescue ourselves from embarrassment that usually comes with looking foolish.  

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How Do I Build Bench Strength in My Organization?

Talk about bench strength occupies quite a bit of time in board rooms and kitchens all around the world.  I’ve read some articles that talk about the “marriage” between succession planning and successor development; and I’ve read others that talk about how hard it is to find people suited to be the next generation of leaders.  Still others present business owners and leaders with something akin to “silver bullet” coaching that can get people ready overnight.

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