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.  

Noting that I was raised as a have-not and now my career is to serve business owners with have problems, I can give you personal assurance that problems from the have side challenge, frustrate, bewilder, and hurt just as much as have not problems. I would also offer that there are many problems not directly associated with one’s amount of wealth that both the haves and have nots experience (i.e. drug abuse, marriage issues, health concerns, etc.). This proposition being accepted, I’m going to see if I can shed some instructive light on those problems that are unique to the have side in hopes that some can be avoided. 

Problems of the have side generally occur due to one or both of two unfortunate conditions: a lack of humility and/or a lack of stewardship. Those without humility have an inflated sense of value, status, importance, etc. Their good fortune has distorted their perception and created a feeling of entitlement to special treatment just because they have been able to accumulate a few nice things. When regular problems occur in their life, this distorted view is challenged and can cause them significant frustration, anxiety and pain. Arrogant, insensitive, condescending business owners are constantly encountering these troubles courtesy of their mistreated family members, key managers, and employees. This pitiful cycle could be ended if they would just grow a little humility and appreciation.

Admittedly, I see fewer owners with have problems emanating from a lack of stewardship. I believe the reason for this is that by initiating succession planning, the owner is inherently confirming their concern for the future of the business and those involved. Those who do suffer from a lack of stewardship have yet to acknowledge one of God’s laws, “to whom much is given, much is required”. Yes, stewardship has its burdens, but they are light in comparison to the gut grinders experienced by those who have made the erroneous conclusion that their value is based upon what they have and not based upon who they are—a fortunate steward who has been provided an opportunity to positively impact the lives of those around them.

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