Last week, we began talking with a client who is just beginning the succession planning process.  His comments were telling:  “We have been talking about this for years; and until now, we’ve managed to avoid dealing with some of these questions.  We did not like pushing ourselves so far out of our comfort zones.  It was uncomfortable; it was disorienting; it was confusing.  Last week, it all began to come together; and now, we wonder why we waited so long.”

There are a lot of reasons that people wait to begin this process.  It is disorienting and confusing, at least in the beginning.  The process takes you back to the past and throws you into the future.  Both the past and the future are foreign countries.  The cultures are strange.  The questions are hard.  The answers are sometimes uncomfortable.

The whole process can be paralyzing.  To overcome the inertia that blocks clarity and enlightenment, there are several steps you can take.  I am often amused by amateur golfers who hit a bad shot, take a mulligan (a “do over” for those of you who are not golfers),  get the same result on the new shot, and then wonder aloud “That’s the same darn shot!  How did that happen?”  When I ask what they did differently, the answer is almost always “Nothing.”

If what you are doing is not working for you, then you need to do something different.  Begin by asking these questions: 

  • What am I trying to achieve?
  • What have I achieved so far?
  • What feedback have I had?
  • What lessons have I learned?
  • What positive result can I make of these lessons?
  • How do I measure success?
  • When do I take the next step?

If you have the right advisors, these are the questions they want you to answer.   Your answers provide the framework for changes in family dynamics and governance, business performance, personal estate planning, and all the other aspects that influence your successful execution of a succession plan.

One other important factor about plan execution.  You cannot not communicate your plan.  You need to make sure that you’re on the same page with yourself.  You need to make sure that you and other family members are on the same page.  You need to make sure that you and your advisors are on the same page. 

You have all the resources you need to achieve your desired outcomes.  How well you actually use them has more to do with your personal flexibility than with your personal circumstances or environmental factors or other people.  The person with the most flexibility in a system has the most influence on the system.  Use your influence for something positive. 

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