succession plan

A Plan for Succession

WE’VE ALL BEEN THERE. We’ve all felt the uncertainty at some point in our careers. What’s next for me? What happens if the company were to close? Who is taking over after our owner retires? There seems to be so much ambiguity and maybe even some assumptions. But it’s all speculation. Because no one is actually talking about it. It’s unclear and it’s frustrating. But you’re not alone. Companies every day struggle to put together a future picture. A plan for succession.

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We’re Leaves On A Vine

Think of the leaves on a vine as they grow up the side of a building. They’re beautiful. They blossom, they grow, and eventually, your entire building is covered with them. As the autumn season approaches, one by one, they start to turn colors. Some yellow, some red, some brown. So many leaves to admire, and every time we look at them, we think of the beauty they bring. Then they start to fall off. Until only a few are left. What will replace them? Naturally, new leaves blossom and grow in their place. They start out small, and then repeat the cycle.

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Family Business Matters

The family business is as American as apple pie and the Fourth of July parade. Companies such as Ford, Marriott and Wal-Mart are only a handful of family-owned, corporate giants that come to mind. And although there are more than 100 million family businesses in the United States, only about 30% of family businesses survive to the 2nd generation, and 12% to the third.

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Tough Decisions: The Next Generation of Leaders

I was recently asked this question by the owner of a family business with four sons working in the firm: “How do I choose which one will run the business?”

Wow! There are so many ways to answer this question. Family business succession can be complicated. My first response was to ask, “Who wants to?” To which the owner did not know the answer. So that is a good place to start; however, there is more running the family business than just who wants to.

When deciding who should be the next-generation CEO and who should play supporting roles, let’s take a look at a few of the tough decisions at play here.

The owner may be asking several questions: Who can run the business? Who wants to? Do we have the talent? Do we expect that they will want to?

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Should the business stay in the family?

This is a question that most business founders must face at some point in their lives. Family business planning is the process of selecting and preparing the right person to lead the family firm into the future. The average life of a family-owned business is about 24 years, usually ending when the owner/founder retires or passes away. It is reported that approximately 30 percent of family-owned businesses survive the succession from the first generation to the second and only ten percent to the third generation. By 2019, the number of family-owned businesses that will transfer from the first generation to the second will be the largest the world has ever seen.

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The future of your company is NOW!

You have a great management team. They are well trained and provide great leadership to their direct reports. They make great decisions. They are passionate about what they do and there is very little coaching needed to help them reach the company goals. But wait…How many of them will be retiring or leaving your company in the next five years? Have you done any future planning?

Most companies have invested time and resources to develop the leadership team. It probably took years to find just the right mix of diverse thinking, skills, communication styles, and talents. It is an art to find just the right mix. But how long will it last?

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Weak Bench Strength

Working with businesses across the country, we hear a lot of talk about preparing companies for the exit of their most senior managers…but sometimes it comes with very little action. What’s up with that?

When you ask many company owners who will take over for them, they usually answer with, “I don’t know! I don’t know of anyone who is like me.” After conversations like this, the action is thinking and talking, but usually no change.

So here’s what you do…

Start hiring the right people.  Hire what you need, not replace who you have.

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Who is flying this plane?

As you’re boarding your flight, you look to your left and catch a glimpse of the Captain sitting in the cockpit. You wave and nod approvingly, and now you can rest assured that there is a Captain – and he looks competent to get you to your destination safely…phew! Your plane takes off, and now you’ve reached 30,000 feet. All of a sudden, someone comes over the intercom and says, “Do we have any doctors or nurses on board? We have a medical emergency.”

OH NO! The Captain has had a heart attack. Panic sets in. You start to fidget. Your forehead is glistening with sweat. It’s at that moment that it hits you…WHO IS FLYING THIS PLANE??? You’re waiting for the oxygen masks to drop, and you’re ready to tuck your head between your knees and brace for impact. You wish you would have paid attention to all those stupid instructions that the flight attendant went over…Where is the nearest emergency exit? Can I use my seat cushion as a flotation device? You think about every possible terrible scenario as the drama unfolds.

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