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Another Year Without a Plan

Posted on January 5th, 2018

How to have that difficult estate planning conversation.

The summer morning awoke with a long steady rain. The farm family rises with high spirits; they are grateful for the moisture, and a break from the intensive labor. Since outside work is not constructive, a few phone calls are made between the elders, and they decide to gather all the family members for a succession planning meeting. There is no agenda, just a forum to discuss the future of the business.

Everyone is pleased that the meeting is taking place – far too much conflict has been brewing because no one really knows what the future holds for the family members. The first 1-hour comes with casual concerns about transferring income, management, and ownership to future generations. In the second hour, casual conversations turn into conflict. One of the frustrated sons notes that the same meetings have taken place multiple times over the past several years, usually on a day like this where outside labor is not constructive. He reflects on how every past conversation has been spontaneous with not substance; and no one is actually willing to initiate any planning or execution – it’s just all talk. His frustration is contagious as others family members note how tired they are of talking about succession planning but doing nothing about it.

The rain suddenly lets up. As has been the case for many years, the elders are not comfortable with the tension in the room and change the subject to tactical issues relating to the farm. They point out that everyone best get back to work and make the most of the day. The family leaves frustrated fully knowing that another one of these meetings will take place in the next year or two, with no meaningful discussion, planning, or execution.

Conversations around succession planning are difficult. Many family businesses choose to avoid the topic only to be faced with the realities of succession planning when death occurs. When death does occur, families move into competitive conflict modes; fighting for inheritance, management responsibilities, and fairness. In worst case scenarios, the family businesses fall into liquidation, and long-standing family tension. The truth is, succession planning will happen whether you like it or not; there is no getting around the fact that transfer of income, management, and ownership will happen eventually.

Start the tough conversations now, bring in professional who have experience in facilitating and guiding the succession planning process, and build a healthy plan. Don’t let your family legacy be one of pain and suffering – take the steps that will help the business thrive for generations to come.

Dr. Chance Eaton is the owner of Big Sky Way, a cutting-edge education and organizational development company that is committed to transforming today’s human capital into tomorrow’s competitive advantage. Since 2009, Big Sky Way, LLC has been providing organizational health solutions to purpose driven organizations across the globe. With a solid focus on your Return on Investment, Big Sky Way’s education, consultation, coaching, and assessment services are not only research based, they are the most commonly requested topics for today’s competitive workplace.To learn more about Big Sky Way services, please visit https://bigskyway.biz.


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