First of all, Jerry Springer is 73 years old, holy smokes – just another example of how time flies. Anyway, I wanted to shed some light on what I would call the “dark underbelly” of exit planning. We most often focus our time and attention on the technical aspects of succession planning work – tax strategies, estate planning, valuations, transfer of ownership, etc. etc. All of these are incredibly important to the process to be sure, but they shouldn’t be focused on to the extent of ignoring the other side of the coin – the personal side of transition – be it within a family or outside of it.
I’ve seen firsthand the chair throwing – to use a Jerry Springer Show analogy – that can derail the most technically sound exit planning process. Relationships that have been built literally over a lifetime can fall apart in a single conversation. What the rising generation had in mind and what the current generation sees as the path forward for roles, responsibilities, transition timing, or any of a multitude of other “human” topics can start a fire real quick.
As the saying in politics goes – “vote early and vote often” it’s the same in family business -“communicate early and communicate often”. Don’t leave anything up to assumption. As importantly, don’t put off the tricky conversations, as they only become more difficult over time. Kicking that can down the road can put your family in position for one of those “Jerry Springer” moments we have seen play out with clients before. When it’s on TV it can be a humorous distraction, but when those arguments are in your own living room or front yard and the neighbors are watching, yikes.