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In today’s podcast we sit down with Kwame Christian, Esq., an attorney specializing in family- and business law. We will discuss
- Business Operations Planning and Continuity
- Business Succession Planning
If you want to jump to a particular topic in the podcast click on the timestamp below.
00:00 Answer Questions Why do we need succession planning? When an owner dies what is next? Who takes care of the business after the owner dies?
03:00 Earlier The Better The funeral home is not the best time or place to start answering those questions. If left unaddressed issues from the past that need time and negotiations to resolve come to the surface and usually cause damage. Better to plan when everything is okay.
05:00 Expectations What are reasonable expectations of an attorney?
07:38 Attorney as Guide Set the stage for success by talking with your attorney before there is a problem. They attorney can guide you through the process of succession planning.
08:12 Ethics Kwame discusses ethical issues attorneys must address. This includes knowing when to withdraw due to lack of agreement between the owner and (future) survivors or between the eventual survivors themselves.
10:43 Agreement vs Disputes The law works best when used to create agreements before hand rather than as a means to resolve disputes after the owner(s) death.
11:50 Game of Thrones Kwame relates the “Game of Thrones” metaphor one of his associates uses to describe how few family-owned businesses make it to the third generation.
13:43 Plan From Beginning Succession planning works best when started at the beginning of a business. This includes:
- putting an operation agreement in place
- having a buy-sell agreement.
15:15 Owner’s Self-examination The difficulties associated with the owner(s) looking at their own death is discussed with regards to business succession planning and estate planning.
17:00 Peace-of-Mind There are benefits associated with planning when all is going well, the two greatest being clarity and peace-of-mind.
18:40 Costly Mistakes Unresolved issues with regards to planing for the future can lead to costly mistakes in the business today.
19:49 Arrogance and Fear Kwame discusses the toxic impact of arrogance and fear. Gary discusses some change management issues that arise in such situations – usually a sense of invincibility on the owner’s part. During family/business meetings a blanket denial of the “elephant(s) in the room” can occur making the attorney’s job that much more difficult and the number of wasted billable hours increases.
26:55 Negotiations Kwame discusses the need to negotiate and suggest going to his podcast (Negotiation For Entrepreneurs) at one of his websites, the American Negotiation Institute.
28:24 Humanity and Law The discussion shifts to humor and it reflects the challenge associated with keeping the humanity of the situation included in the legal transactions in order to avoid getting lost in the law. Kwame discusses how the law is meant to keep people within certain boundaries. The key is combining the two (humanity and law) to get to a negotiated deal that meets the participants needs.
29:46 ”Truth” Systems At least three different frame-of-mind are running through the situation:
- operational “truth” – the way the family-owned business runs
- emotional “truth” – the frame-of-mind and emotional state each individual has in terms of how they perceive the situation and respond/react to that situation
- legal “truth” – the possibilities, options, and limits present under the law
Successful negotiations are achieved when, for everyone involved, there is alignment between the three different systems.
32:30 Earlier the Better (continued) The more work done ahead of time to resolve the emotional issues the better the legal part of the work will go. Also, this will help keep costs down. Two examples are provided regarding the breakup of two partnerships – one being amicable and the other adversarial. The cost differences in terms of client base, time, money, and residual feelings where huge.
37:16 Who Does the Attorney Represent? The question, “Who does the attorney represent?” is addressed. Representing one member of the group is much different than representing the entire group. If not careful, a circus-like atmosphere that is ridiculously expensive can be created. Ethical considerations for the attorney based on who is being represented are discussed. Essentially, and “us” frame-of-mind works much better than a “we-they” approach.
41:55 American Negotiation Institute Kwame started the American Negotiation Institute to help families and partners address the above-mentioned issues in order to achieve greater satisfaction and avoid wasting time and money not only in terms of succession and estate planning but also for day-to-day negotiations. An example is provided.
48:22 Stakeholders Kwame emphasizes the importance of considering all stakeholders when negotiating. This includes immediate family members who are not part of the negotiations but are effected by them.
49:34 Creativity and Negotiations Creativity is shown to be critical for good negotiations which includes working to understand the needs of the other sides.
50:05 Pay Me Now or Pay Me Latter The values associated with working with American Negotiation Institute when life is going well and working on issues that are present, not currently having a big impact, but can mushroom if left to linger as time goes by.
50:46 Negotiations Coaching Coaching services can be provided nationally, working either in person or via virtual sessions.
52:38 Key Professionals Needed The importance of a team of key professionals is stressed. For example, in addition to the attorney a trusted accountant and a financial advisor will help those negotiating see the consequences of their agendas and decisions being made.
Well, that concludes another podcast in the Power of Humility series.
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