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The 10th Commandment Of Family Business Succession: Create Family Unity

If you've been following this series of 10 commandments, you know my belief is that preparation is the No. 1 ingredient for implementing any goal, but especially true for succession planning.

The reason is that I see so many predecessors who mistakenly believe that they can control everything from their grave, including their kids. So they create complex tax-saving wills. They mistakenly believe that their children left to their own devices will play nice with their siblings and with other family members, especially with a lot of money at stake. They believe that nobody in their right mind would sue their brother or sister in court. Most importantly, they mistakenly believe that their family will be very appreciative of them for leaving them significant assets and money.

As I often say, money without values is like shoes without feet.

Unfortunately (and contrary to popular belief), the more money, the greater the potential for fights and disagreements. The bigger the business, the more enticement for foul play and cheating. Similar to the old adage, power and money corrupt and absolute power and money corrupt absolutely.

In my last article, I wrote about sharing and preaching the values to the next generation. What I'd like to discuss here is the importance of family unity, so your family will have respect for the deceased and their values. After all, they will be sharing pride for their hard work and the continuation of the family mission and vision that future generations can then share with each other.

Families absolutely can live and play nicely together. They absolutely can coexist with the business. In fact, the business can bring out the best in family members, and employees can feel like family and not feel threatened by family members. But it needs to be intentional and well planned out.

One large family business has instituted a yearly camp for over 600 members of their extended family. They talk about the business, share their charitable endeavors and ensure that the family understands the legacy of the founders. One founder even set up a separate fund so that the extended family gets together at least once a year.

You might set up a tuition fund for all members of your family. Or perhaps you create a charity foundation and encourage family members to participate in community work. You could also write a family business handbook, similar to an employee handbook, that every family member gets so that they understand the importance of their joining the family business and the rules they must abide by.

Leaving money and businesses to the next generation can be a very effective tool for continuing the legacy, but only if done right.

It's your responsibility and obligation to create an action plan and implement it, as this won't happen on its own. Explain your intent, your values and what's important to you, so that everyone involved can buy into your mission and vision. Create open and honest channels of communication with all stakeholders.

In closing, I wanted to share a valuable takeaway from the final letter recently written by the late T. Boone Pickens: "Never forget where you come from. I was fortunate to receive the right kind of direction, leadership, and work ethic ... I honored the values my family instilled in me, and was honored many times over by the success they allowed me to achieve."

I believe that honoring the values is what empowers family legacies and differentiates successful family businesses from those that unfortunately forget the values and focus mostly on the wealth.

Remember these 10 commandments for creating the legacy you wish to perpetuate:

1. Be intentional.

2. Create a unifying mission and vision for the family.

3. Make sure the family members understand and buy into the mission and vision.

4. Seek purpose outside of the business.

5. Know whether the next generation is willing and capable to take over.

6. Create a mentoring program for the younger generations (when you’re not there anymore).

7. Don't create competition.

8. Give back.

9. Remind people of the values and mission at every event.

10. Live the life that encompasses and demonstrates all of the above.

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