Real Issues, Solved
Success Story #1: FAMILY SUCCESSION
Ben (not his real name) shared with the group that he felt powerless to proceed with succession planning at his family owned business due to conflicts with his brother and co-owner Dave. Both Ben and Dave were in their sixties and they wanted to pass leadership and ownership of the business to their kids. But they had very different views on how and when to do that.
The main problem was that Ben had saved more money over the years and was financially able to take a lower amount for the business. Dave on the other hand had saved less and still had 2 kids in college. As a result, he wanted the next gen kids in the business to pay more for it and share some of the future upside as well. Furthermore, Dave was in no hurry to resolve the issue and so he repeatedly delayed any succession discussions. Ben was frankly afraid to talk to Dave, his older brother, for fear it would upset him and hurt their relationship. This left him frustrated and sometimes angry. Meanwhile, the next gen at the company was pushing for a clear picture of their future and were mentioning that if it took too long they might lose interest and leave the company altogether. That would not have been good for the brothers.
In discussing the challenge with his mastermind group, Ben came to see that as equal owner he not only had the right, but he had the duty to bring his brother to the discussion table. Although he was afraid to take a stand, the group encouraged him and offered techniques and approaches to make the discussion easier. They even had him do some practice role playing which was a huge help. Thanks to all that, Ben found the courage to force the discussion and he was prepared to give it his best shot.
A few days later, Ben had the difficult conversations with his brother. And after a few more difficult but necessary talks, the two agreed on a succession and buyout plan. It included a timetable for passing management control, a buyout structure and timeframe that everyone could live with. Their relationship was strained but it did not break. Most importantly, the next gen was satisfied with the arrangement and became re-invested in the company's future and growth.
Success Story #2: Company Morale
Michael (not his real name) shared that morale at his company was at an all-time low. People were uncooperative and sometimes outwardly hostile to each other. When his team was small, it was easier to keep things positive. But as the company grew, his ability to maintain a productive culture had lagged – badly. He knew he had to do something but didn’t know what.
The group helped Michael explore the origins of the problem and his role in it. Here’s what they helped him see. Clearly it was not his employees’ fault. Because he had been so busy, his hiring was done much too quickly without first defining roles or properly assessing the candidates for fit, ability and culture. And there were a few bad “fits” already in the company - people who were not performing and worse yet, undermining morale. He felt he knew who those people were but had done nothing about it.
After clarifying the problem Michael's group helped him with a plan.
- Step 1: Define roles clearly.
- Step 2: Define the culture by writing down the behaviors she wanted people to live by.
- Step 3: Identify the people who are killing morale and let them go as soon as feasible.
- Step 4: Hire good people by adding layers of interviews and by screening for culture.
With the encouragement of his group, Michael began implementing his plan and succeeded in upgrading his team and morale over the following 90 days. Most importantly, he reported his progress to the group at the monthly meetings which helped him stay motivated and on track. In the end, Michael did a great job and the results were dramatic.
Success Story #3: Getting the company in shape to sell
Charlotte, a business owner, expressed the following to her fellow members. Sales at her company had been flat for a while and in anticipation of selling the business for what she hoped would be $6 million she felt she needed to double in size in just a few short years. Her question to the group was “How do I do that”?
The group listened, asked a lot of questions and discussed the issue together. Then they provided the following observations:
- The business grew quickly in the early years when Charlotte was doing most of the selling.
- When she started making more money she chose to slow down.
- She tried many different sales people but they never equaled her productivity.
- Operationally the business was doing well and could handle a higher level of sales with only minor additions to the team.
- Charlotte had thought about throwing herself back into sales but couldn’t get excited about it.
With that as background the group made the following recommendations:
- To grow the company to the size she wanted would require her to get back in the selling game. There was no way around it. She would have to be “all in”.
- Recognizing she was reluctant to do so the group helped her see the exciting outcome – that she would be able to live comfortably with no job and no risk for the rest of her days.
- To keep her focused on the payoff they suggested she create a vivid picture of the payoff and revisit it often. Some members told her of their success using vision boards with pictures. They asked Charlotte to describe the board she might create. She told them it would have pictures of her grandchildren and the rest of her family at their vacation house on a sunny day.
- The group also recommended that she write down a list of all that she would be giving up during the 2 or 3 years she worked toward her goal. They didn’t want her to be surprised by the sacrifice and lose resolve. More time selling meant less time for family, friends and golf.
- They also recommended that she explain to her family and friends that things would be a little different for a while but that she was doing something hugely important and exciting.
Charlotte saw the wisdom in the group’s analysis and suggestions. She knew it would be a challenge but it would be temporary and the vision of retiring happily was all the motivation she needed. She took action per the group’s recommendations with monthly check-ins that held her accountable and kept her motivated. The good thing is that results began appearing very soon.