Succession: Planning

Although many people have encountered MacLean-Fogg Co.’s products, they probably haven’t noticed them, unless they’ve looked at the hardware that sits atop telephone poles or the parts inside car exhaust systems and transmissions, such as gear blanks and wheel nuts.

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The WM Fares Group of Halifax, N.S., began planning for generational transition when the three second-generation siblings began asking questions about how decisions would be made in the future.

Wadih Fares, the 62-year-old patriarch and founder of the property development company, has the last word on business decisions. But in 2012, his children began to wonder how the process would work when he was no longer at the helm.

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The path from starting up a business to planning your exit is a winding one, with plenty of speed bumps and potholes. One of the biggest potholes results from the failure to include liquidity planning as part of the business succession planning process.

As part of the preparations to sell the company or pass it on to a family member, a business owner should develop a wealth management strategy that minimizes taxes.

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CNBC analyst Jim Cramer raised some eyebrows recently when he stated on his show, Mad Money, that Walmart was going toe-to-toe with Amazon; Walmart isn’t generally seen as a rising powerhouse in e-commerce. But this comment by Cramer about Walmart CEO Doug McMillon drew even more of my attention: “As long as he’s got the backing of the family, he can afford to take some short-term hits in order to grow the company’s e-commerce presence. That’s a real rarity in this game.”

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Effective succession planning is a multidisciplinary process that combines an understanding of the psychological dimensions of the business-owning family with the legal structures necessary to realize the business leader's desires and objectives. What does the exiting leader wish to accomplish, and how can he or she achieve those goals while keeping the estate, the family and—if desired—the business intact?

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Sustaining a family business over multiple generations has never been easy, and several megatrends are making it even harder.

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About six or seven years before Dave Juday retired as chairman of IDEAL Industries in 2014, he decided it was time to make a major change—so he grew a beard.

Juday is the grandson of J. Walter Becker, founder of IDEAL, a Sycamore, Ill.-based maker of products and tools for the electrical and telecommunications industries. Seeing the beard in the mirror reminded him that " 'This is a different era; I've got to be a different person,' " explains Juday, now 72. He also began coming to work an hour later than usual.

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After building a thriving business, entrepreneurs often hope their companies will stay in the family for generations to come. Yet many business founders, despite planning diligently and gathering recommendations from well-known advisers, find their companies faltering after they relinquish the reins. Why?

Fragmented vs. integrated

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Have you put business transition on your family meeting agenda? All too often, succession plans are not slated for intergenerational discussion.

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At a conference table in the sleek, contemporary headquarters of Friedman Realty Group, a real estate investment and management firm in Gibbsboro, N.J., Brian K. Friedman and his son, David, are reflecting on issues that have taken center stage for them: analyzing risk, their business future and structure, as well as continuity, succession planning and exit strategies.

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