Planning for the Future
Imagine the irony of this scene…For about 6 months now, feeling overwhelmed with time sensitive work and tasks, I have rescheduled an appointment with myself called “Update will and desk instructions” something on the order of eight times. One of those times was during the same week I was helping to put together materials for a workshop on Succession Planning and working with a document we planned to hand out titled, “Desk Plan.” Sheesh—talk about the cobbler whose children have no shoes!
It is with some embarrassment that I publicly make this confession because some of my professional work is in regenerative design where “design with the end in mind” is an important axiom. I know, preach, and teach that we are always designing. Whether by creation or by abdication, we are designing our future. The former increases the likelihood that we’ll get what and where we want and feel more joy; the latter leaves the outcome more in the hands of fate and is less likely to help us meet our goals or experience our dreams coming true.
Good design, no matter what it is—garden, house, business, life—is all about logic, planning, and consciously creating something that gets us to a great, or at least, a better place than we are. It doesn’t make sense to design something we don’t want. Right? Yet many of our clients, and even we, design by default—by not planning for our own business succession and even our own death, which, to state the obvious, is simply inevitable.
So why do we do this—live and run our businesses as though we’re never going to retire, much less die? One answer comes from the work of anthropologist Ernest Becker, who in his 1973 Pulitzer Prize-winning nonfiction book, The Denial of Death, argues that “the basic motivation for human behavior is our biological need to control our basic anxiety, to deny the terror of death.” And even further, that “most human action is taken to ignore or avoid the inevitability of death.” (Keen 1973)
Launching off of Becker’s work, social psychology professor, Jeff Greenberg, together with Tom Pyszczynski and Sheldon Solomon, originated Terror Management Theory. In an interview in The Atlantic, Greenberg relates, “…part of the human condition is living with a desire to continue to live and an inherent fear of death on the one hand, and, on the other, the knowledge that this desire will inevitably be thwarted and that what is feared will inevitably occur.” In simple terms, we are consciously aware of our mortality and, yet, often act as though it weren’t a fact.
During our Succession for Yourself webinar with GFBAI member, Paul Cronin, who is also the COO of Successful Transition Planning Institute, we heard some statistics that bear this out. Paul shared that “78 percent of baby boomer business owners do not have plans for how they will exit their companies.” And, even if they have a plan, “60 percent of business owners between the ages of 55-64 have not discussed their exit plans with their spouses or business partners.”
How many times have you worked with a client to create a succession plan or referred a client to another GFBAI Certified Advisor while still not having a plan for your own business or having shared it with your beloveds? As Paul points out, “There are 2 choices. (1) You can plan for your transition on your own terms ,or (2) let others plan it for you,” because you’ve died or become unable to make decisions.
If you haven’t already done so, here’s an idea on how to become an exception to the rule of denial. Ask, as Paul suggests, “What does it mean to leave your business successfully?” He recommends “having a clear plan now for what you want to do with your life after leaving your business. Passing your business on to new owners will create at least three positive outcomes:
- You come away with the money you want.
- The business continues successfully after you have left.
- You can successfully live the new life you have designed.”
Succession plans for you solopreneurs, where you “are” the business, are just as important as for business owners with employees who count on their jobs to provide for their families. As a solopreneur, your family may be dependent on your income. And, you have a family of clients who have placed their trust in your work. Everyone will have more peace of mind and will benefit from your planning and then from learning what is in your plan.
If you sit down to do this work and find yourself stuck, it may be that you don’t have a clear vision for your future. As we learn in Galliard’s Family Business Advisor Core Training, we need to build neural pathways to develop the ability to envision our future. Completing Paul Cronin’s Worksheet, The Identity Exercise and Life Transitions Exercise, may help you develop a clearer sense of who you are and what you’ve learned. Then you can print out our succession plan tool and look to the future.
Be sure to include a Desk Plan when designing your future. At a bare minimum, your Desk Plan, sometimes called a Contingency Plan, should include your emergency contacts, where your bank accounts and will are located, your lawyer’s contact information, and contact information for key employees, suppliers, and customers. Paul also recommends addressing these items:
- Web accounts and passwords
- Business partners contact info
- Financial/legal docs and contacts
- Who will run/wind down the business
My own desk plan creation is scheduled for this next Sunday, when it’s supposed to rain most of the day and I’m on the other side of an especially busy period. Am I newly inspired to make sure it happens? Hopefully, but feel free to email me to find out!
And because we at GFBAI aspire to leave people feeling better than when we started and we know that humor is powerful medicine for heavy topics, I offer a one liner that I stumbled onto while researching for this article: “I saw an ad for burial plots, and thought to myself, ‘This is the last thing I need.’” Ba bum ching!