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Oct 31, 201711:24 AMExit Stage Right

with Martha Sullivan

What can the Great Pumpkin and Charlie Brown teach you about succession planning?

(page 1 of 2)

For old time’s sake, we watched It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown this weekend. It brought back memories of the fun of Halloween and trick-or-treating. You never knew what you were going to get, but it was sure to be good, right? It was candy, free candy! When my kids were little, it was like a national holiday. So much so that my son dressed up his “brother” — a favorite stuffed animal named Wolfie — and took him trick or treating, too, so he could haul in twice the loot! (It worked because his sister was sick and couldn’t go.)

But not all Halloween candy is the same. Sometimes it’s a Snickers or a Butterfinger. Other times it might be a piece of bubble gum or jawbreaker. Or if you’re Charlie Brown, it’s a rock.  (Aaarrrg!)

So, you may be thinking, what does It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and succession planning have to do with one another. If you are the next generation, a lot.

For the next generation in the business, knowing you are someday going to own all this may feel a lot like trick-or-treating. You may not know exactly what you’re going to get but it’s exciting to think about. Could it be Godiva chocolate? It might be Twizzlers. But what if it’s a popcorn ball?  (I love popcorn balls but we throw them out. They’re too risky.) What if it is a rock?

For example, what if your family owned a series of successful Blockbuster Video stores in 2007. Mom and dad were transitioning the business to you for an agreed-upon price, which is financed by a combination of traditional lending and the Bank of Mom and Dad. Business appears to be booming and growing, with prospects for a long future. Servicing the bank loan, as well as mom and dad’s nest egg, over 10 years should be a snap.

But wait. As the next generation, do you know how the business makes money? Do you know if the business makes money? Are elements in place for the business to thrive and grow in value? Are mom and dad going to let you run the business or still treat you like their child instead of their peer? Are systems in place or is all the know-how still with dad? What’s going on with competition, technology, and trends? Are there changes coming at us? How serious is this Netflix thing? (Are people really going to purchase their movies through the mail, let alone online? Come on!) Do you even like the retail-movie business?

By 2010, Blockbuster hit the skids and filed for bankruptcy. The company’s 9,000 stores were down to 1,700, which Dish Network bought at auction in 2011 and then promptly shut down all but 50 of them by 2015.

It sunk like a rock.

(Continued)

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About This Blog

Spending half her career as an advisor to privately-held and family businesses and the other half in CFO/COO roles, Martha Sullivan is a partner and the succession planning practice leader in the business transition strategies group at Honkamp, Krueger & Co., P.C. She and her team have extensive experience assisting business owners achieve their personal, business, and transition goals. “Don’t think of the 'exit' from your business like it’s a four-letter word. Make it your next adventure!”

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