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Comprehensive and Coordinated, Part 1

For John, the focus was never about just making money. What started as a desire for independence quickly became a quest for sustainability and long-term success. John readily admits, “Nothing great is ever accomplished as a solo affair.” So, from the very beginning he, his brother, and a cousin started with some very big ideals. Pooling their resources and operating as a single business unit was central to their success. It reinforced the value of critical mass and the worth of sharing capabilities among a team of leaders.  
 
Going from a simple farming operation to a full-scale food processing company was no small task. For John and his wife Sara, it was all about building a viable operation and living the kind of lifestyle they dreamed about. Now, thirty years later, with their children involved and a multifaceted business to manage, they realize it will take an extraordinary effort and specialized planning to pass their interests in the operation to the next generation as a going [read: growing] concern.
 
When John and Sara came to me, they had some very specific goals to meet, including: 

  1. Create a retirement option that allows them to continue enjoying the lifestyle they’ve come to appreciate.
  2. Control the land assets for their benefit and then transition ownership to their lineal descendants.
  3. Design an ownership and management transition plan for passing the operation to the next generation.
  4. Provide equitable benefits for all of their children and leave a meaningful legacy for their grandchildren.
  5. Mitigate or eliminate their exposure to the estate tax and other transfer obligations.

A comprehensive succession plan is comprised of four separate, yet interrelated building blocks---Financial Security, Ownership Transition, Leadership Structure, and the Estate Plan. Due to their situation, it was very important to start with an analysis of John and Sara’s financial security. Logic dictates that until someone is reasonably comfortable with their financial situation, and the means of support for the rest of their lives, they won’t be willing to make the decisions and take the actions necessary for succession.