Saturday, October 24, 2009

What do you owe your children?

This is question every parent has faced - especially parents who own their own business.

Do you owe them a job in the business? Do you owe them guaranteed income?

When our kids were growing up Janie, my wife and their Mom, had a phrase that became our guide: "Every pot has to set on its own bottom." In other words, our goal was teach them to be self-suffcient - to discover what their life passion was and to support them in their quest to achieve it.

In other words, the goal was to help them identify what really mattered to them and not expect them to live out some dream we may have had for them. Although I was an engineer, there was no need for them to become engineers - unless that was what they wanted to be. They didn't have to move back to Lockport, where we live - unless they wanted to. They didn't have to come back to the business - unless they wanted to. (None became engineers, none moved back home and none joined the business. That was OK for us.)

We are pleased for their personal successes - each in their own way.

Every parent needs to ask themselves what they owe their kids. This seems to be a key question for business owners when they think about their children and their business. Somehow there seems to be an unspoked assumption that the best thing for at least one of the kids is to come into the business. The business owner may see that as the step to leaving their legacy. The child may see this as a easy step to take without any deep thought about what really matters to them, what they want to accomplish with their lives. It may or may not be the best move - for the owner, for the child (who is now an adult) or the business.

Which brings me to the question "What do you owe your children?"

First, let me offer some ideas about what you don't owe them. You don't owe them a job. You don't own them a steady income. Your don't need to decide their life purpose.

You do owe them love and support while they are educating themselves - only partial if that's all you can afford. You owe them nuturing while they are growing up. You owe them a lasting set of values that will enable them to live a successful, caring life that enhances our culture.

Then you owe them the opportunity to develop self discipline and self suffciency. You owe them respect for who they are - even though it may not be what you had hoped of them.

Last, but not least, you owe them the freedom to follow their own path and to grow into supportive, caring individuals who offer the same to those around them.

After they have sorted this all out and developed clarity about their self identity, if they decide they want to join your business, the odds are that you'll have a great staff member with potential to be a future leader!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Three Important Questions Before Retirement

I've been thinking a lot about business owners considering retirement who will be selling their business. There are, to me, three key questions that every business owner needs to address for their retirement to be successful:

  1. Will I have the money I need to support the life I want to live after I retire? That involves money I have saved and invested, my retirement funds and the proceeds from the sale of my interest in the business.

  2. Have I built a strong sustainable company that will continue after I move on? Have I developed the people with the passion and the competence to lead the business and hold to the values I instilled?

  3. Have I chosen a meaningful life after work that I will move into? I know that successful retirement is not an ending, It's a transition into a different 'venue' - one that will give me satisfaction because I am doing something I love to do. To be successful I need to prepare for the 'Third Phase' of my life.

People who have answered these questions in a way that matches their aspirations can move on knowing that they can make a successful transition and leave a successful business as their legacy.Those who haven't are in danger of holding on too long and destroying the very business they spent their life to create.

What about you? Are your prepared for retirement? If you are in your late fifties or early sixties think long and hard about these questions as if your life depended on it. Because it does!