Category Archives: Family Business

Stress and Conflict Reveals what one Sibling Really Values

I know of a family owned business whose three owners – all siblings – are in their late sixties. They present themselves to the outside world and to themselves as a tight-knight, loving family.

Their business is in crisis. For years, they have lacked a true leader to guide their business. Their father was more of an angry, my-way-or-the-highway drill sergeant, but he wasn’t a leader, so they didn’t learn any leadership skills from him. Plus, they have lacked any serious accounting talent. Their bookkeeper has done her best, but it’s clear that their lack of adequate leadership and accounting has resulted in their business being on the brink of bankruptcy.

I’m part of a team that was brought in to help them turn-around their business. When they started implementing our recommendations, significant stress and hidden conflict surfaced first on how they managed finances and then on what roles each sibling was fulfilling in the business.

It didn’t help that one of the extended family members had loaned the business a significant sum of money to keep it going and now was facing the prospect that he might not be paid in the time frame he was requesting. He and his wife (one of the owners) were nice as long as they thought they would be paid back within an artificial time-frame that he had arbitrarily set. But when it became apparent that his timeframe wasn’t going to be met, he threw a temper tantrum, stormed out of the office and never returned.

His wife, one of the owners, suddenly cut off all family communication. She even dis-invited her two siblings to a significant family celebration for her. When stress was low – before the recommendations were implemented – she would say that she’d like to be paid back, but that she knew it would take time. She was accommodating and nice. But when the stress became high, she became a different person. She and her husband were so angry that they moved out-of-state – permanently.

And there we had it: the truth. The truth was that they were willing to sacrifice family relationships – permanently – over money. Money was more important than family.

In my experience, when families tell me how loving and tight-knit they are, I usually wonder who’s not being honest with themselves. It’s not that tight-knit families don’t exist – they do. But those that are tight-knit rarely have a need to tell others how tight-knit they are. They just do it without thinking and you can see it in their interactions. It never occurs to them to tell others they are tight-knit because they don’t know of another way of living.

We usually find out who is not being honest with themselves when the really tough parts of a business turn-around are placed squarely on the shoulders of the family/business owners. Under stress, I’m able to see and hear the real truth of how solid and stable the relationships are within the ownership group. Moreover, I hear the real truth of what individual owners are really thinking.

On a global scale, here is what you can look for when stress increases in a family business.

Money is often more important to people than family or business relationships. I’ve seen this born out in a number of situations, both when I owned my own therapy practice and now as an advisor to family owned businesses. It’s sad, but true. Most people value money more than most other things and people in life. So they do things like cutting off and threatening to move to another state. Money becomes more important than family.

Our values are forced to the surface when stress hits our lives. I’ve seen people live out their stated values under stress. For example, I’ve seen people who are financially stressed still give to others because they really do value giving and philanthropy. The stress didn’t surface hidden values. But I’ve also seen people who valued their relationships jettison them at the first hint that their wealth was being injured through those relationships. Unfortunately for this ownership group, one of the owners values money more than her family relationships. This will be a truth the other two owners will need to keep in mind as they move forward.

Many justify otherwise unacceptable behavior because money is involved and “you just don’t mess with my money”. The sister who dis-invited her siblings to her celebration would have never thought to have done this under normal circumstances. But when she faced the (perceived) prospect of not being paid within the arbitrary time-table set by her husband, she chose to show her anger by cutting off from her family – hence the other owners in her business. This is clearly unacceptable behavior, but because money is involved, her behavior is somehow justified – at least in her and her husband’s mind.

Unfortunately, we often don’t see what people really value until they are under significant stress. This can be highly enlightening (and perhaps disheartening) when it is a family member. But if you agree with one of my undeniable truths of business ownership: “the truth is never the problem”, then you’ll come to see that learning the truth can only help you in your relationships and business ownership as you move forward, even if you learn that the truth is ugly and you had to learn it under stressful circumstances.

Bill English, MA, LP, MDiv is a family business advisor with the Platinum Group in Minnetonka, Minnesota. He assists families with conflict resolution and positive successions of their business as well as performing interim CEO work for family businesses in transition. You can contact Bill at bill. english @ or call 952-259-3217.

When Leadership Provides Status, Meaning and Power, it’s Hard to Give Up

For the senior generation in a family business, their leadership in their business and family has provided status, meaning, power, and other rewards. Hence, the greatest impediments to peaceful transitions are the senior leaders’ fear of losing it all.

Their dual role as a leader in the family gives them a sense of “specialness” that comes with the leader’s belief that he or she is uniquely qualified to lead. Status and specialness reinforce each other and the two combined is a core reason why the senior generation often stays on in the family business well after they should. Couple that with the second generation’s ambivalence as to when is the right time to ask mom and dad to step aside and it becomes easy to see why the family system supports the putting off of the necessary transition until there is no other choice.

This is why Christian Business Owners are taught to hold their business with an open hand – an entrustment from the Lord who is the ultimate HR director of their company. When a business owner walks closely with the Lord and values His direction more than the perks of ownership, when God calls the owner to retire and focus on something else, the owner more easily lets go of his position.

I’m not saying it is easy – just that it is easier because the personal value system of a Christian Business Owner is different from others – or at least it should be.

Status and power are fleeting. Meaning in life should come from our identity in Christ and a deep sense of fulfilling our calling before Him. Leadership is about service to others – not being the top-dog who gets the limelight. For Christians, our transformation in the Lord ought to change us to recognize what status and power really are: temporary and worldly constructs that will not last into eternity.

Think about men such as Napoleon, Hitler, Charlemagne, Nebuchadnezzar, Mao Zedong and others….men who would have become God had they been able to. Yet only one God became man – Jesus Christ. Our example of leadership, power and status is one who gave it all up in order to accomplish God’s will. We should be the same as Him. Philippians is helpful at this point:

5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,

did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;

rather, he made himself nothing

by taking the very nature of a servant,

being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man,

he humbled himself

by becoming obedient to death—

even death on a cross!

The mature Christian Business Owner will recognize when it is time to move on – time to leave his business to his children (or sell it) and take the next steps of obedience to Christ. Power, status, meaning and rewards will pale in comparison to what he (or she) has with the Lord.

If you’re a Christian Business Owner who knows it is time to transition out of your business but you’re having a hard time doing so, then please draw near to God and let Him transform your hear, your values, your identity – everything about you. You’ll then find that giving up the business when He calls you to do so will be the right step and you’ll take it in boldness and confidence, knowing that God has His hand on you and is working “all things together for good”.

Bill English

An Important Truth for First Generations to Learn in Family Businesses

When an entrepreneur starts his own business, from an ownership perspective, one of the key hurdles to overcome is securing enough capital to survive, then thrive. The principle sources of this capital are usually the savings and assets of the owner plus “sweat equity” invested by the owner and perhaps family and friends. The owner usually makes significant, personal sacrifices which help him and his family survive while their business is being built into a thriving, growing entity.

When ownership is passed to the second generation and the entrepreneur decides to share ownership between his children, the complexities at the ownership level increase exponentially. This complexity is a key hurdle for the second generation to overcome. Whereas the entrepreneur had sole control and could offer clarity in direction and decision, now that the ownership is shared, roles must be established and siblings must negotiate how they will cooperate in a shared power, shared authority model.

This complexity only increases if the entrepreneur decides to stay involved in the business without a clearly defined role. If he is vague about when full control will be passed to his children or if he is prone to take a extended time away from the business only to come back and start ordering his old staff and his children around, he will effectively create such havoc that his children may decide the family business isn’t worth their effort and time.

After passing control to his children, you might hear him talk about the old days – the work and sacrifice that was needed to get the business off the ground and make it successful. What’s ironic is that he’ll likely talk in such a way as to indicate that his children have no idea how much he has sacrificed and how they really don’t understand just how much has been given to them. In short, he’ll likely talk with an attitude of “they just don’t appreciate what they have”.

In this scenario, what isn’t appreciated is the comparison of apples to oranges. Yes, the entrepreneur sacrificed much to get the business to a thriving, sustainable state. But what he is passing to his children is not only a thriving business, but a set of complex, emotionally-charged elements that affect both their business and their families. He never had to negotiate power, control and the dual (sometimes triple) relationships that his children are negotiating. In short, he doesn’t appreciate what he is passing on and the potentialities for failure that could destroy his children’s and grand-children’s family relationships. Not only does a family business have the potential unify and support an extended family and their community, but a family business also has the potential to divide and destroy an extended family and damage the broader community in which they live.

This important truth sometimes is not appreciated by the members of the first generation. This is why clarity and intentionality in a succession plan is so important. If the children of the entrepreneur seemed to have harmonious relationships while growing up, one cannot assume that they will be free of conflict in their business roles. On multiple occasions where siblings who grew up together in happy, harmonious relationships, I have seen siblings never talking again in life because conflicts in the business drove a deep wedge between them.

So, what can be done? Here are several ideas:

First, the entrepreneur should have his children assessed for their real strengths and passions. Just because they inherited his DNA doesn’t mean they are the right people to lead his business moving forward. I’m not talking about just a matrix of psychological tests, which can be helpful. Instead, I’m referring to having his children work for someone else for at least five years, preferably ten, to have an objective, real-world assessment of their abilities, talents, passions and interests. Incidentally, this has the added benefit of giving them an opportunity to observe and learn from managers other than their father.

Secondly, don’t assume children in the second generation are the right people to lead the company moving forward. There are a number of family owned businesses that fail who could have succeeded had they decided to have nonfamily leadership run their family business. In a nutshell: be willing to be “family owned”, but not “family operated”.

Thirdly, give the children a “trial” period of running the family business before passing legal ownership to them – say two or three years. See how they interact. See who emerges as a peacemaker or a troublemaker. See if running the business changes their relationships. Then assess and make a decision about passing ownership to the next generation. The entrepreneur may be surprised by the decisions he ends up making.

Appreciating the key hurdles that the second generation will face and helping them over those hurdles will be one of the greatest, most enduring acts of love and kindness an entrepreneur will ever accomplish.

Bill English

I’ll Get to It Later: The High Cost of not Planning your Exit from your Business

John’s father, Dan, started their family business during the depression. Dan had figured out how to improve the process of generating usable materials from the earth’s raw materials, like minerals, food waste and so forth. While his invention didn’t generate billions in sales, his customers found his invention to be, literally, the only thing on earth that could help their production processes achieve what they had hoped for.

Dan died in the early sixties. He left his business to John who ran is successfully and profitably until 2015, when he suddenly passed away. His successor, Mike, was his right-hand-man who had worked in the business with him since the early sixties. While Mike knew the business well and had run their engineering department for nearly 40 years, their customer relationships were primarily with John. Sales immediately began to slip and no one knew what to do about.

In 2016, John’s children decided to sell their father’s business along with the land and buildings. Because the business had declined in sales and profitability over the ensuing 12 months after John’s death, they learned that it was only worth a fraction of what it had been worth. Truth was, it was taking on debt and had lost half of their employee base – many of those leaving had been key engineers who knew how Dan’s invention worked and what their improvements had been.

In the end, each of the three children ended up with ~ $400K after the business, land and buildings were sold.

$400K, you say? Not a bad deal, eh?

Well, it is when you consider that had John developed and implemented a succession plan, his children could have had ~ $100K/year for the next 20 or 30 years.

Would you rather have $400K now or $3M over 20 years. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take the latter. In real terms, John cost his heirs the chance to receive at least $2M more each than what they did receive.  The  cost of not having a succession plan was very high.

John had no succession plan. None of his children were interested in his business. While their family relationships were good, none of them wanted to work in “dad’s business”. They had their own dreams and ambitions. John didn’t mind – he wanted his kids to be happy, so he was happy to support them in their pursuits.

But think about it for a moment: What if his kids had been offered the opportunity to continue to own the business while hiring an outside, trusted person to run it? Truth is, they never considered this option and it cost them dearly.

There’s only three ways an owner will leave his/her business:

  • Sell
  • Die
  • Liquidate (bankruptcy)

Obviously, the first is the best option since the owner gets in cash the equivalent to the value s/he built in his/her business.

Now, we’ve all heard about “family owned and operated” businesses. This is often held up as the ideal for small businesses. It has a romantic flavor to it – Dad starts a business, the family joins in, the clouds part, the angels sing, butterflies flutter about each morning and all is right with the world.

But there is another option and it is this: have the family own the business but have non-family personnel run the business. The family assumes two of the four roles in any corporation: shareholder and board members. The non-family personnel assume the other two roles: corporate officer(s) (think CEO, President, CFO) and employees.

So, the family members – who are the owners and board members – hire a good CEO, name her as the top Corporate Officer and entrust to her the responsibility to carry out their vision of the company, bake in their values and return a profit to them each year. This is not unlike what the master did in Luke 19 with the parable of the talents.

Let’s assume this is a $12M/year business and it has a net profit of ~ 8%/year, or ~ $960,000. While the family members don’t get salaries, as owners they can take was is called an “Owner Draw”, which is ordinary income to them, but is money taken out of the business for their personal use. So, let’s give each of the three children $150,000/year in an Owner Draw. This would leave the CEO with $510,000 of working capital to us in the next year to help build and grow the business.

Here’s the catch: it’s not up to the kids to implement this succession plan – it’s up their parents – whoever was an owner in the previous generation.

Think about it: If you own a business today and you know that your kids are probably not going to want your business, you can still provide for them by hiring non-family to run it and then having your kids take out a certain percentage of the net cash profit each year. Your business can continue to provide for you children and grandchildren long after your departure from this earth simply by thinking ahead and implementing a thoughtful succession plan. It will take at least 5 years to implement, so if you’re past 50, it’s time to start thinking about.

There are other options, of course. You can sell your business or you can wind it down and liquidate it. But all things being equal, I have a difficult time understanding why you wouldn’t want to provide for your children and grandchildren by hiring competent, non-family executives to run your business.

And best of all, you can designate a certain portion of the profits be placed either into a family foundation focused on giving to Christian ministries or given directly to certain ministries you want to support. And you can continue to support them long after you have passed.

Now, you might ask: “is leaving an inheritance supported in the Bible?”  I think the answer is “yes”.  Consider Ecclesiastes 5. 13-15:

13 “I have seen a grievous evil under the sun: wealth hoarded to the harm of its owners,  14 or wealth lost through some misfortune,
so that when they have children  there is nothing left for them to inherit.  15 Everyone comes naked from their mother’s womb,
and as everyone comes, so they depart.  They take nothing from their toil that they can carry in their hands.”

For my purposes in this article, please note that it is a “grievous evil” is a “misfortune” creates a situation in which a parent’s wealth is not passed on to their children.  To my way of thinking, “misfortune” can easily cover situations in which the parent’s laziness and lack of planning creates a less-then-optimal inheritance for their children.

If you own a business and need to discuss a succession plan, contact me at bill.english @ It will cost you nothing to have a conversation with me and it may help you achieve some of your most important goals.

But for sure, don’t die without a succession plan that has been implemented for your business. That, in my opinion, is horrible Christian Stewardship.

Bill English

Role Confusion in Family Owned Businesses

In most family owned businesses – whether Christian or not – there is usually an enmeshment of roles for family members who work in the business. They confuse the four roles that anyone can play in a corporation:

  • Shareholder
  • Board of Director Member
  • Corporate Officer
  • Employee

It’s not uncommon for individual family members to hold all four of these roles and then combine the distinct authorities of each role into one while fulfilling their day-to-day activities. For example, a son who is an employed to be the shop manager and is part-owner in the family owned business routinely asks the Controller for financial reports on the state of the business. This type of thing goes on all the time in family owned businesses because the individuals who own the business see their ownership as a reason to do pretty much whatever they want to do within the organization and get involved in the areas of the business that they like to be involved in – regardless of their actual title or job description.

What these family members don’t realize is that when they usurp the authority given to their employees, they incrementally emasculate those employees whose decisions are questioned or even worse, changed by the family member. In addition, they:

  • Create situations in which chain of command is questioned and blurred
  • Create “shadow” leadership roles for themselves, causing the real leaders to “look over their shoulder” when decisions are made
  • Cause some employees to get two approvals (when only one is needed) – one of their manager, the other from the owner. Should conflicts arise between the owner and the manager as to the approval, the employee may be left to figure out which one will win and where to place their loyalties
  • Core processes that rely on cross-functional cooperation can grind to a halt when the owner swoops in and asks lots of questions before allowing the process to continue – this causes anger and confusion in the employees. Some will just “check out” and see how long they can last before needing to find a new employer
  • Create conflict within the ownership structure of the business which may be negatively exacerbated by the dysfunctionality of the family system

During the day, family members who own businesses need to stay in their swim lane, performing the duties that they are assigned within the authority of their position would normally enjoy. They should not step outside their role during the day and get involved in other duties, roles, responsibilities and/or decisions. Doing so rarely leads to positive outcomes.

In Ecclesiastes 3, Solomon write this:

There is a time for everything,

and a season for every activity under the heavens:

2    a time to be born and a time to die,

a time to plant and a time to uproot,

3    a time to kill and a time to heal,

a time to tear down and a time to build,

4    a time to weep and a time to laugh,

a time to mourn and a time to dance,

5    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,

a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,

6    a time to search and a time to give up,

a time to keep and a time to throw away,

7    a time to tear and a time to mend,

a time to be silent and a time to speak,

8    a time to love and a time to hate,

a time for war and a time for peace

When we apply this Scripture to family-owned businesses, I think it’s pretty clear that for those who both work in the business and own the business, there is a time for them to fulfill different roles and they need to be clear about these roles.

The shareholder role is fulfilled at a Shareholder meeting and focuses on electing a Board of Directors. There are other actions shareholders can take, but electing the Board of Directors is a core role that they fulfill. Family owned businesses should have a functioning Board of Directors comprised of both family and non-family members.

The Board of Director member role is fulfilled at Board of Director meetings. This role focuses on oversight, strategy, risk mitigation, good governance, compliance, culture and so forth. One of the most important roles fulfilled at Board meetings is selecting and holding accountable the leader of your business who is usually the CEO. This individual need not be a family member and if s/he is not, then the need for the family members who do work in the business to stay within their roles and decision-making authority is exponentially increased. Owners who work in their business but are not the leaders of their own business need to respect the one who is leading and not undermine their authority.

A corporate officer is one who is vested with certain legal powers and responsibilities on behalf of the corporation. Often, the family members take on these roles as well, but if they higher an “outsider” as the CEO or CFO, they will need to respect and support those individuals they have hired to be a corporate officer

Finally, most family members who own a business also work in the business as an employee. During the day, the family members need to throttle themselves (“limit” is a good word too) to stay within their assigned roles and authorities. They should not reserve to themselves the right to be involved in any part of the business they choose. Doing so just creates confusion as to reporting structures and lines of authority.

Overall, even though one person can fulfill all four roles in a corporation, they should understand that they should not combine these roles during the time when they are working in the business. Doing so does not add value and does not help them grow and further their own business success.

Why Gifting Stock to Your Children May Be Poor Stewardship

**Note: This story is a composite derived from five different real-life situations.  The names are fictitious and are changed to protect the identities of those involved.**

Tom and Jenny own an eight million dollar manufacturing and retail business. They manufacture decorative fascia products for homes and then sell them through their own showrooms as well as selected partners around the country. They have one son and two daughters.

Ever since the kids were young, Tom told them that they would own his business. It has been his life-long dream to pass along his business to his children. And they have been raised to believe – right or wrong – that they will inherit the business and “be the boss”. Tom never said anything to them about buying the business – just that they would one day own it.

Tom’s son – the eldest of the three – worked in the family business in high school and college. After graduation, he worked full-time in the business but grew tired of his ideas to improve sales and get new customers in the door being discounted and often outright rejected by Tom. As part of trying to keep his son in the family business, Tom gifted 10% of the shares of the company to him. His son worked another couple of years, but was still unfulfilled, so he left the business. He went back to school, earned another degree and pursued a career in a different field. After 3 years, he also tired of that career. Tom wanted him to come back, so Tom offered his son another 10% of stock to come back and also offered 10% of stock to his son’s wife as part of a “signing bonus”. They both felt this was an opportunity too good to pass up, so Tom’ son came back into the business, this time as (pragmatically) 30% owner. Still, Tom was not open to new ideas from his son. When Eric returned to the business, he realized that nothing had changed. But he had a choice to make – get back out or dig-in and see what he could do to improve the business. He chose the latter.

Tom didn’t discuss with his son or Jenny much of anything about a succession plan. In fact, he didn’t plan at all. He just kept working in the business until, one day, at the age of 63, he realized he was tired, burned out and ready to sell. He decided he wanted to get it sold in 30 days (which, for those of you who don’t work in the sale of businesses, is a completely unrealistic time frame. Most businesses take 9-12 months, minimum, to sell).

So he calls his accountant and asks for a valuation of his business. The accountant told him that it was worth $1.2 – $1.5M. Tom heard the accountant clearly say it was worth $3M while Eric heard him say it was worth $400K. Nothing was written down – the accountant only gave a verbal, back-of-the-envelope valuation – so Tom and Eric started pointing fingers at each other. Finally, Tom asked his son to take a seller note for $3M so that his son could own the business.

Naturally, his son, Eric, refused to pay $3M for the business. Sales had been declining the last two years due to customers wanting a new type of product that they didn’t supply. Tom refused to spend $500K on a new machine to manufacture the new product and pointed to the decline in sales as a reason he couldn’t afford to spend that type of money. Tom blamed Eric for the drop in sales. Eric blamed his dad for not investing “in the future” of their company and that was the reason for the drop in sales.

Jenny is most upset about the deterioration of their family relationships. She is scared that there may come a day when she can’t see her grandkids because of the building animosity between Tom and Eric. Eric’s wife doesn’t want to be around either Tom or Jenny because Eric gets so made so easily with them. She values the peace and tranquility of being a family, but doesn’t want the fireworks of Tom and Jenny’s presence in her home.

So, what has gone wrong? A number of things – and if you own a business and want to pass it on to your children – then you should pay attention to the rest of this blog post.

Tom’s Mistakes

Tom’s first mistake was in promising the business to his children. While a romantic idea, he should have never made such blatant promises over and over again when his children were growing up. It significantly contributed to Eric’s sense of entitlement and caused a temporary rift between Eric and his two sisters as portions of their natural inheritance from the business was being gifted to Tom.

Secondly, he should have never gifted stock to Eric or his wife. Eric was right to refuse to pay full price for the business – after all, he already owned 30% of it. What Tom and Jenny didn’t realize was that by gifting the stock to their son and daughter-in-law, they would never be paid for that stock. They gave it away. Foolishly, they thought their son would pay them anyways out of the goodness of his own heart. They were wrong. This further contributed to a growing rift between them.

Thirdly, after gifting the stock to his son, they never held Shareholder meetings to elect corporate officers, hold board meetings and so forth. They never acted like a corporation. So Eric felt more and more “used” and didn’t feel like an owner. His dad made all the important decisions without consulting him. So Eric saw his future being squandered away by (what he perceived to be) his father’s poor choices and he felt discounted by his own father. Eric was never given the respect he was due as a legal stockholder in the company.

Fourthly, Tom offered to sell the business using a Seller Note – meaning that Eric could pay Tom for the business over time. Fortunately for both, Eric turned down the offer and didn’t sign the note. Had he signed it and then ran the business into the ground, not only would Eric be bankrupt, but Tom would have nothing to live on during his later years in life. The value of the business could have been destroyed had Eric made some blunders. I always recommend that the younger generation pay cash for the business so that they have to get some real skin in the game.

Lastly, Tom didn’t get objective values on his company by taking it to market and finding out what others would pay for it. So their life-long accountant got put in the middle between Tom and Eric by having him value the business. In the end, neither side wanted to use the accountant because both wrongly felt he “took sides” because he didn’t always agree with either Tom or Eric. So, without a neutral third party, Tom and Eric haggled back and forth over the price of the business for close to six months. Tom wanted $3M+ on $250K/EBITDA and Eric didn’t want to pay beyond $500K for 70% of the business. At the time of this writing, they are deadlocked, angry, tired, frustrated and unsure of what their next moves are.

What Can be Done to Fix the Problem?

The first thing Tom should do is focus on building sales back up in the business. He should stop blaming his son and take the responsibility for the state of the business. After all, he is the majority owner and the buck stops with him. Tom needs to stop whining and get going in building his business. He should work *with* his son, not against him and learn to value other opinions.

After getting sales back up, he should let Eric run an increasingly large segment of the business. This will give Eric needed experience in case he does find himself the owner of the business someday. Just because Tom is the majority owner in the family business doesn’t mean that he should run the business. Eric is fully capable of running the business, if Tom would just coach him.

Thirdly, he should realize he has given away 30% of the business and as a consequence, adjust his expectations for how much cash he is going to get from the sale of his part of the business. It’s sad, but true, Tom and Jenny will need to downsize their retirement because of unwise choices they made earlier on in their professional lives.

Lastly, Tom should take his business to market and find out how much it really is worth. Accountants can give you figures all day long, but until you’ve taken it to market to find out what real buyers think, you really don’t know what its worth. Tom should consider selling all the shares to a third party and letting his son walk away with a wad of cash so that both of them can focus on having a family, father/son relationship. Jenny needs this too. She needs assurance that she will be able to see her grandchildren. The entire family really needs to learn to be a family without a business. It will be difficult for them – but a good transition.


Good stewardship of a business which God has given to you means stewarding well your exit from the business. Simply giving stock to your children can cause unwanted and unforeseen consequences. Your exit can be thwarted and muddied by how you manage the sale process. Finding competent consultants who do this for a living is one of the best things you can do to ensure that you’re exiting your business well, realizing as much value as possible and then putting that cash to work as God directs in His kingdom.

Bill English