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Four Things My Father Taught Me About Succession Planning Best Practices

Four things my father taught me about succession planning best practices resized 600

One of my heroes in the printing industry is my father, Carlo LaManna.  I learned a lot from him, but what was truly amazing about him was how he employed succession planning best practices.  What did he do that was so different from anyone else?  A friend explained it to me in a single sentence.

I had asked my friend, a successful retired businessman, to review my report on Succession Planning Simplified.  After reading the report, he said it was excellent.  Unfortunately, it had one critical flaw:  “Most people won’t do it.”

What he said was true.  In many businesses, especially those that are family-run, presidents and CEO’s tend to ignore succession planning practices.  Whether they’re hoping to avoid an intra-family conflict, or if they’re unwilling to admit it’s time to step down, succession planning is often neglected.

My father knew better, but what was truly amazing about him is he acted on it.  He didn’t just read a report like Succession Planning Simplified and put it on his to-do list.  He did it.  

Why did he execute his plan?  I think it was because, ultimately, he believed in the following:

1. You have a responsibility to your family, your employees and your customers.  If you’ve built a successful business, your family, employees and customers have played a huge role in it.  The problem is they’ll need the business to continue after you’re gone.  You owe these people for the success of your company – don’t leave your debt unpaid.  Remember, you can’t take it with, but you can leave behind a legacy.

2. You have to make tough decisions, even if it negatively affects your children.  I was in line to take over the company from my father.  Professionally, I was ready.  But personally, I was struggling through a divorce.  My father felt for me, but more people depended on him than just me.  He knew he had to make a difficult call, but in the long run, it would be for the good of everyone involved.  He gave me a helpful dose of tough love and passed the business on to a group of investors.  I was crushed, but he was right.

3. You have to expect ill feelings.  No matter what you do, no matter how equitably you slice up the pie, someone in your family will not be happy.  Even today, 22 years after my father sold his business, people are still bitter.  You can’t please everyone, especially your loved ones.

4. You are obligated, as a leader, to be prepared.  My father always used to say, “Nothing ever surprises me.”  Sometimes I think he was commenting on the relentless push of new technologies.  Sometimes I think he was referring to how hard he prepared himself, making sure he had a good sense of the future and where the market was headed.  In succession planning, preparation for the transition is absolutely mission critical.

My friend was right.  Most people won’t do succession planning.  But for those who understand their responsibilities to friends, family and employees, pursuing succession planning is not just an option.  It’s an obligation.

Photo by: buddawiggi


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Rock LaManna is the President and CEO of the LaManna Alliance.  The LaManna Alliance helps printing owners and CEOs use their company financials to prioritize and choose the proper strategic transition – including mergers, acquisitions, organic growth, and exit / succession plans.

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