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Succession Planning in Turbulent Times—Operating Companies Need an Operator

By February 15, 2012October 24th, 2018Estate Planning Blog, Fred Whitaker

Fred Whitaker

Last month we discussed that “Operating Businesses Need an Operator.”  Operating businesses—whether you want to sell your business to a third party, your employees, or give it to your heirs—need an operator to have longevity and value you can harvest.  If you are the only one who can run it, it won’t last very long if you give it away; and it won’t be worth very much if you try to sell it.  Value is based on the prediction that current performance will continue in your absence.  Whether it’s a family member, a long time employee, or a gun for hire, you need to have a successor.

Yet, many entrepreneurs don’t take the time to mentor a successor.  The Estate and Gift Tax deadline is another 10 months away (December 2012), so don’t worry about it just yet. Instead I’m urging you to practice the Steven Covey principle of “First Things First ™” and undertake the “Important That’s Not Urgent™.” Find and mentor your successor.  Here is a chart to help you identify the 10 qualities that make a successful business operator…qualities you likely have yourself.

The first and most essential quality is Integrity.  Trust in their word, follow through, etc… is critical. If the person does not have Integrity, choose someone else. If the key indicator—integrity—is there, look for the additional nine positive traits identified in every successful business operator found in the table below:


Passion? Positive Net Worth? 

Overachiever of wealth?

Relationships? Liquidity? 

Cash Flow?

Loyalty? Need for Legacy? Work Ethic?

While you likely have all nine, and you would like your successor to possess most of them, he/she needs at least five of the traits to be successful. Can you guess which ones?  I will provide the answers next month.