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Succession Planning in Turbulent Times—Operating Companies Need an Operator

By April 4, 2012October 24th, 2018Estate Planning Blog, Fred Whitaker

Fred Whitaker

Fred M. Whitaker, Senior Partner at Cummins & White, LLP.  If you have questions related to this article, please contact Fred Whitaker at (949) 852-1800 or

Last month we discussed the traits that mark a successful operator like yourself and identifying them in your potential successor.

Integrity is the number one trait that any operator must have. Without integrity there is no trust and no ability for the operator to lead without suspicion.  But what about the other traits?

The chart included nine traits as illustrated below.  In order to be successful, operators need at least five of the nine.  While you likely have all or 90% of these traits, it is rare that someone not currently an entrepreneur will have all the traits you do.  Remember though, you don’t need an entrepreneur, you need an operator. Operators provide you flexibility in planning for the future of your company.  With an operator you can retire, pass the company to your heirs, sell it to your employees, or selling to a third party. Without one it is more difficult and value in the company is diminished.

Passion? Positive Net Worth? 

Overachiever of wealth?

Relationships? Liquidity? 

Cash Flow?

Loyalty? Need for Legacy? Work Ethic?

Personal Category – Passion, relationships and loyalty are keys to success. Passion fuels the fire necessary to be a self-starter every day and the determination to push through the tough times.  Strong relationships, internal with your staff and external with your suppliers, customers and industry, help to build employee morale, loyal suppliers and customers.  Loyalty also is key, as you must trust your operator to have the best interest of the company.

Financial Category – Overachievers of wealth are good managers of money, critical to successfully operating your business.    If they are a good steward with what they have and are building wealth in excess of their income strata by saving, living prudently, and investing, they will do the same thing with your money and your business.  If they live in excess of their income and are an underachiever of wealth, they will likely manage the business in the same way.

Managerial Category – Capabilities are essential.  Work ethic is a given and will come if they have passion.  Desire is nice, but whether someone has the desire to manage or not, you need someone that just does it.  The most important thing in this category is a skill set.  The number of businesses that make the fatal mistake of making their top salesperson the sales manager is in the millions.  The operator has to have the ability to delegate, empower, and hold others accountable.

Now that you have your Operator selected, next month we will begin discussing how they can help position your business for exit on your terms.