On Thursday Oct. 23rd, I attended the FORUM Protecting Your Legacy from the Four D’s: Death, Disability, Divorce, Disagreement. It’s probably worth noting that I’m in my 16th year as president of my company and I had never attended anything like that before. My brothers and I are a second generation family-run corporation. To be honest, I was just too busy building and running my company to worry about something that happens to other people.
I sat in the Forum relaxed, attentive, and generally curious about what presenters were going to say, until about half way through, it hit me—I’m actually still here, and I have an obligation to say something!
Flash back two and a half years…. In a hospital bed at the National Cancer Institute getting experimental treatment for melanoma that had progressed to stage IV: chemotherapy, whole body radiation, immunotherapy, Interlukin 2, stem cell recovery, surgery, and a short stay in ICU. Forget business crisis…. my entire life was in crisis. Thanks to God and science, I was able to get through it and return to what was going to be my “new normal” form of existence. Now I live six months at a time (between scans) and I make every second count with my wife and two children.
A few months into this reality, I picked up a book about Buy/Sell Agreements and ended up reading the entire thing in one night. The more I read, the more worried I became. We had a Buy/Sell, but it was written when the corporation was formed in 1981; it was completely outdated and obsolete. I went to bed, and woke up at 2 am in a panic.
That night, I wrote my intent for a new Buy/ Sell Agreement. In the morning I told my brothers they needed to read it ASAP and sign it. I knew it might not hold water in a courtroom, but at least it expressed our general intentions. They both agreed and we forwarded it to our attorney and accounting firm. These professional advisors helped with many aspects of my business during this difficult time. I wanted to protect my wife and children, and my brothers and their families.
Coordinating a Crisis Plan with them provided great peace of mind! Although I’m fine right now, the reality is that I could be back in crisis mode at any time. If that happens, I will only have to deal with the physical and emotional impact. The business will survive!
Plan Ahead to Save Stress Later
When you deal with a cancer diagnosis, your entire perspective of life will change. As a result, the urgency to put your family business house in order will become a burden until resolved. Why would any family work so hard to build something, just to risk it falling apart?
I offer all family-run businesses this advice: surround yourself with a good group of advisors to help you navigate the future of your business. In short, they will protect your legacy on many levels, not just financial. We were able to accomplish this in a short amount of time at a very reasonable cost.