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Preparing for the “Big Day”

April 22, 2019

By Martha Sullivan, CPA, CVA/ABV, CM&AA, CEPA
Partner, Succession Planning Practice Leader

Martha leads HK’s succession and exit planning services division and is a regular contributor to Wisconsin’s InBusiness digital magazine.

Our oldest is getting married this week. It’s an exciting time, obviously. We’re thrilled to have a new member of our family, and our “baby” is beginning a new phase of life!

It’s also a time of contemplation. Is this the right time? Is this the right marriage? What does the future hold for these people I love? Are they prepared for this important change in life?

We’re ready for the day, yes, but that’s filled with logistics and fleeting moments. More importantly, are they ready for what it means for them, as individuals, a couple, and a family? That is so much more than just one day.

As a parent, you can’t help but wonder how well you’ve prepared your child to be successful in a marriage. Being a role model, helping them grow up with integrity and honesty, and demonstrating the importance of family, community, and grace are critical.

Yet there really isn’t one specific thing that we did to prepare our son for this commitment and next stage of life. It’s the accumulation of all the little things that we did, and continue to do every day, to help him be a good person with a kind heart, to love and be loved, and to honor the future and family he has chosen. Hopefully, he has the foundation to be a good friend, spouse, and contributor for many decades.

It takes time to prepare for these transformations in our lives. When we make the commitment and sign legal documents committing us to this life-changing pact, we stand on the shoulders of the people and experiences that formed us into the person we are today.

The same is true in preparing your business for its eventual transition. Is your “baby” ready to leave the nest and commit to the most important “person” in his or her life now — the new owner? If the right partner showed up tomorrow with wedding bands, can your company stand on its own two feet, say “yes,” and have a promising future? As we’ve discussed in prior posts, preparation for changes like this doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a day-by-day thing. The only way it happens is if you commit to doing whatever you can, each and every day, to make your business as strong, healthy, and self-sufficient as it can be. We pay it forward with this diligence and vigilance, setting the stage for another’s success.

It’s easy for us to focus on the big day. The ceremony, with its pomp and circumstance, champagne, and happy smiles, is meaningful and fun. But it’s focused all around the transaction, not the transformation. If you wake up the next day and have no idea how to function without “mom or dad,” it’s going to be a rocky road, at least at first. If your employees can’t make a decision confidently, connect with customers and vendors, and run the operations profitably, the marriage will suffer and be filled with disappointment. This type of self-sufficiency takes years of dedicated effort to develop. Tiny daily activities and conversations set the foundation for the transformative change that will eventually come.

Reflecting on it, the day we brought our baby home was filled with joy and promise, just like when you started your business. We had high hopes and dreams. We wanted to give the best we could give. Dreaming of this wedding day, however, didn’t make it so. We needed to prepare our child for his future, one day at a time, every day.

Now, together, they can soar.

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