This week I was fortunate enough to be profiled by the Des Moines Register. It came as a complete surprise and was a nice follow up on last weekâ€™s discussion of the philosophy of Aspen Grove Investments. I am grateful to them for doing so, although now I have
had my 15 minutes of fame!
I am also gratified by the outpouring of support that I received from that article. I heard from many friends that I had not heard from since college and some that I work with daily. It has been a humbling experience to get such positive feedback.
â€œThe cradle of the future is the grave of the past.”
I also had the experience in the past week of losing two people who were important friends of our family. One was 4 years older than me, I didnâ€™t know him as well as I would have liked but we always had fun when we were together and I learned some things from his approach to life. The other was 40 years older and a former neighbor and father of a few of my closest childhood friends whom I had lost contact with over the past few decades.
Sometimes we donâ€™t see as much in ourselves as others do; and sometimes we see more than we should. I have been fortunate to have had many people take an interest in me from my early childhood, when I was surrounded by parents, grandparents, siblings, friends, aunts and uncles who took a particular interest in how I developed (yes, you can blame them). They tore me down, beat me up and then built me back up again and always, always had my back. Now my wife and children have taken over that role and are performing quite nicely.
There have been many mentors over the years that I hearken back to. The parish priest who quietly came up to me one evening during a game and told me I should play deeper at shortstop because I had a good enough arm for it. Only later did I learn that he had been a catcher in the White Sox system before leaving for the seminary! The experienced veteran who one day pulled me aside and told me I would be an even better negotiator if I would let the other guy win occasionally. The boss who had the courage and confidence to allow and support me to do things that I never thought I could achieve. The employees without whose ideas and hard work nothing could have been accomplished. The friend who tells you that you canâ€™t do that, forcing you to do it. The wife who puts up with the insanity of someone who loves challenges and suffers when he fails.
I have always had a deep respect for those that go before us. It believe it is critical that we learn as much from those around us as we can and that we try to pay that forward by passing what we have learned along. A big part of my starting my business was to show my children what that would be like, for better or worse (and because my ego wouldnâ€™t let me not do it before I died). It is through the sharing of these experiences and learning that families, businesses, nations and civilizations perpetuate. I worry that we are losing that through modern lifestyles and technology, but I am also encouraged by how I see others using technologies and tools to help people stay connected.
In my opinion large corporations are built for one thing: to perpetuate themselves. They have boards of directors, outside advisors on boards, formal succession planning, business plans and reviews. That is what mid-market businesses have to compete with. They must figure out how to capture the learning, wisdom and experience of their ancestry and pass it along to the next generation of ownership. That is at the core of what ownership transition planning is really all about. Without it, mid-market and family businesses will be acquired by corporations who have competitive advantages on the corporationâ€™s terms. With effective planning, an owner can pass along ownership of the business and experience to the owner of their choice and on their terms.
Let me know what you are doing to capture and pass along your experience, practices and advantages so that your business can thrive and allow you to transition out on your terms someday. The stakes are high for our culture. I would love to hear your ideas.