Want to Be Successful? Take Time to Dream.

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One of the most famous dreamers of our time is Steve Jobs, the Co-founder and CEO of Apple, an iconic visionary who believed so deeply in the power of his dreams that he was able to bring them to life for millions of people. Jobs believed that the era of mediocrity was over and that you should put in the work on every project to make it great. His famous recommendation to a Disney retail executive to “Dream bigger” when it came to Disney stores resulted in a new type of store experience that continues to delight children of all ages. How can you leverage these same tactics and take the time to dream big in your own life?

Dream Fearlessly

Individuals often lose confidence in their dreams because everyday reality creeps in and has a way of tamping down your passion. Big dreamers are different. Even if you think they’re relentlessly optimistic, it requires constant hard work and commitment to make dreams come true, and a fearless need to be successful.

Believe in Yourself

Constantly second-guessing yourself doesn’t leave a lot of time for forward movement, making self-confidence a critical requirement for living your passion. You have to identify every element of your vision down to the smallest detail, and then break it down into the small steps required to make it happen. Professional athletes are very familiar with this concept, as they are coached to visualize making a basket, getting a hole in one, or nailing a complicated gymnastics floor exercise.

Take Action

Dreaming is great, but once the dream is solidified it is time to begin moving! Harness your beliefs and stay focused on reaching your goal. There will be others who will support you along the way — great! There will also be those individuals who are constantly looking to undermine your skills, your ability, and your passion. Graciously ignore them, and keep taking steps to move your dreams forward into reality. Pausing too long to consider the consequences can often result in a missed opportunity, which may not come around again.

Compete to Win

Successful dreamers are by nature quite competitive. They’re always looking around for how their competition is doing something and finding a way to improve upon the concept, or better yet — revolutionize it in their own way. Solving problems for your customers is a daily devotion, allowing you to rise to any challenge and overcome it as you follow your dreams.

Leave Space for Dreaming

What can you stop doing (immediately, next week, in six weeks) that will free up additional time for dreaming? It can be incredibly difficult to fuel your passion when you’re so caught up in everyday activities and overall busyness that you aren’t able to stop and think. Actively look for ways that you can create space in your daily activities that provide a block of time in which to think about the future and how you’ll get there. Your future self will thank you!

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, persevere. When things don’t work out exactly as you had planned — keep going. Remind yourself that nothing good comes overnight, and success can take years to achieve. Stay resilient, be patient and keep dreaming!


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3 Signs to Help You Identify if Your Market is Changing.

 

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So much of your marketing success depends on your ability to get the right message in front of the right people at exactly the right time. To accomplish this, you need to know your audience – and the market that they inhabit – as intimately as possible.

But what happens if one day, suddenly and without warning, that market begins to change? Worse yet, what happens if this trend started while you weren’t necessarily paying as much attention as you should have been? The answer is both unfortunate and straightforward: you’ll be stuck playing “catch up.”

This is a situation that you do NOT want to find yourself in. Here are a few key signs that indicate a market change may be taking place.

Product Innovation Is No Longer a Key Value Driver

You’ve worked hard to build a robust and stable business and nobody offers what you do in quite the same way. You’ve had a tremendous amount of success relying on this type of innovation up to this point as a result. However, if things start to shift in the opposite direction, you may be looking at a market change that you’ll want to adapt to as fast as you can.

Simply put, product innovation – that is, the quality of what you do and how you do it – should always be the key value driver for your business. If you start to have to fall back on things like your prices, the reputation of your brand, or simply your ability to “out market” your competition, it’s likely that your audience is reaching a maturity level that will represent a challenge in the future.

Look to Your Competitors

Competitors are not always a hurdle to be overcome. Oftentimes, they can be the “canary in the coal mine,” so to speak, especially in a situation like this one. Take a look at some of the leaders in your industry, especially competitors that are larger than you are. What are they doing? Are they growing or retracting? Are they doing something that nobody else is doing because they can see something coming down the road that nobody else does? Keeping an eye on the health of your larger competitors can be a great way to stay ahead of the larger market trends that may be right around the corner.

Listen to Your Customers

Ultimately, the most important thing you can do to identify signs that your market may be changing requires you to see your marketing strategy as a two-way street. You’re not just communicating with your audience; your audience is also communicating with you. If you’re having a hard time getting solid insight into the direction of your industry and market alone, cut out the middleman and go right to the source: ask your audience what they see as their future needs in the areas you’ve dedicated yourself to serving.

Send out surveys or questionnaires asking for raw, honest insights into the questions you’re asking yourself today. Take a current client or customer out for dinner and ask them what they see for the next five or even ten years in your industry. Never forget that without these people, your business wouldn’t exist – so it’s in your own best interest to listen to them as often as possible.

 


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Maintaining a Work/Life Balance: Why Perspective Is Key.

 

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Work/life balance? No problem, right? But then those daily tasks start to add up and your nights start getting longer. You start going in on the occasional Saturday, then the “frequent” Saturday. Pretty soon you’re so bogged down with your “to-do” list that you can’t even think about taking that vacation with your family.

Maintaining a proper work/life balance is a challenge, sure – but it’s also a lot easier than you might think.

Enjoying Life is a Task, Too

When the pendulum that is your work/life balance begins to swing decidedly in the direction of “work, work, work,” you start to encounter a few key problems almost immediately. You’re trying to do too much at the same time, and the quality of work tends to suffer. You’re also getting burned out, which leads to less getting done because you lack the motivation to push on when you need it the most.

This is a large part of the reason why experts agree that you should look at downtime for what it is: a mission-critical task that you need to preserve your productivity throughout the week.

As you begin to build your schedule each week, make sure to add leisure activities at strategic points when you’ll need them. Don’t be afraid to add “go to the movies” to your calendar for Thursday, or pencil in that lunch with your old college friend on Monday afternoon.

If You Want to Move Up, Plan Some Down Time

Human beings NEED downtime to stay efficient. It’s a way to periodically re-charge our batteries. It’s the reason why people say you shouldn’t cram all your studying into the night before a big test in college and should instead break your coursework down into smaller, more manageable chunks in the weeks proceeding that moment. The former is an absolute recipe for disaster, and the latter supports the way your brain operates.

If you add in leisure items to your list of things to do, you’ll enjoy the added benefit of being able to check them off said list throughout the week. When you do this, it releases endorphins into your brain – meaning that you get a boost of satisfaction from having accomplished something, anything, and you get to take a mental breather at the same time.

None of this is difficult advice to follow – all it requires is some perspective about the things that matter most in life. Yes, work is important, but actually living your life is important, too.

 


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Bullies, Burgers, and Buzz.

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What do Whopper Juniors and bullying have in common these days? They are both being talked about. A LOT.

Recently, Burger King released a three-minute video in honor of National Bullying Prevention month. The viral video revealed that 95 percent of customers were willing to report their smashed, “bullied” Whopper Jr., but only 12 percent stood up for a high school student being harassed in the same store. The “No Junior Deserves to be Bullied” spot received national attention, generating countless online shares and loads of free publicity. One blogger said this:

“Yes, this is basically a three-minute Burger King ad. And, yes, it’s not subtle. But this PSA is better than it has a right to be, and is certainly more than you’d expect from a restaurant that doesn’t really have an ethical obligation beyond selling burgers . . . this weirdly good anti-bullying PSA will wreck your day.”

Viral: Why Certain Messages Multiply

Have you ever wondered why some YouTube videos go viral? Or why some products receive more word-of-mouth and top-of-mind awareness? Whether we’re in marketing, politics, or public health, it’s helpful to consider why certain products or ideas catch fire. Wharton marketing professor Jonah Berger, author of Contagious: Why Things Catch On, devoted nearly a decade to researching this very question. We all know that word-of-mouth marketing is the most dynamic form of influence, but why do some things seem to create more buzz? Berger gives several ideas for getting your ideas to stick and to SPREAD.

  1. Social Currency. What we talk about influences how other people see us – whether we look clever, silly, or thoughtful. How can our product or idea be a fun or interesting thing for someone to share with others? Many who shared the Burger King ad found it to be a compelling social commentary, a fun (but thoughtful) perspective worthy of passing along.
  2. Triggers. People often talk about whatever comes to mind. Just like a Subway ad might be effective in a subway station, a trigger is an association that prompts people to think about related things. Burger King wisely released this PSA during Bullying Prevention month, because what is on the top of the mind is often at the tip of the tongue. Burgers and bullies were on our lips in October.
  3. Emotion. How can we craft messages and ideas that make people feel something? Our relational bent prompts us to share things that are surprising, inspiring, funny, beautiful, or motivating. Burger King tapped into a heartfelt issue, knowing that when we care, we are more likely to share!
  4. Stories Sell. Why are Super Bowl commercials so fun? Because nothing tops a great story, and these ads tell them well. Top marketers know that one way to replicate a message is to embed it in a “Trojan Horse,” or a noteworthy narrative people are bound to repeat. In this instance, the Whopper Junior had a supporting role in the greater story of bullying and social justice. But Contagious reminds us the product or idea has to be essential to the plotline: “We need to make our message so integral to the narrative that people can’t tell the story without it.”

Getting Your Message to Spread and Stick

Looking for ways to get your message to spread and your brand to stick? From large-scale publicity to customer care and referral options, we have opportunities in all sizes. We’ll help you package your stories, triggers, and ideas with several time-tested tools and tricks. Give us a call to talk options!

 


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Healthy Employees Are Productive Employees: Why to Incentivize Health at Work.

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Productivity really is the secret to everything in terms of your business’ success. Happier employees tend to be more productive, which is why it is essential that you focus on things like corporate culture and team-building exercises whenever the opportunity arises.

Many people don’t realize, however, that this is only one small part of a much larger story. It isn’t enough for your employees to be happy – healthy employees are also significantly more productive than those who are not, which is why if you’re not already making health and wellness top priorities within your organization now would be an excellent time to start.

Healthy Employees and Productivity: Facts and Figures

According to a series of studies that were recently conducted on the subject, healthy employees may be a whole lot more valuable than you’ve even realized:

  • On average, employees who eat healthy foods (or who at least make an effort to do so) tend to be about 25% more productive than those who do not.
  • Employees that exercise for at least a half hour each week are an impressive 15% more likely to have higher job performance than those who do not.
  • Healthy employees also take fewer sick days, which is not surprising. The true revelation, however, is just how far this benefit goes: absenteeism is a massive 27% lower in employees who A) eat healthy, and B) exercise regularly.
  • The most important statistic of all is the fact that overweight and generally unhealthy employees cost employers in the United States an astounding $73.1 billion collectively per year, part of which has to do with the fact that they tend to file twice the number of workers’ compensation claims than those who do not.

At this point, the answer to the question “how important are healthy employees?” becomes resoundingly clear: very, very important. But saying that you value your employee’s health is one thing. Actually taking steps to show that this is true is something else entirely.

How to Value Health at Work

Luckily, valuing healthy employees is simply a matter of a series of small choices. You can begin by making sure that healthy snacks are available for employees in the office who may be “burning the midnight oil,” for example. If you’re one of the many workplaces around the country that has a vending machine on-site, consider restocking that vending machine with healthy snacks like fruits and vegetables instead of the traditional potato chips and sweets. People will absolutely start to eat them, especially if they don’t really have an alternative.

You’ll also want to consider emphasizing health in terms of things like employee benefits packages. Consider throwing in a free gym membership to a local fitness club that employees can take advantage of after they’ve worked with your organization for X number of weeks or months. It may not be something that everyone uses, but those who do will benefit greatly. You’ll also benefit, too, as this is a clear sign that you actually care about the health and fitness of your employees – something that will make it easier to attract top talent in the future.

Also remember that according to one report by Quantum Workplace, employees tend to be 14% more engaged when they are provided some time off to “recharge their batteries,” so to speak. So the next time you think it’s a good idea to make people work incredibly long hours week after week, you may want to think again.

 


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You Don’t Demand Employee Trust. You Earn It.

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Corporate culture is pretty much the key to everything in the world of business. According to a series of studies reported on by Forbes, nearly 90% of people who responded said that company culture was incredibly important for their firms. In fact, 92% said that they firmly believed that improving corporate culture would enhance the value of their business, while more than half of respondents said that corporate culture influences everything from productivity to creativity to profitability, value, growth and beyond.

At the same time, only 15% said that their company’s culture was where it needed to be.

It Begins at the Top

At first glance, these numbers may appear to be somewhat at odds with one another – but they really aren’t. Corporate culture begins at the top and, if anything, that 15% statistic can be attributed to one essential little word: trust. Leaders set the tone that affects the entire organization, and if employees don’t trust their leaders, they ultimately don’t trust the direction of the business that they’re devoting so much of their lives to.

Make no mistake: trust is not something that you can demand from your employees. It’s something that you have to earn – all day, every day. It’s also something that requires you to keep a few key things in mind.

Trust is a Privilege, Not a Right

Yes, you worked incredibly hard to become the leader that you are today. You put in long hours. You worked weekends. You devoted the majority of your life to your career and a constant push to achieve bigger and better things for yourself. Now you’re in charge of the proverbial ship, and everyone should just trust that you know what you’re doing by default, right?

There’s an old rule of storytelling that says that whenever possible, “show, don’t tell.” That essentially means that instead of having a character talk about some important development in the plot, SHOW the development instead by having them do something active. It’s why in “Star Wars,” instead of just having people stand around and talk about how bad the Death Star is, we see it blow up a planet to convey the same information in a much more active way.

This is the same mentality you need to adopt if you want to start earning the trust of your employees. If you make a mistake, don’t shift the blame – accept responsibility. Don’t ask any employee to do anything that you would be unwilling to do yourself. If you want people to come in on the weekend, you should also come in on the weekend. If you need your team to work long hours, guess what – you need to work them, too.

Show You Care

Every day, look for new opportunities to show your employees that you not only value what they do but that you’re all in this together. Remember that their productivity, hard work, and excellent performance needs to benefit more than just you and your career – it needs to positively impact them, too. They’re not going to follow you into battle because you tell them to. They have to want to do so.

The only way you can get to that point is if they trust you, and the only way you can get to THAT point is if you’re someone worth trusting. This simple distinction is often what separates a good leader from a great one.


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Using Continuity to Strengthen Your Branding Efforts

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Your brand is a lot more than just a name or a logo. It’s the feeling that someone gets when they come into contact, any contact, with your organization. In fact, the thing that really increases engagement and drives loyalty isn’t your products or services (though, to be fair, they do help quite a bit) – it’s this idea of the larger brand itself.

Because someone could potentially have that experience with your brand, the idea of brand continuity could not be more important. Regardless of how someone interacts with your brand, it should all feel like it’s naturally coming from the same place at all times. To truly master the idea of using continuity to strengthen your branding efforts, there are a few key things you’ll need to keep in mind.

One Brand, One Voice – No Exceptions

Continuity means all of your marketing efforts need to feel as consistent as possible regardless of what those efforts happen to be. In the world of print marketing, this can be as simple as making sure that all of the fonts in your advertisements match (or at least reflect) the fonts on your actual products themselves. This can also encompass larger ideas, like if you revamp or redesign your company logo in one place you immediately roll it out everywhere at the same time to avoid confusion.

In a single word, your goal is “synchronicity.” Every marketing-related decision you make must serve two masters. First, it must be purpose-driven with a strategic move made with a specific payoff in mind. Secondly, you need to make sure that it is NOT a move that is ultimately at odds with the way you talk to customers, the relationship that you have with them, or the idea that they have of your brand to begin with.

A Great Persona Makes All the Difference

Brand personas are incredibly helpful in this regard because they allow you to laser-focus your messaging on a few of your “ideal” customers in a way that makes it much easier to maintain one voice. If you segment your target audience into groups that are each represented by a singular fictional persona, it makes it much easier to make consistent decisions across all of your efforts. You can both make sure that continuity is preserved for all materials targeted at those people, but you can also easily get a “bigger picture” look about how each individual effort plays off of and compliments the rest.

The impact of negative brand continuity isn’t limited to a customer getting their wire’s crossed. Eventually, this problem will create a challenge that is much harder to overcome – a total loss of brand value in general. Not only will this see fewer sales for your actual products and services, but the same will be true of any retailers that may sell your products as well. This, in turn, will create fractured relationships, which goes a long way towards putting you farther away from your goals, not closer to them.


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Send Me All the Shoes You’ve Got!

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A growing shoe company sought to stretch their global influence, sending their first salesman to Asia to set up shop. After several days, he sent this dire message: “Bring me back immediately, you’ve made a terrible mistake. People in this village never wear shoes.” Months later, an enthusiastic associate asked for the opportunity to lead an international sales effort, offering to move anywhere. He packed his things and moved to the Asian outpost. After no immediate feedback, the boss began to wonder if they’d made another costly mistake. Soon, an overseas message rang through with joy: “Send me all the shoes you’ve got. I’ve never seen so many prospects!”

They say delayed hope can make the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life. Wouldn’t you like to experience more of the latter? New dreams can enliven enthusiasm and bring fresh joy for the days to come. But often the drudgery of life keeps our backs bent and our steps heavy. We are slaves to the checklist, struggling to lift our eyes above the tyranny of the urgent to see strategic breaks that might be right before us. Do you notice opportunities that others don’t? Do you have a vision for something that is bigger than the status quo? Would you like to?

Opportunity Isn’t Knocking; It’s Passing

Often opportunity isn’t knocking; it is passing. Many days opportunity doesn’t come looking for us; instead, we need to aggressively seek new ideas and perspectives, banging on the door until we finally crash through. Creativity may come in bursts, but often it is something that happens through our ironclad commitment to grow and evolve. How can you grow in resourcefulness or notice opportunities you are currently overlooking?

Team perspective can motivate enormous momentum. Surround yourself with good people, especially those with gifts and experience different than yours. What may seem daunting to you may be an exhilarating challenge for others! If you work alone, consider contracting a consultant to grow your skill set. Or network with a private coach for problem-solving, brainstorming, and peer advising. Often when you are pigeon-holed in one industry, it is harder to see broad-level solutions.

Extreme Differentiation Turns Obstacles into Opportunity

In stretching perspective, don’t just think outside the box, think contrary to the box itself. This strategy, called extreme differentiation, helps you uncover opportunities hiding in plain sight as you note the current gaps in your industry and brainstorm options that are dramatically different than your competitors.  Extreme differentiation pushes you to address problems that your competitors aren’t even considering.

Commit yourself to being someone who tries to see potential in every person and every situation. When it seems you have reached a dead end, take a hope-filled breath and view it as an opportunity to build something better. Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin Group, gave this example:

Thomas Edison knew a thing or two about turning an obstacle into an opportunity. When he was in his late sixties, his huge West Orange New Jersey laboratory burnt to the ground. Rather than cursing his luck and panicking, he gathered family and friends to marvel at the fire and immediately began planning for the future. Edison started plans for a much-improved lab, seeing the potential for improvement the disaster had presented. He said: “You can always make capital out of disaster. We’ve just cleared out a bunch of old rubbish! We’ll build bigger and better on these ruins.”

Find the good in whatever situation you’re presented with and you’ll be on your way to finding those hidden opportunities.

 

 


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Understanding Intent versus Impact in the World of Marketing

ThinkstockPhotos-667556640It is essential to understand as much about your audience as possible, especially the differences between “intent” and “impact” in the world of marketing. Intent is something that you have total control over – it’s what every font selection, every color choice, every turn of phrase and every piece of collateral is ultimately building towards. Impact, on the other hand, is something else entirely. Making an effort to understand the difference between these two concepts is the key to maximum success moving forward.

It All Comes Down to Perspective

The major difference between intent and impact ultimately comes down to a matter of perspective, or an acknowledgment that sometimes a statement (or in this case, a marketing message) isn’t necessarily as “black and white” as you may have thought it was. In addition to knowing who the people you’re marketing to actually are, it’s important to understand as much as you can about the way they think.

Before you send any marketing message out into the world, there are a few key questions you need to ask yourself:

  • How will this message play in different regions of the country? Are there certain terms that are used one way on the coasts and another way in middle America? What difference does that make, if any, in terms of how that message would be received?
  • How do pain points differ based on audience? Is a very specific problem that one portion of your audience has not an issue at all to others? How does something like economic status play into how a particular message might be received?
  • How will the culture change the way the impact of a message varies when compared to the original intent? Even if you’re not a global company, think about things from that perspective. You would probably have to make some adjustments to your messaging when marketing to customers in Europe versus those in the United States as you’re talking about two totally different cultures with different norms and taboos. Are there any cultural implications that might adjust the impact of your message in a way you’re unprepared for?

This approach will help give you as much insight as possible into the various perspectives of the people you’re trying to reach, which can not only make campaigns resonate more but it can also help avoid sticky issues like this one at the same time.

At the end of the day, the difference between intent and impact in the world of marketing can be summarized like this. “Intent” is the thing that you were trying to do – the message you were trying to convey or the goal you were trying to accomplish. “Impact” is what you actually did, which itself is influenced by a wide array of different factors. Sometimes a message that you had complete confidence in is received in a way that you could never have predicted and these are the types of moments you need to be ready for.

 

 


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Family Support is Key for Succession in a Family Business

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Running a successful family business inevitably comes to a critical decision – how to continue the business when the current business owner decides it is time to retire and step away? Some decide to shut the business down

Others sell it to an outsider. Still, others decide to groom a family member to take over, but this can be fraught with risk if the young person turns out to not be interested, prepared, or the right fit.

Ready for a Change

Virenda Gupta found himself in a critical decision place when he was ready to enjoy the rewards of his own hard work building his property tax consultancy. Founded in 1986, RETC was a well-run operation that had taken years and years of dedication, especially in the highly technical accounting world of tax advising. But it was time for Virenda to travel, see family, go back to his historical home in India for visits, and reap some rewards for a change. However, RETC needed to still be managed and directed.

Positioning for Success

Virenda’s son, Amish, had initially brought up the hard topic, but both men were engaged and ready to really address the matter on all the key topics of compensation, authority, and ownership. Because they were willing to take it seriously, Virenda and Amish were able to craft a functional and working succession plan, ensuring RETC was positioned to continue for decades to come. And this was a key shift that is essential for family transition; if the current owner cannot envision handing over the reins, the succession discussion with a family member almost always ends in frustration.

Virenda’s willingness to work towards succession is not common. In fact, only one out of three family businesses make it to a second owner generation, and only a little more than one out of ten make it to a third family generation. Beyond that, the figure gets down to a single percentage digit below 5 percent. However, some of the greatest resistance is manageable; owners have to get past their role of making all the decisions leading to success and let someone else step forward. And that includes making mistakes. Planning is a key aspect, and smart owners start well ahead of a succession date, grooming potential family replacements years before. There is no 24-hour decision-making in this approach.

Proof Beyond Just Being Family

Virenda is lucky; his son wants the leadership role and is qualified. In almost one out of two cases a non-family member is more qualified to take the leadership role instead. Virenda made a key step to ensure his family was prepared. He chose his son as a potential successor after Amish had proven himself capable doing the work. He then let Amish work elsewhere and earn his stripes versus being protected internally due to just being family. Virenda then had to convince Amish to come back and take the role versus staying on the lucrative path he was already on with big corporations. That meant providing a real path and share for Amish instead of just a figurehead position.

How to Do it Right

Experts are in agreement on the key points of family success:

  • Don’t pressure kids to take on a role they are not prepared for.
  • Take on the tough conversation of succession and embrace it honestly with every detail.
  • Get children involved early, foster their interest and love for the business, and then make sure they have all the training needed.
  • Work as a team with everyone having a vested interested in the business’ success. Ownership is personal and drives people to commit.

Virenda is now enjoying travel and time to relax in his retirement, and Amish is fully-engaged in his role as RETC’s leader. Their story is both a case study of what’s done right in a family business succession as well what it takes to prepare for that moment.

 

 


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