In September, I attended Natural Food Expo East with Ron Kohn of Specialty Food Distributors. We hadn't really talked about the ins and outs of his business in the five years since I wrote the newest iteration of his business plan. Since then he fully implemented the business plan I wrote and had scaled his business. Now he was deciding if the time was right to take the next big step and sign a five-year lease at a bigger warehouse.
During the car ride back from the food show we talked about the pros and cons of the new space. As well as the costs and the opportunities based on our two-day trip to PA. During the long car ride, our conversation evolved and by the end, we were talking about ways that I could get more involved in the business. We each left with some homework to do and decided that we would schedule our next discussion for Thanksgiving week when Ron would be back in Boston for our family Thanksgiving celebration.
In the meantime, Dr. Maria Marshall from Purdue University agreed to be a guest expert on an upcoming episode of The Grower and The Economist. She specializes in family businesses. Many small businesses are family businesses, so I knew she would be a huge asset for the listeners. Maria was my academic advisor when I wrote the business plan for Specialty Foods seven years ago. It was a little nerve-wracking to have her on the show, but the timing could not have been better, since I was considering more work with Ron.
Her first piece of advice was to start succession planning as soon as possible. Not including the pre-planning period, it takes more than seven years to work out the details. The second thing she said, was to keep business out of the holidays. It's tempting to schedule a family business discussion because everyone is together, but don't!
Oops! I hadn't even agreed to work for the family business and we already were moving into dangerous territory. We decided to follow Maria's advice and we saved the conversation until the week after Thanksgiving.
Listen to this week's episode of The Grower and The Economist to learn more about how to navigate family businesses from Dr. Marshall!