Estate Planning & Your Business: Preparing for the Future


We are two episodes in on our series of podcasts about what businesses and their chief executives should be thinking about in order to get themselves to a point where they're ready to be sold. This series, which will lead up to our coinciding event Prepping the Princess, will touch on the issues that business leaders should keep top-of-mind before an exit—even if that exit is years away from fruition.

This week on In Process, Donna Barwick of Wilmington Trust joins the show to discuss the importance of estate planning. Much like the sale of a business, many entrepreneurs and business leaders don’t make decisions about what will happen to their assets without them until it’s too late.

“I don't think every business owner is cognizant of the importance of estate planning and the associated elements that go in to making sure that you and your family are protected to manage and grow your private wealth,” says Evelyn Ashley.

“You’ve touched on a critical point,” leads Barwick. “Business owners, especially successful business owners, are so focused on their business that it's often difficult to make them pay attention to succession planning.”

The results—positive or negative—of succession planning can be felt by families as well as business partners. From freezing assets to maintaining life insurance policies on key partners, there are many aspects of protecting a business that need to be a part of the conversation.

 “Most business owners need to have both a short term plan and a long term plan,” says Barwick. “A short term plan in the event something happens suddenly—not in the later years when they're thinking about retiring or selling the business—that might be key man insurance or a buy/sell agreement with their co-owners or something short term.”

The longer term plan can include retirement and grooming the company’s next leaders, among many other needs.

“They need both the short term plan for sudden incapacity or death, and then also a longer plan for the normal course of life,” says Barwick.

Stream the conversation in its entirety below for more information on the nuances of succession planning as it relates to taxes, insurance, asset freezing and more.


If you liked this podcast or are interested in exiting your business, consider requesting an invitation to our upcoming event, Prepping the Princess for the Party: Is your business ready to sell?, on October 12 at 6 p.m. The event will host business owners and C-level executives for a panel discussion on what it takes to get top dollar for your business. For more information or to request an invitation, visit PreppingthePrincess.com

Building More Energy, Focus & Passion into Your Work: Mindfulness

This week on In Process, our hosts Evelyn Ashley and John Monahon are joined by Angela Buttimer and Dennis Buttimer, co-founders of the Atlanta Center for Mindfulness and Wellbeing to discuss adding a mindfulness practice into your daily routine to help your enhance you energy, focus and creativity. The couple works with companies, school programs and even hospitals and treatment centers to implement mindfulness and wellbeing practices through yoga and meditation.  Everyone benefits from mindfulness practice – it’s not just for yogis anymore!

“In business, we tend to be competitive,” says Ashley as they talk about the misconceptions surrounding meditation and mindfulness. “The concepts of mindfulness and meditation [seem more focused on] ‘observe,’ ‘remove,’ and ‘be non-judgmental.’ On the surface, those ideas seem in conflict [with the competitive nature of business].”

But the opposite is actually true—incorporating mindfulness practice into the regular routine has proven to make employees more productive, energetic and able to focus when implemented in corporate America.

“People think that they’re going to lose their edge, right? But the calmer and clearer you are, the better you work, the more productive you actually are. You can see what you need to do more responsively,” says Dennis.

It’s not an abstract or anecdotal benefit, either—incorporating a mindfulness practice into the workplace can trickle down to your bottom line.

“There’s so much in the research,” says Angela.  “We know that mindfulness helps immune system functioning and reduces inflammation in the body; improves stress resilience; improves anxiety and depression symptoms. All of those [improvements] are improving productivity, absenteeism, presentism in the workplace. It can really help save businesses a lot of money by incorporating mindfulness into their company culture.”

So why aren’t we seeing more people making mediation a habit in the workplace? There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding the practice thanks to movies and TV, but some businesses simply do not understand how small the steps can be to see real change.

“[Companies worry] that you’re going to have to reorganize the entire work force,” Dennis says.  “But you could just add one minute of silence before a meeting. You could add a moment of quiet before the workday starts. You can have little areas where people can meditate at lunch. You can do these things that just use the raw material of the workplace that are already there.”

It’s incredible that such a low-investment, high-reward practice is only now reaching the mainstream school of thought, but businesses are certainly catching on. Big companies like Target, Google, and General Mills are setting the tone with mindfulness and meditation programs, but it doesn’t have to be a company-wide initiative to begin reaping the benefits for yourself and your employees.

“The only thing you really need is yourself,” says Angela. “That’s the great thing—you don’t actually have to have any equipment. What we do encourage people to do is to create a habit. To do that, we suggest they find the same place and the same time each morning to practice, and that really sets the tone for the day.”

For more of an overview on mindfulness practice as well as a short guided meditation from our guests, stream this episode of ‘In Process’ below. To download and hear more Conversations About Business in the 21st Century, subscribe to In Process on iTunes.

Growth Dilemmas: Don't Be A Victim of No Man's Land

This week on In Process, we're revisiting a topic with many intricate parts: how to scale your business. Hosts Evelyn Ashley and John Monahon sat down with author and entrepreneur Doug Tatum a few weeks ago--author of No Man's Land and Chairman of the Board for The Newport Board Group--to talk about the issues that can kill good businesses as they expand.

"It's a fascinating opportunity to look at the checkerboard of U.S. company demographics," says Tatum, who works with a research institute at the University of Wisconsin that tracks every company in the United States over multiple decades. Tatum says that while the number of companies as a whole skyrocketed in the recession, the number of companies with more than 100 employees dropped dramatically. This is where we start to see "no man's land," a period in companies' growth that generally occurs between 20 and 100 employees. 

"too small to be big, too big to be small" 

The conversation about growth and adjusting to scale revolves around what Tatum deems The Four Ms:

  • Market - How does a company relate to its customers & grow? What is the value proposition?
  • Management - Who is the inner circle? What is the culture like at human scale vs. financial scale? 
  • Model - How does the business make money? How will that change as it grows?
  • Money - Where will you find the financial fuel to get to the other side of a growth spurt?

These commonalities across all businesses are what inspired Tatum's book. "There really is no shortcut," he says of finding a successful business model at a larger scale. Tatum stresses the importance of objectivity in identifying what factors will allow your company to grow--in the early stages, that's usually through some form of innovation. Sometimes, your customers are the driving force behind innovation--Tatum laughs about how often companies make promises to customers that they, as businesses, are obligated to keep, ultimately forcing growth. 

"In the early stages of a company, what you're really doing is making a series of promises," explains Tatum. The entrepreneur's job is managing those promises versus managing the organization's priorities. The problem arises when the company's growth reaches the physical limits of the entrepreneur--he or she can't work any harder, longer, or smarter, so growth sputters and the company begins to suffer. 

What are you good at?

"It is remarkably difficult to keep a business simple for customers to do business with," Tatum says. As the entrepreneur delegates fulfillment of promises, you'll recognize No Man's Land kicking in when sales stop growing and customers begin to complain. To side-step this growing pain, it's critical that business owners consider what it is his or her clients applaud them with: What is the value proposition? Is it scalable? 

Tatum also discusses perhaps the most emotional (and most ignored) issue facing expanding comanies: outgrowing original management. 


"You can grow yourself out of business if your model isn't scalable." 




"It's okay to stay small and make money," stresses Tatum. "You can grow yourself out of business if your model isn't scalable." 

If you're going to get to the next level, the ticket to the inner circle has to be performance, not loyalty. 

Listen to this episode of In Process for more details on refining your inner circle, scaling your business and preparing for success at all stages of growth. For more episodes like this one, subscribe to In Process on iTunes.

“Learning Creativity:” Using Blue Ocean Strategy to Create Instead of Compete

More than a decade ago, Blue Ocean Strategy shook the business world with its strategic approach to abandoning the competitive model and finding new customers. The theory revolves around "making the competition irrelevant"—going beyond the customers you already have and tapping into a new “blue ocean” of opportunity. In this episode of In Process, John Monahon and Evelyn Ashley are joined by Zunaira Munir, Senior Expert of the Global Blue Ocean Strategy Network to discuss how the book’s principles remain important today.

 “Blue Ocean is so systematic that anybody can take these tools and systematically go about with creative ideas,” says Munir. The systematic approach covers all aspects of breaking into a new business strategy, from identifying and minimizing risk to upping value.

Competition has always been thought of as an unavoidable part of business—in fact, many people keep competition at the core of their business strategy. Likewise, innovation has long been considered a sensibility that only some of us have; Born-entrepreneurs waking up with lightbulbs above their heads and the natural drive to see ideas through, while the rest of us simply follow their lead. But Blue Ocean Strategy turns those misconceptions on their ears, introducing step-by-step frameworks that make the process easy to apply as a company.

What’s most important? “Value innovation:” a solution that pursues both high-value and low-cost strategies simultaneously.

Stream this week’s episode of In Process and listen as Munir breaks down key objectives of Blue Ocean Strategy, explains whether small businesses can implement its principles, and spells out the way creativity can be learned For more from In Process, subscribe to the podcast on iTunes




Know Your Worth: Demystifying the “Crystal Ball” of Company Valuation

 In this week’s episode of In Process, our hosts Evelyn Ashley and John Monahon of Trusted Counsel (Ashley), LLC sit down with Michael Blake, the president of Atlanta-based business appraisal and strategic advisory firm Arpeggio Advisors.

“Accountants are in the history business: what’s happening today, what happened yesterday,” explains Blake. “In the appraisal business, we are in the forecasting business. I actually have a crystal ball on my desk—it serves as a reminder of what I do.”

That doesn’t mean that the process itself is simple. Business valuation can be a sensitive process—generally companies are looking into valuation during promising beginnings or high-stakes transitional periods. When you’re in the business of putting a numerical value on entities that often have a hefty amount of emotional and mental capital invested, tensions can run high.

“Nobody likes to be told their baby is ugly,” jokes Blake, referring to how distant the amount owners think their company is worth can be from what the numbers reveal. But the right approach can keep the valuation conversation a rational one. In fact, Blake says that plenty of investment bankers have positive relationships with appraisers because they keep the client thinking logically.

Our hosts moderate the conversation having been an integral part of many valuations and the negotiations that follow. “One of the things we often overcome is that if a company’s getting ready to go out to look for a buyer, the appraisal that they get done will probably be disclosed in diligence,” explains Ashley. “We often have the appraiser come through us, so his or her work is actually attorney-client privileged, and is not producible as part of diligence.”

Listen as Blake discusses what kinds of clients he won’t take on, which key questions he asks during an appraisal, how to approach a buy/sell agreement and how financially solvent companies can retain worth on this episode of In Process.