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Thursday, April 27, 2017

What March Madness Can Teach Us About Building A Successful Business

Although one of the attorneys in our office is a Duke alum who never cheers for the Tar Heels, it was still exciting to see North Carolina win the men’s NCAA tournament last month. And it was even more thrilling to see South Carolina win their first ever women’s title. The Carolinas are home to some really fine ball players, and we can all be proud of how the student athletes represented us.

They play so well, and are so poised during interviews, that it is easy to forget that the players in the March Madness tournament are students. (Some students are arguing that this is evidence that they are virtually professionals and should be paid like it, but that is a topic for another day.) But the players are students, and that means that the teams are constantly in a state of rebuilding and passing on the torch. Succession planning is a way of life for college basketball teams, and that is something business owners should take note of.

A lot of business owners claim that they have a succession plan, but when it comes time to implement the plan, it turns out what they had was a vision of what they wanted to happen, but no realistic idea of how to make that vision a reality. In order for a succession plan to be successful, it must be worked on as the business grows. Just like a basketball team must build up the skills of new players as older players move on, so too must a business work on preparing less experienced employees to take on new tasks and step into management roles.

Another succession planning lesson that businesses could learn from successful basketball teams is the importance of having a solid playbook. Winning teams don’t just go onto the court and wing it, they have plays that they run on offence and tactics they use to put up a strong defense. Good business succession planning also requires a sort of playbook. Plans need to be fully fleshed out so that proper training can occur, and so ownership interests can be sold or given to the right people with minimum disruption to the business.

The current owner also needs to think about the tax implications of implementing a succession plan. Carefully panning how to best structure an ownership transfer to meet the goals of both the new and current owner is important. Poor planning can put serious financial stress on the business and the owners come tax time, or leave the business in position that makes it difficult to take advantage of growth opportunities that arise shortly after the sale.

The men’s team at North Carolina obviously knows many of the things mentioned here since this is their 6th title. And both they and the women’s team at South Carolina are likely to be powerhouses again next season. But neither team will field the exact same players again. The seniors will have graduated, and a new group of players are eager to earn their spot in the starting lineup. Business owners should pay attention to this, and attempt to make their own succession plans work as well as the teams they so eagerly cheer on.

 


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