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Episode 30: What to Do When The Family Business Owner Can't Let Go with Moira Somers  & Dr. Michelle Clark

The conversation explores the topic of when the family business leader won't let go. It delves into the impact of family relationships during leadership transition and discusses helpful and hurtful approaches to the transition process. The importance of creating different roles and identities within the family business is emphasized. The conversation also highlights the need to address cognitive incapacity and dementia in family business leaders. The speakers provide their contact information for further engagement. In this conversation, Michael Palumbos discusses his website and the importance of learning from podcasts. He also expresses gratitude for the opportunity to share his family's stories.

Moira Somers  & Dr. Michelle Clark

Dr. Moira Somers is a Family Wealth Psychologist and Executive Coach based in Manitoba, Canada. She works with affluent families and their advisors, helping them harness the opportunities of great wealth while avoiding its pitfalls. Her book for financial professionals, *Advice that Sticks*, has become an international bestseller. Dr. Somers provides keynote addresses and consultation services to families and organizations around the globe. You can follow Moira on Twitter @advicesticks and on her website Money, Mind & Meaning  <http://moneymindandmeaning.com> 

As a business psychologist, Michelle consults with companies in situations where the business bottom-line intersects with people issues. She has more than 15 years of experience consulting with family owned businesses as well as privately and publicly held companies. She was the non-family President of an $8M family business and now owns her own business. Michelle specializes in assisting organizations to become smarter and more effective in their hiring, development and succession processes. 
 
As an executive coach, Michelle loves to “dig in” to the most important areas where leaders want to grow and develop. People who thrive with Michelle in coaching appreciate her candor, willingness to be “real”, and the partnership for accomplishing goals that help them be more effective in their role and also in their life.   
 
Michelle received her Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Nebraska; serves on the Board of Directors for Earl May Garden Centers, a family-owned $40M regional retail operation; and volunteers regularly with Room at the Inn, a homeless shelter for women and children. An avid kayaker and biker, she splits her time between St. Louis and Maine. 
 

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If you’re a family business or a family business consultant and want to be on the show, share your story and help other family businesses, send us an email to producer@thefamilybizshow.com or fill out a contact form here!

*not affiliated with Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp.

Michael Palumbos is a registered representative of Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp. Securities and investment advisory services offered through Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp., a broker/dealer (member SIPC) and registered investment advisor. Insurance offered through Lincoln affiliates and other fine companies. Family Wealth & Legacy, LLC is not an affiliate of Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp. Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp. and its representatives do not provide legal or tax advice. You may want to consult a legal or tax advisor regarding any legal or tax information as it relates to your personal circumstances.

CRN-6316494-013124

Episode 30 Transcript

 

Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC (00:00:03) - Welcome everybody to the Family Biz show. My name is Michael Palumbo with Family Wealth and Legacy in Rochester, New York. Welcome. I'm glad to have you all here today. We have a very exciting show for you today. We have Doctor Michelle Clark and Doctor Moira Somers joining us together, and we're very excited to have you both here. Welcome, both of you.

 

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Moira Summers (00:00:28) - Thank you.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC (00:00:29) - As we typically do, what I'd like to start with is, you know, this idea of working with family owned businesses for many, many people is like, that's a business. Um, and, you know, today there's actually colleges and universities this, you know, that, study this. But when all of us started our journey on guessing that that wasn't necessarily the case. So if you wouldn't mind, just talk about your journey. Where did you start? You know, give us the the three minute rundown of how you got to where you are today. If you don't mind, Moira, would you mind kicking us off?

 

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Moira Summers (00:01:06) - Sure.

 

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Moira Summers (00:01:07) - Um, well, because family businesses are just all over the place. Uh, I had the chance to witness some of the triumphs and the tribulations through friends, uh, through, you know, friends at church and and friends in the community. And just realized that, wow. This is this is a. There's a whole bunch of extra challenges when you when you rub elbows all day with the same people that you go home with. Uh, I am a clinician, and so I also got to see it from the clinical side when when things weren't going so well. And then as a coach, I've been able to see it at the happy side when things are going very well and people are asking us to come on board to help with growth and to help with transitions. So I feel like I've seen it from a number of different, a number of different angles. And during the pandemic, all my husband and my two sons all started their own businesses. And so it's just been it's been so exciting to watch them launch.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC (00:02:15) - That's awesome. Well, thank you for joining us.

 

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Moira Summers (00:02:19) - Thank you.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC (00:02:20) - Um, Michelle, would you mind telling us about your journey?

 

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Dr. Michelle Clark (00:02:25) - I'd be happy to. So I two started out as a psychologist in clinical practice, uh, working with really troubled families. And, uh, at one point made a complete redirection to become a business psychologist. And, uh, as part of that journey, I was facilitating meetings for a group called the chief Executive Network. Okay. And, uh, what I noticed is they would introduce me as Doctor Clark, the psychologist. And at every happy hour, I would have a line of people waiting to buy me a drink. And they would always start with, uh, I'm in a family business. And my dad or my mom, uh, and, uh, after enough of those events, I came to realize there was a huge need and that a lot of the things that I understood about families from my clinical practice and about business, from the work that I had done, really intersected.

 

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Dr. Michelle Clark (00:03:16) - And the further I got into it, the more I realized those families often had lots of lawyers, accountants, financial advisors, all of whom had no interest whatsoever in talking to the family about the drama and couldn't be happier to have an additional player on the team. Uh, and so that became a niche that flowed easily.

 

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Dr. Michelle Clark (00:03:39) - Wonderful.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC (00:03:40) - Well, today, I appreciate you both sharing a little bit about your background. Um, and really impressive background. So I'm glad to have you here today. We're talking about a tough subject, and I, I love to take a subject, you know, matter that, you know, people see on occasion and go deep into it. And that's what we're going to be talking about today. We're going to be talking about when the family business leader won't let go. And we have a couple of interesting spins on, you know, that conversation. So I'm I'm pretty excited to to dig into it. Why don't you know, um, Doctor Summers, why don't you set us up in terms of talking about, you know, the the impact of these family relationships during leadership transition, talking about, you know, what it's like, you know, what are what it's like when you're seeing, you know, the leader, um, that won't let go.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC (00:04:32) - You know, if you just set that up for us a little bit.

 

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Moira Summers (00:04:35) - Sure. So, you know, I hate to be. I hate to be talking about hard stuff right off the top. Really. We're just. We're groovy, fun loving gals. We are. We're just going to go right for the mess and the, um, so some of the mess has to do with the fact that, you know, people have loved their businesses and they've grown them, and it's been their hobby as well as their livelihood. And. And so it's just wrenching sometimes to let go of something that has been so successful and so effective and so meaningful, you know, just all wrapped up into one, especially if there's nothing. Anywhere near as compelling that they're that they're moving towards. So that's one of the the big challenges is not just retiring from but retiring two. I know that's not earth shattering news, but boy is it a thing.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC (00:05:36) - Doctor Clark, do you want to add to that?

 

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Dr. Michelle Clark (00:05:40) - Certainly. - Uh, so, you know, I love what Maurice said about, uh, business owners and particularly business founders wrap the entirety of their identity around their business often. And that excludes other types of relationships and other types of hobbies. And I think from a generational perspective, the generation that we had that have that is nearing retirement now, particularly for the male business founders, uh, grew up at a time when men's role identity was all about being a provider, uh, and, uh, a success in the world of work. And so when you take that cultural underpinning, plus, uh, the intensity of founding a business, uh, you often end up with a large group of people who don't have, uh, a robust other life, a personal life. Their their personal life is their business as well as their professional life. And and that brings up, uh, you know, a huge vacuum that when they look at what comes next and that can really lead to, you know, fears about what happens to them.

 

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Dr. Michelle Clark (00:06:51) - There's all the horror stories about the person that retires and has a heart attack the next day, or, uh, you know, things like that. And so mortality fears and fears of not being relevant, uh, and valued can really kick in around the times of those transitions. 

 

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Moira Summers (00:07:07) And what I've also seen in a continuation of that is, you know, there are subset of people who would be ostensibly good to go, like, they would really like to leave. Um, but either they're not fully confident and who's taking over, or it's just hard to watch somebody else put their own stamp on it or make their own mistakes. You know, we forget in the process of building our own businesses how many missteps that we personally took along the way. But it's somehow it's less painful to to be the one in control of, of the car that got the speeding ticket than to be the one who says, you idiot, why did you get a speeding ticket? Um, it's just, uh, the control over even something like mistakes is hard.

 

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Moira Summers (00:08:02) - It's harder to be the bystander, the witness to that.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC (00:08:06) - Agreed. Love it. I want to talk about kind of the impact on the relationships that that can happen during these transition times. But before I, before I we dive into that, one of the things that just pops into my head as you were talking about the, you know, all of this is, um, we did a book club, um, a couple months back last quarter where we did Simon Cynic's, um, the Infinite Game. And, and so often we, we relate to the business as a finite. It's my lifetime is the only part that you know, that I'm thinking about. And if we can, if we can, the sooner we can think about it as the infinite game is. Because business is not a game that you win or lose. They always just keep, you know, it will keep going and family is 100% infinite. You know, it just it keeps moving on. And and so I think it's important to think like that.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC (00:09:02) - Um, one of, you know, one of my mentors said, um, that if you can approach this the way the Iroquois did and, you know, we live in upstate New York, so we have the Iroquois here. And it's that seventh generation thinking. And if you can, if you it's hard to do because nobody's having nobody's questioning you that way early on in your career to say, what are you doing today to be thinking about seven generations from now? Um, as you're building this, we're all thinking about the how do I put food on the table? How do I take care of my family right now? And it's really tough to separate those two pieces. Preciate. That's, um, just what popped into my head as you were talking. So I just want to want to put that out there. Let's talk about, you know, how what are some of the the negative and positive impacts that can happen during these transition times when we're talking about the transition of leadership. And then we'll then we'll talk about, you know, we'll dive in a little deeper on that.

 

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Moira Summers (00:10:03) - Why don't you go ahead, Michelle?

 

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Dr. Michelle Clark (00:10:05) Sure. So, um. Transition times are obviously, uh, have a dual edged sword, right. That those times of transition are often the time for regeneration, for new ideas, uh, for innovation to happen. Uh, and they're also often a time where there's conflict and tension and, uh, you know, anytime you're sharing control, whether it's with your spouse over what you're going to watch on TV or, uh, where you're going to make a $10 million investment in the business when you're sharing control, uh, there are opportunities for, uh, challenge and conflict. And one of the key moments where I see that emerge is at the time where the rising generation is hitting their full level of competence and involvement in the business. And, uh, the generation that is closer to retirement, uh, is still has a role, has a title, but in a number of ways has started to take some steps, uh, to reduce their engagement. And, you know, of late, one of the places where there's I've seen conflicts really emerge.

 

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Dr. Michelle Clark (00:11:19) - So it's probably more to five years ago than it is now, for sure. But is investment in technology and, uh, the retiring generation wanting to invest money, uh, in ways that they have been successful in the past and building the business and the next generation with a ton more technological savvy and a sense of what was coming in the marketplace, wanting to take big amounts of money and invest it in that sense of, uh, the retiring generation not being savvy with technology and not really embracing what was coming next, and the rising generation feeling almost a sense of panic, uh, that if we don't get ahead of this, uh, I'm going to be paying the price for it ten years from now. Uh, and so I think that those kinds of, uh, generational differences that also play out around how the world of work is defined, uh, that folks that are in their, you know, 30 to 50 year age range define work not as a place that they go, but a thing that they do.

 

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Dr. Michelle Clark (00:12:20) - Uh, and so they're also often is conflict around work hours that, uh, the parents may look and say, these darn kids are not putting in anywhere near the hours that I used to put in. Uh, and the, you know, the 45 year old child might be saying, yes, I'm leaving at 330 to go pick my child up, and I'm on the computer from 930 until midnight. How do you think all of the, uh, accounting gets done? Uh, and, you know, so those are places where all of us have generational differences and sometimes encounter them. But in families, when you're needing to manage that both personally and professionally, those can be some places and challenge.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC (00:13:00) - Great.

 

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Moira Summers (00:13:01) - And it was struck as you were talking about. I want faculty with the with the Financial Transition Institute, where we teach people how to work with folks in transition. And we always say that transitions have four stages. There's an anticipation part if if you're lucky, right. Unless it's sort of something sudden.

 

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Moira Summers (00:13:20) - But most of us have a little bit of time to think about the, the major life things that that might be on the horizon. And then there's that. There's a phase of ending and again, how how definitive that ending is varies from person to person. You know, if the transition is marriage, one would hope that single life ends at once. That's just my value. I don't mean, you know, um, but. And then there's this crazy third phase, um, of passage where, you know, it's just filled with chaos as well as possibilities. And, and it really is a bit of a zany ride until you get to the fourth circle or the fourth stage, which is the new normal. And as I said, sometimes you sometimes these phases are overlapping and sometimes they're quite distinct. But New Normal takes a long while to get to, and darn it, wouldn't you know it? As soon as you get to a new normal, something else changes. And I think one of the really interesting things is that, you know, the the person who's moving out of the business is going through her own transition or his own transition.

 

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Moira Summers (00:14:40) - The people who are coming up behind them are going through their transitions. And that's just with respect to business life. There's also personal life, right? So it starts looking like one of those if we're going to talk about indigenous metaphors. Right. Like a one of the Hopi hoop dances, there's so many things swinging around that you're that you're managing. And the business itself is almost, you know, like a person in some ways that it too has to adapt to transitions. And so I think it's just so important that we keep this spirit of graciousness and curiosity and really a growth mindset and and this. Always remember that these people are not the enemy. These are my people. And and together we are on this journey that is going to, is going to see growth for all of us in. And if we're willing to step out in front of that and say, bring it on, I want to be the best possible version of me as I can during this time. It sets it up to be so much better.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC (00:15:52) - A passage as you as you were talking the the piece we've talked about in on the show several times. So some people have will have heard of this already, but that three circle model just instantly pops into your head. And and so one of the things that, you know, we try to work with people on is to say, you know, they draw out that Venn diagram and those circles are exactly the same size and they never are exactly the same size.

 

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Moira Summers (00:16:22) - So sometimes, to be clear, the circles you're talking about are ownership business and family. 

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC (00:16:27) - Perfect. Thank you I appreciate that for those listening. Appreciate it. Um, and when you have those three different circles and you're, and you're juggling those, every diagram that I've ever seen, they show them with all of them being equal and they are never equal. And there are times when you're focusing way too much on the business, and the decisions are being made from a management or the business level, and you're we're forgetting about the family aspect, or we're forgetting about the ownership aspect.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC (00:16:54) - And there will be times when you know, that's flipped and we're, you know, a lot of times need to be focused on the family and, and especially as new family members are coming in or families are going through transition outside of the business. And so just a really clear picture, I think, to help people as you're going through these transitions, just to remember that those circles are not equal, but you do have to pay attention to the ownership, the business and management of it in the family as you're going through these pieces.Michelle.

 

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Dr. Michelle Clarks (00:17:22) - And the other thing that I think is important to add to that visual is as the family is going through this passage, most family owned businesses have employees, non-family employees, right, uh, that are there that are also going through this passage. And, you know, I went through some pretty tough passages with my parents. Uh, and I was lucky enough I didn't have to have an audience to, uh, you know how well I manage that much of the time.

 

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Dr. Michelle Clark (00:17:54) - Uh, and and often the success of the business in the midst of transition is also connected to the non-family members that are doing the day to day work and their sense of stability and inclusion and confidence in the family passage, uh, leading to an end result that is a business that they want to continue to take part of. And, and, and thinking of year three circles plus an additional level, level that's deeply connected to those things.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC (00:18:28) - And add to add that one more to that is then you have the family members, right, that don't work in the business that are also going through this and affected by all of that. So there's a lot of different layers of the onion, so to speak, to, to pull back how, you know, if I, if I'm the leader, how do I know if you're talking about me right now? I guess that would be what should be some of the things that I should be questions maybe that I should be asking myself in terms of how am I handling this transition? And might what might I be looking at this thing differently, um, than I might not be, you know, how do I know if I'm not able to let go?

 

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Moira Summers (00:19:08) - Um, I would say probably one of the biggest indicators is how often have you asked for feedback? About how you're doing.

 

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Moira Summers (00:19:18) - How often have you really gone out in front of any issues that might possibly be developing and said, am I giving you the space you need? Am I giving you sufficient support? What could I be doing differently? What do you need me to step out of entirely? Where do you feel that you are? Um. Under my shadow. Or unable to escape my gravitational orbit? Where do you feel that you're lost, right? Like, just if you're not asking those questions, then it's possible that you are missing really, really valuable data about about yourself. And so I would just say, you know, it's always so much easier to get feedback when you ask for it and when you when you can sort of prepare and remind.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC (00:20:19) - Well.

 

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Moira Summers (00:20:23) - Try to. If you want to be sure that you're not that leader who's who's in the way, then definitely get out in front by asking those questions.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC (00:20:36) - Great. Michel. Anything to add to that? What do you what's coming to mind for you?

 

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Dr. Michelle Clark (00:20:41) - So, uh, I absolutely agree with what uh, Moira just said and the you know, another thing that I would say that's an example of that is one of the the focuses that I have with families that I work with is it's always better to have preemptive conversations before the conversation has somebody's name on it.

 

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Dr. Michelle Clark (00:21:04) - Uh, you know, so often that relates to, uh, if there's a chance of children or coming into the business, it's always better to have a conversation about, you know, what's your take on part time work before it's got, uh, you know, somebody's child's name attached to it? And I think that that same thing is true. Uh, you know, if you're the leader of a family business, and, uh, retirement is still a ways away, getting proactive about coming up with that plan of how would you know? Uh, you know, if you start asking those questions, for example, when you're 50 and you're at the peak of your leadership of the family business and you've sketched out, uh, what's going to happen in the future? Uh, it's a lot easier to then have that conversation not feel so painful at whatever point that it starts to kick in. Uh, that that would be one important thing is as early as you can start those conversations, as well as as early as you can start to build your retirement and what where you want that to be, what you want to be able to be doing.

 

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Dr. Michelle Clark (00:22:13) - It's a lot, you know, just as it's a lot easier to retire when you start saving at 25 than if you start at 50, if you start building your post-retirement, uh, life, uh, at 50, it's going to be a whole lot deeper and richer than if you don't start thinking about your post-retirement life until you're 67. Um.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC (00:22:34) - It's funny because that's a new career has kind of blossomed in the last probably, I'd say ten, 15 years, where there are people that do executive coaching to help people determine what does retirement look like for you. And I would say that it really is super important. You know, if my father, when he sold his practice, I purchased half and somebody else purchased the other half. Um, he stayed active on boards and inside of charities and whatnot. And that was that was fulfilling for him. And he and I just spoke recently. We were talking about he's like, I'm ready for something else. And so, you know, what's really neat is, um, he's just joining the Private Directors Association.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC (00:23:21) - And with all of that experience of being on a board and having run a business and working with family businesses for years, he's looking to take a board seat someplace to that. He's active and engaged and and, you know, valuable. And, um, he didn't hate the fact that most of these board positions actually pay a little bit to as well. You know, it's it's a nice part time gig not having to have the responsibility, but kind of go from there. I that, you know, it's um, I've seen many of them, the New Age retirement and, um, I can't remember some of the other programs that are out there, but it's just asking yourself those questions. Right. It becomes really important.

 

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Moira Summers (00:24:04) - As a neuropsychologist, as somebody who works with brain health day in and day out, I think that one of again, one of the challenges that you need to ask yourself is, what am I doing new that I haven't done? Like, if you were to take a page out of my calendar and compare it to the one that was there five years ago or ten years ago, is there anything that I'm doing that's different? Um.

 

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Moira Summers (00:24:32) - Because if not, chances are you will be one of those leaders who's getting in the way of successful transition. The problem is, of course, that it's a little bit, um, ego bruising sometimes to, to put ourselves in the way of new things. If we'd wanted to take up, you know, ballroom dancing or, um, cliff diving, we would have done that 20 years ago. So why would I do it now? But the problem is that our brains actually thrive on novelty. They thrive on change. They thrive when they are put into situations that they have to adapt in new ways. And so another indicator then, Michael, of whether you're a leader who's in the way already or somebody who could get in the way is. In what way are you stretching yourself, particularly stretching yourself outside of your own family business? And if the answer is I'm not really. It's like, uh oh, right.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC (00:25:41) - It the talk to me about and this is not on our agenda or whatnot, but you just said, you know, as a neuropsychologist and how the brain kind of thinks.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC (00:25:50) - And that's what what's coming up for me is like the quote, leaders or readers, leaders or learners and, and that seems like, you know, it does. It's not just as we age that that's important, but if our brain is, brains are thriving on that, you know, that's how we're going to grow our business. That's how we're going to. But it's not just about growing. Your business is about growing as a person is about development. Is that sound? Is that am I on the right path with what you're saying? Did I interpret that right?

 

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Moira Summers (00:26:19) - Yes you did. The the evidence is that if you want to preserve your neurological youth, then the best way that you can be doing that is through new activities that challenge your challenge, various aspects of attention that require you to pay attention in new ways. So, for example, a while ago I joined an aqua size class and I realized as I was standing in the pool, putting my body in the position of being an airplane, it's like, I haven't done this in, oh, you know, decades.

 

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Moira Summers (00:27:00) - And this is actually challenging. And so my attention was being rallied in staying upright in this novel medium of water in this new way. Um. Shortly afterwards, I was rolling down a hill with one of my kids, and I could barely stand up at the bottom, and I realized once again, I haven't rolled down a hill in a few decades. And lo and behold, my vestibular system was a little challenged by that. So the more that you can, you can make yourself have to pay attention in new ways. If you've played the same old folk songs or hymns for years, it may bring you positivity and joy and those are good things. But if you want to wake up your brain, sign up for some improvisational jazz lessons. Um, there's evidence, for example, Michael, that if you learn a new language, you can be pushing back the onset of dementia because it's requiring you to pay auditory attention. And it's requiring you to look at if you're learning also through the written word, requiring you to look at, um, how these how these letter combinations go together or what this entirely novel script looks like, you know, Roman script versus Arabic script versus some, um, indigenous language, you know, that it is extraordinary.

 

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Moira Summers (00:28:33) - So it's not that we have to stop doing what we've always loved. If you've always loved crosswords, do crossword, but don't fool yourself that it's keeping you neurologically young. You've got to be. Yeah. Pushing the boundaries. Yeah.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC (00:28:48) - I think it's just in the world around us. Just physics and entropy or either growing or you're dying. So keep growing, so keep growing. You know, I think that's the the message. Yeah. Shell, if you wouldn't mind, you know, kind of help us. We're going through transition. You have to go through these things. There's going to be challenges. Kind of help us to look at the difference between maybe helpful and hurtful. Um, you know, there are some things, you know, that I might take on a challenge and, um, why would it be why would one thing be helpful versus another thing being hurtful as we're going through this, these leadership transitions?

 

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Dr. Michelle Clark (00:29:30) - So the first thing that I think about is, again, that the more that you can sow the seeds of good communication, healthy ways of working through conflict, clarity about roles, forgiveness, uh, in your your family business as well as a variety of other places.

 

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Dr. Michelle Clark (00:29:54) - The more when you get to the difficult moments, uh, that you already have the resources in your toolbox to be able to navigate difficult problems. Right? So, for example, my husband and I are going through the empty nest transition. Um, and, but there were a lot of things that we had done over the course of the last ten years, vacationing by ourselves and some other things that are making that transition easier. Uh, whereas I know a lot of other folks struggle with that transition. So first of all, the the anything one of the things that creates problems in transitions are unspoken conflicts or spoken conflicts that have never gotten resolved. So, uh, things that you can do proactively to not let things that are a small issue when rolls and control are very clear, right? When rolls and control are very clear. There's a lot of things that people may not like, but they don't cause conflict. But that the second that the control shifts, that then things bubble to the surface, that have been there under the surface for a pretty long time.

 

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Dr. Michelle Clark (00:31:03) - And so being willing to be disciplined and have the the hard, productive, candid conversations before they're mandatory. Uh, right. No one wants to be standing over a parent's bed in a hospital. Uh, looking at the three siblings, each of them thinking, there's no way that person can run our business. Uh, but the conversation didn't happen. Uh, so as much proactive as possible. Uh, the other thing is adversity and diversity are the two things that build strong leaders, whether they're in family, businesses or not. And so to Moira's point about, uh, bringing diversity of experiences so that people become more multidimensional as they age within the family business means that when unexpected things happen, you have a stronger bench strength to fill in unexpected gaps that emerge. And then the final thing is, uh, get help when you need it, right? You know, uh, it's at a certain point in life, a lot of us decide that we really need a personal trainer if we're going to keep up the discipline of exercise and not just do the same X number of minutes on the elliptical in perpetuity, knowing it doesn't add that extra benefit.

 

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Dr. Michelle Clark (00:32:25) - Uh, you know, there are points when bringing in whatever resources you need who are experts to help with the particular problem that you have, uh, is really beneficial. And again, coming to agreements about what some of those places are and when you're going to implement that, it's always easier to have the conversation in advance. 

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC (00:32:49) - Great. Moira, did you.Kind of take what Michelle was saying and maybe take an example of, you know, a family that you worked with that was in transition, that was they were helpful and one that might have been hurtful. And you know, how and how you kind of pulled them apart a little better work through that.

 

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Moira Summers (00:33:07) - Um, I'm actually going to take the same family as, as an example where, um, they did build bench strength in their own kids in terms of just, um, making sure that the kids knew that they had unconstrained life options, that that they weren't obligated to go into the business. Um, and so. Uh, everybody had a role to play on a family board in that part of the circle and the ownership circle.

 

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Moira Summers (00:33:40) - But only one person was still involved in the in the business circle. And because those ongoing conversations didn't happen, the thought was that everybody was happy. Um, and and so all of the good things that had been done throughout Generation Two's childhood, um, and, and the welcoming of, of different people into the family through the in-laws, all of those good things had happened, but it kind of stopped once adulthood. Um, and, and their own family stopped. And it turned out that the person who was in the family business was feeling increasingly. Unhappy, but also constricted and guilty about that. And and felt so much pressure about being the good guy and carrying on in, in the family business name that that he was quite undone by that. And as a result, he had this really inelegant, hurtful exit where it was just sort of like, I'm done, you know, the way that it that, oh, the he didn't want that wasn't his best self. But it had all begun because out of a desire to not hurt his parents and not hurt his siblings, but in the process he lost himself and, um, that that growth force, that part of us that is really our essential self that that doesn't just go along to get along, that really wants us to have our own best life.

 

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Moira Summers (00:35:23) - If you if you ignore it when it's trying to tell you these inconvenient things, it will burst forth in in these really unlovely ways at some. So I guess I, I, I hold that up as an example of a family that did things so beautifully and then forgot to keep nurturing the check ins and the how are we doing? And does this still make sense now? So don't rest on your laurels, right? Like continue to realize that everybody's in personal transition at at various points and um, and that it's still really important that you check in the marriage. That was great ten years ago, maybe in a bit of a slump right now. And it needs different things than it did then. And so always if that if there's a message coming out of the podcast today that a theme, it seems to be the proactive get out ahead of trouble before it starts. Ask for feedback. Before it's coming at you screaming. Um, develop, develop new things before you can't develop new things. Yeah.

 

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Moira Summers (00:36:41) - The more that you can save enough of your bandwidth for growth. And and proactivity, the better off you're going to be.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC (00:36:53) -  Perfect. What? What's jumping in for me as I'm thinking about, you know, as a business coach, we are always making sure that we're dealing with, you know, the the talent, the the, the non-family, you know, employees. And we're doing quarterly reviews and we're checking in with them. Are you happy? Are you healthy? What's going on? And are we are we challenging you our you know, our how are you? And then we want to tell you how you're doing and how we feel you're doing and and put that together. But so often we forget to do that with family members because it's family. And so it's I guess, you know, a lot of times when we talk about the review with family members, yes, we do want to still talk about productivity and making sure that people aren't taking the job for granted and doing those things.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC (00:37:39) - But then there's that other piece of this, right? That other piece is, do you want to be here? Uh, how are you feeling about this? Do you want to be an owner someday? Do you now want to be an owner? Would you like to be able to sell your shares? And that that whole idea that like you were you kind of alluded to it was like that legacy feeling of that I have to be the one that brings this to the next thing, and I'm letting everybody down because we because it does become such a heavy burden sometimes. And we, we, we forget that running a successful business and selling it is a wonderful thing. The, you know, I mean, that's very few people are able to, to build up a business and do this wonderful thing, whether it was for, for 40 years or ten years or 4 or 70, you know, years or 150, it's a okay, most of the businesses on the S&P 500 or the Dow Jones, they don't exist any longer.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC (00:38:39) - They've been sold or taken over or merged. And that's just part of the business world. And we should be be equally willing to celebrate. Holy cow. As a family, we just did something pretty awesome. And now maybe we'll develop some painters and some psychologists and some dentists out of this. We don't always have to have that. Business isn't what we don't have to be the business. Right.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC (00:39:09) - Um, Michelle, any any other stories or examples. I think that we, you know, as individuals we all learn better from stories and connect those dots. Anything that you can help us to connect those dots.

 

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Dr. Michelle Clark (00:39:22) - Yes. So uh, one of my follow up points and then I have a good example, is that all of us cope better with adversity when we have some sense that we have control and we have choices. And, uh, one of the things that can be particularly important for rising generations within family businesses is that they continue to have enough experiences that their career options are open to them, because because what you don't want is somebody who you know, is, at 45 years old, has only done things in the family business.

 

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Dr. Michelle Clark (00:40:00) - They're unhappy, but they don't feel like they could go and get another job without taking a two thirds pay cut and having to start at the bottom. And so a family business client that I worked with, uh, actually had, uh, some pretty intense beliefs about that. Their children should come into the business. And, uh, one of the children, uh, for a period of time, really became the black sheep of the family and, uh, you know, moved to another state to have jobs in, uh, places that were entirely different from where the family business was. And there was sort of conflict during that time period. Uh, and there was an unexpected change in the health of the founder. Uh, and the founder had been functioning as really, you know, both the founder and the CFO and everything that was related to accounting. This child that had, uh, gone off on their own was in banking. And, uh, all of a sudden there was a massive gap at a time that was very difficult financially.

 

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Dr. Michelle Clark (00:41:08) - And this person was able to come back home, back into the family business and contribute in a way that was vastly more powerful than if he had done what was expected and stayed within the family business the entire time. And, uh, having watched that happen, uh, they as a group really came to some conclusions about G3, uh, and the ways that they were going to empower G3 and really see as permeable somebody's ability to come into the family business and then go have a diverse experience somewhere else. And that didn't have to be. You betrayed us. It. Could be here building resources for the future that we may need to tap into. And that approach, uh, of really allowing diverse career paths so that people have choices at any point within the family business, uh, makes a massive difference in terms of people being there because they want to. And that always goes better.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC (00:42:16) - Great. Moira. Anything to add to that? You looked like you. Were you?

 

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Moira Summers (00:42:20) - Yeah. It's just so much, I don't know, for some reason, my mind just went to Billy Elliot.

 

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Moira Summers (00:42:25) - You know that musical event? Um, I was thinking also about, um, about how even things that we don't, we're not necessarily embracing because we want them to happen or, um, nevertheless, we still need to be proactive about it. Michael, again, as a neuropsychologist, one of the things that that I'm often called in to do, and I wish I'd been called 15 years earlier, is to deal with a leader who has cognitive incapacity. Um, and, you know, often it is because they've stayed in the saddle way too long, you know, uh, one family right now that leader is in, uh, the 90s, which is, um, and, you know, strangely enough, is not keeping up with the technology and with the, um, with the way that business is being done now as opposed to how it was done in 1970. And, um, there is just there's nothing in place to to get him out in a way that feels loving and respectful. Um, but also effective.

 

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Moira Summers (00:43:37) - So one of the things that I ask people to try and get ahead of is the possibility of cognitive incapacity that might be caused by aging. Or it might be caused by a mental illness. It might be caused by an addiction. Um, a gambling addiction. Any kind of addiction. And and part of it can just be an extension of good business practices. So, for example, making sure that, um. There are proper job descriptions for every role in the business, making sure that there are appropriate mechanisms for getting real time feedback about how people are doing, not just annual reviews, um, that there are policies in place for what do you do if somebody isn't doing well in his or her role? Um, that. Um, that there isn't the possibility for one person to take the whole company down financially, because that person is the only person who knows what the checkbook, uh, what the checking account is looking like. So putting really good practices in place way ahead of time. And making sure that you're taking care of everybody by as soon as your company can afford it.

 

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Moira Summers (00:45:04) - Getting good health care plans in place that include options for mental health treatment. You know, I know most family businesses are not Starbucks, but they were in the news a few years ago because when they looked at what was most likely to take people to contribute to absenteeism or presenteeism, it it all came down to mental health. And they realized that if they put a benefits package in place that was most generous around the mental wellbeing part, that they reaped the financial benefits of that in the end. And so there is a business case for taking care of mental health at all levels of the company, up to and including the C-suite.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC (00:45:57) - Wonderful. It's, uh. It's an interesting concept. I think it goes right back to what you were saying in the beginning. And because dementia and Alzheimer's is so prevalent in our, in our society today that it's, you know, being proactive and having these conversations before they, before they become an issue. Um, I want to come back to that in a second.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC (00:46:22) - But, Michelle, something that, you know, I think it was something that you said, um, talking about the the family that, um, ba ba ba ba the black sheep, right. That he had he didn't come right into the family business. And was that Moira?

 

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Dr. Michelle Clark (00:46:39) - Sure.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC (00:46:40) - Um, and one of the things that, you know, that I thought about, the two things that went through my head is one is putting in place the ability for family members to have a sabbatical, you know, and my my uncle is a priest. And, you know, that's very prevalent in that world because they want them to go out. They want them to have a new experience. They want them to get their health in their, you know, and, you know, they want to have a mental break from all of the the drain of being around and and taking care of everybody else. And so my uncle has had several sabbaticals, and we've talked about the, you know, how energetic he comes back and happy and ready to take it on again.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC (00:47:21) - And if we think about the family that those dynamics because those dynamics are so. Draining. Sometimes that's just the I mean, it's there's a lot of work to be part of that family business at times that to put into place to say every three years it's okay to take a sabbatical. But while you're going to take that sabbatical, tell us what you're going to come back with. Where are you going to go? What are you going to do when you know, the idea is to do exactly that? And the other thing that went through my head is just looking at the country that we live in today. Um, you know, when we look at the US and what and, and Canada as well, but just big melting pots. Right. And that that diversity has led to some of the best things that have happened through the, through the country, because we didn't rely on any one set of rules or standards or whatnot to get us to who, who we are today. And it's and it's kind of and it's changed.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC (00:48:24) - So there is some good news beyond around that. And I think it's the same thing for a family business. If you only know how to do something a certain way, like you were saying, you know, that you're going to, you know, at 90, you're going to be out of luck and you're not going to be able to put those pieces together the same way. So, you know, going out and sending people out on missions to find out, you know, go work for the competition for a year and then come on back. Um, and maybe it's the competition in another state. You know, maybe it's not direct competitors, but maybe it's, you know, we're going to send you out to another, you know, company and maybe you could even do a. A switch. You know, you send me your kid, I'll send you my kid. And you need to find, you know, somebody that, uh, is doing that so that you can see what to do and what not to do at some levels.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC (00:49:15) - Um. When you've got, you know how. What? Let's talk about some of the ways that the leader we we hit on him earlier. But and then I want to come back and I want to finish up with more on the dementia piece because I do think it's so prevalent today. Um, but. What are some of the other ways that we can, you know, have different roles? We can have different, you know, levels of importance so that we're our role, our identity isn't just as the leader of the business. What are some of the the ways that you've seen families do that and other leaders do that? Michelle, do you want to?

 

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Dr. Michelle Clark (00:49:55) - So, uh, one of the things I'll start with and then work backwards. So from what Moira said about, you know, proofing your business against dementia and some of those other things, one of the best external tools is to have a strong board that's made up of people who are not family members. Uh, because it's a lot easier for strong external board members.

 

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Dr. Michelle Clark (00:50:18) - You know, I still remember the conversation I had to have with my mom about that. She couldn't drive anymore. And walking out with the car keys. Right. You know, it's really hard for kids to have those conversations. So when you have external board members who can provide some of those conversations so it doesn't create a family rift, that can be incredibly important. And Michael, to your question, right. That's one option for people to get better exposure, as I know a number of family businesses who have swapped board membership. So, uh, you know, a G2 member is a board for, uh, you know, somebody in their same market but five states away and they've swapped. And that has been a really phenomenal, uh, growth experience and way for somebody to diversify, uh, what they're doing.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC (00:51:11) - I love that one. You know, the other part that the board brings is that diversity. So like, you know, I'm on the the board of a small, um, insurance company, property casualty company.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC (00:51:22) - And as they're putting that board together, they're always looking at diversity one by age, two by, you know, gender and different life experiences and, and whatnot. But then it's also by one's an attorney, one's an accountant, one's, you know, financial advisor, somebody else's, you know, has a background in it. And, and so you're bringing in these expertise and that are just different than you might have in your leadership or on your team, so that you can be exposed to some just different levels of thinking. And that's really what the board's job is to do that. But I love what you said is, you know, if you did a board, you know, the board swap, you know, the board seat swap, I think that's brilliant. And I have I haven't heard that one before, but that's a really nice way then to bring that in to, you know, bring the diversity and at the same time have somebody from the outside, you know, when you're going into the next generation, the rising generation, right, you know, and you've got 2 or 3 very capable individuals that could be the next CEO.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC (00:52:29) - Um, who's going to make that decision? How do you how do you decide that maybe that really becomes the role of the board at that point is to say, you know, let's take the family off of this and let's help you to to figure those things out. Um, and getting some of that outside advice. Thank you. That was great. And love, love that one.

 

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Moira Summers (00:52:51) - You know, the the board thing is so tricky because sometimes. It's not. They don't have a sense of of mandate necessarily. I mean, obviously everybody goes on to a board expecting that they're going to be there in some sort of advisory capacity. But are they also there in a fiduciary capacity? Because often their their real loyalty is to the person who asks them to be on the board, which is typically the founder or, you know, the current business leader. And if it's that person who's really beginning to mess up or who is becoming cognitively incapacitated, everybody can feel these split loyalties. Or it doesn't even have to be cognitive and capacity.

 

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Moira Summers (00:53:32) - It can be a family split, it can be a divorce. And the board really needs to have its marching orders in terms of, uh, who it owes its loyalty to. Um, and so any of these measures, if you're going to do them, just make sure you do them in, in full measure, not in a, in a half assed kind of way. Uh, you know, we see this in some of the bigger companies where they bring women on onto boards, for example. But they're not they're not put in the audit role. They're put in the, you know, maybe governance or something that that isn't truly embedded into the guts of, of how the business is there. So if you're going to do this. Do it, make it real. If you're going to bring diverse people into your company, find ways to help them have their voices heard and to make a difference. Don't just dial it in.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC (00:54:35) - Mhm. That's great. And then back to that same piece on the on the dementia proofing.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC (00:54:39) - Now you're going back and saying you know if the board has that authority, if that board has that ability to be, you know, focused on the business and focused on the family, not an individual, that's very helpful.

 

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Moira Summers (00:54:53) - When I'm doing this, um, setting it up for dementia proofing in particular. Um, we also make sure that there are other kinds of external inputs that come into the probe into the situation. So if somebody is going to stay in the saddle longer than 65, I recommend a baseline neuropsychological assessment at that point. And then, uh, follow up assessments, um, every five years at first and then accelerating, um, beyond that, uh, beyond that point. And, and if there is those, those reports have to be made available to the board and the, there are legal steps that get triggered so that there's no anguish, um, or that there's always anguish, but that there's there's no decisional dilemma about how to be how what to do. Because those decisions have been pre-made.

 

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Moira Summers (00:55:52) - And that is one of the the best gifts that you could ever set your family up for, in the hope that you never have to give it to them, but nevertheless, that it's there.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC (00:56:05) - I appreciate both of you being here today. What I'd like to do is this was great. There's a lot of really powerful nuggets inside of here. I hope everybody picked them up. But if there's any, you know, parting words, number one, anything that you want to do to wrap wrap up your thoughts or anything that I didn't give you a chance to talk about. And then two, how do people get Ahold of you if they want? And you know and speak with you because you know something that you said worked for them. How did they do that, Michelle? Oh.

 

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Dr. Michelle Clarks (00:56:40) - Uh, sure. So, you know, my closing words are, uh, think of all the conversations that are easier to have in the abstract than when they have somebody's name on them. Make a list and have them sooner rather than later.

 

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Moira Summers (00:56:54) - Those are my closing words. Um, I intentionally don't have a website, uh, because I really primarily work with people that come through other people that I know. Um, but you're welcome to have, uh, my email address, uh, which is pretty easy. Michelle at Michelle Clark, phd.com. Uh, and, uh, I do a fair number of these kind of speaking, interview engagement kind of things that I'd be happy to help with, uh, going forward.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC (00:57:27) - Great. Thank you.

 

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Moira Summers (00:57:29) - She's just out of witness protection, so she's still kind of hard to find. Um, I can be found through my website, which is money, mind and meaning. Dot com. The longest, um, handle in in business. Uh, the things that you would do differently if you could do it again, I'd start with that one. So, uh, that's where you can find my website. In terms of parting wisdom, I would say to continue to listen to, uh, to podcasts like the one that you're doing for the community, Michael, that that we benefit so much from the experience and the wisdom of other people.

 

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Moira Summers (00:58:13) - And I look at the at the lineup of people that you've had before, and that is just remarkable. And thank you for your willingness to share your own family's stories over time with us, that I have learned much from that.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC (00:58:32) - Oh, thank you very much. Well, everyone, thank you for joining us on another wonderful episode of The Family Biz Show. I'm Michael Columbus, your host with Family Wealth and Legacy in Rochester, New York. And if we can ever help you, feel free to reach out to us at, uh, Family Wealth and Legacy.com. Uh, you're not the only one with a really long, really long URL, so.

 

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Michael Palumbos ChFC, CBEC (00:58:59) - Thank you everybody. This has been fun and I've enjoyed speaking with both of you. Have a great day.

 

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Moira Summers (00:59:04) - Thank you.

 

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Dr. Michelle Clarks (00:59:05) - Thank you, thank you.