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Leave a Legacy

RSS By: Kevin Spafford, Legacy Project

Kevin Spafford is Farm Journal’s succession planning expert for the Farm Journal Legacy Project.  He hosts the nationally-televised ‘Leave a Legacy’ TV, facilitates an ongoing series of workshops for farm families across the U.S., and is the author of Legacy by Design: Succession Planning for Agribusiness Owners.

Countless Opportunities, Ten Tries and Zero Results

Jun 18, 2008

Part V of Behind the Scenes with a Notable Agribusiness Family

An excuse doesn’t substantiate failure; it only appeases the moment, absolves culpability and allows for repeats.  Failure is a lack of intended results.  The function of failure is to instruct and to impose, or suggest, a do-over.  One constant throughout Robert Mondavi’s adult life, and a major motivator behind his outstanding accomplishment, was the desire to create a business that would endow his family for generations to come.

From the days at Charles Krug working with his father and siblings, Robert was determined to build a legacy for the generations.  But, as we know now, that endeavor ended in his ouster.  As he founded the Robert Mondavi Winery, he was intent on family involvement and he positioned his children and the operation as a multigenerational operation.  Robert Mondavi was focused on:

     -  Creating opportunities for each child
     -  Engaging formal and informal mentors in the leadership development process
     -  Exploiting each child’s respective interests / strengths in the winery operation

Michael, Robert’s oldest son, resolved to build a family dynasty.  He joined the Young Presidents’ Organization, promoted involvement in Primum Familiae Vini and hired outside counselors to encourage succession.  He oversaw the implementation of a pre-nuptial agreement for Robert and Margrit Biever [Mondavi] to ensure continued family ownership of the winery in case of divorce or separation.

The Mondavi family had the motivation; possessed the money; had access to the very brightest advisors; devoted hours and hours with internal and external experts; observed the lessons from some of Europe’s great wine dynasties; conspired with business consultants; and repeatedly vowed not to imitate Rosa’s (Robert and Peter’s mother) vindictive disciplinary patterns.

But in the end they failed.  Below I’ve highlighted ten separate attempts, from Julia Flynn Siler’s The House of Mondavi, to initiate a succession plan for the Robert Mondavi Winery.  No doubt there were many, many more.  Succession is the application of a series of interconnected and separate events that constitute a process of transitioning the operation from a limited-life sole proprietorship, to a long-term endeavor with shared roles and responsibilities within a family - the intent is the creation of multigenerational success. >>

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