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Oct 2, 2014
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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.

Is There a Solution?

Jun 28, 2008

Final Segment: Behind the Scenes with a Notable Agribusiness Family 

When an industry giant fails to achieve a lifelong objective, the earth shudders.  Great institutions don’t happen by accident; they are the result of a burning desire to achieve, a big vision, careful planning, tireless execution, agility and poise.  Each trade is founded on the backs of visionary capitalists intent on changing the day’s accepted norms.  To these entrepreneurs, goals are expectations to be met - results to be achieved.

Establishing world changing goals, creating the roadmap to success, assembling the tools of accomplishment and diligently working to achieve is the ‘modus operandi’ of today’s entrepreneur.  I have distilled five thoughts that summarize the lessons from The House of Mondavi by Julia Flynn Siler:

1) As I read the book, I continually asked, “What’s his objective?”  Was Robert Mondavi in business to make money?  Did he want to create a business with high equity value?  Was his goal personal satisfaction, and a sense of accomplishment?

2) Is dissension a hereditary trait?  Couldn’t the ‘lessons’ from Cesare and the indiscriminate discipline from Rosa serve as a vital lesson of behaviors to avoid?

3) Did Mondavi leave a legacy?  Without hesitation, the answer is - absolutely!  He and Margrit left $35 million to U.C. Davis, funded the restoration of the Napa Valley Opera House and helped to establish Copia - The American Center for Wine, Food and the Arts.  All serve as noteworthy and admirable, but he failed to achieve his greatest desire - a family business legacy.

4) Each of us is endowed with strengths and challenged by weakness.  Robert Mondavi used the strength of his vision, the power of leadership and undaunted efforts to create a life style of fine American wines and elegant foods.  Without Robert Mondavi, we may have an industry steeped in inexpensive jug wine and sacramental spirits.

5) In the end, the strengths of his character - ego, drive, desire, and vision - may have been the weakness of his personality.  He was truly a great visionary.  He supported the vision with tireless execution, but he didn’t (or couldn’t) step aside and let those he loved fulfill his fond desire.  The Mondavi family is merely a bit player in the continuing story of this venerable institution.

If business is a commercial expression of self, as I think it is, the Robert Mondavi Winery became a material representation of its founder.  But creating a business that is bigger than self, provides an excellent standard of living and endows a family for generations, is not achieved through normal means and casually accepted business methods.

A comprehensive succession plan may provide a clear sense of purpose and the pathway to achieve multigenerational success.  A complete plan will detail solutions to the challenges facing the operation and will mitigate the three leading causes of failure:

1) Inadequate estate planning
2) Insufficient capitalization
3) Failure to prepare the next generation

A succession plan is built on the following four elements: >>

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