Succession planning is key to making a dealership a true family legacy

Kendall Rawls promotes succession planning for The Rawls Group, which itself is a family business.
Kendall Rawls promotes succession planning for The Rawls Group, which itself is a family business. | Contributed photo

Succession planning is an important component in any entrepreneurial business, The Rawls Group's Kendall Rawls said during the recent NADA 2018 Show in Las Vegas.

"We're all very passionate about what we do and the impact that what we do has on our clients' lives," Rawls, the group's director of marketing business development, told Mega Dealer News from the group's booth at the annual convention. "Our mission is to impact lives and perpetuate legacies. We have hardcore entrepreneurial businesses and we want to do anything we can to help people work better together and enjoy the time."

The emphasis in that time is for family in the business -- and members of the business who are like family -- to remember they are better together, Rawls said. 

"The way that we approach it, essentially, is a comprehensive way," she said in describing succession planning. "What people would traditionally think about would be the personal financial planning, strategy and estate planning. However, businesses are made of people. And so people is what ... create the interesting issues that arise. Everyone has a different goal in mind."

Those people all often want to grow in different ways or have individual visions for their future, Rawls said. 

"We work with business owners and their peer leaders and families to find an aligned agenda for the future, work through any sort of management issues and or personality disagreements," she said. "When you've known someone for a long time, there's going to be some baggage and history. The question is, 'How do we overcome that?' We're better together and we enjoy the time with each other. We address it in a very comprehensive way, from the financial, business and people side of things."

The Rawls Group's activities during the NADA 2018 Show in Las Vegas included attending the WomenPowered Networking Reception; making a presence on the NADA Show Floor; and hosting the Women In Auto Co. happy hour in the group's booth, according to the group's Twitter feed. While auto industry businesses are included among their clients, Rawls said their clients work in many industries.

"We do have a very strong clientele in the automotive industry," she said, noting that almost all entrepreneurs will either have family members -- or colleagues who are as close as family members -- with whom they want to share their success. 

The Rawls Group also maintains a strong online presence. Recent blogs on its website include helpful succession planning advice. The Rawls Group's most recent blog posts include advice about assembling a succession planning team, succession options and resolving and maintaining a working relationship.

For The Rawls Group, succession planning is a part of its legacy. 

"My dad started the business in 1973," she said, with plans to transfer the business to succeeding generations. According to its website, this cab be achieved via development of "a strong foundation of business success that can be transitioned not just to, but continue through, the next generation of owners, leaders and managers."

Over the past 45 years, The Rawls Group has assisted about 300 clients, including 75 active clients, Rawls said. 

"It's not a project, it's an ongoing process," she said, noting many clients have been with the firm for more than 25 years and that even inactive clients remain on the radar. "Most often, because there's a change in feelings, finances, tax laws or just general changes, we are then generally re-engaged. It's an ongoing, flowing situation," Rawls said.

That flow includes recent changes in estate tax law, she said. "What I find most interesting is that every four to eight years, there's a change," she said. "It's constant, like in any other industry. Whatever is going on is that there's always going to be a change. A change forward, a change back."

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Rawls Group 1700 W Colonial Dr Orlando, FL 32804-7010