Family succession plan

“I love your house. It is very beautifully designed. The architectural work and the finishing have a touch of gold. The location too is super. You had a great vision in choosing this location and this is a solid investment. This is a family investment that will benefit many generations after you”, I told Mr. Mensah (not real name). Mr. Mensah was the Landlord of a property my former Company was renting in Accra as an Office space. The property is situated in a prime location in Accra and the monthly rental income was good money. As I speak all these nice things about Mr. Mensah’s property, he did not seem excited, especially when I mentioned that it was a family property that will serve generations after him. He made a facial expression that showed that all was not well. I had the opportunity to speak to Mr. Mensah because he came to my Office to pick his cheque from me. He might have been in his Seventies but he appeared strong and much younger at his age.

“My son, I can see that you have fallen in love with my house. If you have money you can buy it. I want to sell it”, was Mr. Mensah’s shocking response to me. I opened my mouth wide in shock. “You want to sell it?”, I asked. He saw how shocked I was because I could not hide my shock. I was wondering why will a parent built a property like this at a prime location like this and will not want to leave it for his children but thinking of selling it. At least that building could be his legacy to generations after him. However, he was contemplating of selling the property. What does he want to do with the money at his age? I cannot imagine. The rental income was huge and was in American Dollars. The monthly rent income from this property could compete with the monthly salary of some CEOs. So, what could he not do with this monthly rental income such that he would need to sell the whole property. “My son, you will not understand. I have useless sons who are waiting for me to die so they can fight over my properties. I do not want to leave any fight behind so I have decided I would sell all my properties before I die”, he explained. By the time he ended his explanation, my mouth and eyes were widely opened in shock. “You have useless sons?”, I muted to myself. I wish I could have asked him how he got those “useless sons” but I held back because I saw that he was becoming emotional about it.

It was not my first time of hearing a parent say the things Mr. Mensah said. I know many of us have also heard some of these statements from some parents over and over again. The surprising thing is that parents like Mr. Mensah have always blamed their children but forgot that they were responsible in raising the children the way they should go and if they grow they will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6). If the children therefore grow up to become useless then it is the parents who have failed in the discharge of their parental responsibility which is in Proverbs 22:6. They have raised the children to be useless and they cannot depart from it, they must be useless. The IT people have a term they called “garbage in, garbage out”. What this means is that, the output is always a reflection of the inputs. The way you raise your children, that is how they will grow up to become. Unfortunately, there is no auto mode app for raising children. It involves work and sacrifices. If you do not invest your time and resources to raise them well in the fear of the Lord, they will not grow up to be different from how Mr. Mensah described his children. Sacrificing and working hard to build wealth and make properties but failing to do same for the raising of our children is a misplaced priority. Mr. Mensah’s children were not born useless, his parental negligence made his children useless. Dear parent, is the road you are travelling on now, with regards to your children different from Mr. Mensah’s road? Do you think in a few years’ time you will also arrive at the same destination as Mr. Mensah or different from Mr. Mensah? Make the changes now if you have to. U-Turns, junctions, roundabouts, brakes, reverse and all that, do not only apply to cars. They also apply to human life especially parenting. We can always make a U-Turn or reverse or brake etc if we feel we are on the wrong way.

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There is a story in Ecclesiastes 2:18-19. This story relates to King Solomon, who was considered the wisest man that ever lived. These verses recorded Solomon’s lamentation in his last days on earth. It is so shocking to hear these words from the wisest man that ever lived. In Ecclesiastes 2:18-19, Solomon said “I came to hate all my hard work here on earth, for I must leave to others everything I have earned. And who can tell whether my successors will be wise or foolish? …..”. Solomon benefited from a smooth transition from his father David. David had taken his time to groom his successor long before he died. David knew the person who was going to succeed him. He had his family succession plan well covered and documented. In 1 Kings 2:2-4 David gave Solomon (his successor) specific instructions as follows, “I’m about to leave this world. Be strong and mature. Fulfil your duty to the LORD your God. Obey his directions, laws, commands, rules, and written instructions as they are recorded in Moses’ Teachings. Then you’ll succeed in everything you do wherever you may go. You’ll succeed because the LORD will keep the promise he made to me: ‘If your descendants are faithful to me with all their hearts and lives, you will never fail to have an heir on the throne of Israel”. David’s words are directly opposite the words of Solomon. Solomon did not do any family succession plan. He did not raise any successor. It was therefore no surprise that he never knew whether his successor will be wise or a fool even though his successor was going to be one of his own sons. Indeed no one can say Jeroboam who succeeded Solomon was wise but he was the son of the wisest man that ever lived. The world is now tired with rich people leaving behind poor children and wise men and women leaving behind unwise children simply because they have failed to train them well and transfer their skills and experiences to them through family succession plan. Who would have believed that a whole King Solomon will leave behind a son like Jeroboam as his successor?

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Many parents, like Mr. Mensah, found themselves in the same shoes like Solomon. Many parents have worked so hard in their lives to build wealth but have failed to build their children who can successfully take over from them. They spent all their life building wealth and making properties but never thought of planning for their successor(s). What is the use of building wealth if it cannot be successfully transferred to the next generation. While Solomon laments on not knowing whether the one who would succeed him would be wise or fool, Mr. Mensah on the other hand does not even want to think about that. Mr. Mensah rather wants to sell all his properties and consume all his wealth before he dies because he has “useless sons”.

Dear parent, these issues are real issues of life. Have you thought about who would succeed you? World leading brands (Companies) worth their sort take time to do Management Succession Planning to ensure that their operations move smoothly from one Chairman or CEO to the next. Coca Cola does it. Samsung does it. Toyota does it. Benz manufacturing company does it and many others. Even if companies can do it, don’t you think your family needs a succession plan? The choice is ours as parents to decide whether we will be Davids or Solomons? Would we be giving specific instructions to a specific person(s) as our successors during our last days on earth or we would be lamenting like Solomon? Would we be handing over our wealth to the next generation or like Mr. Mensah, we would be planning to sell them and consume them all before we leave this earth?
We should remember that it does not take a day, a week, a month or a year to do family succession plan. It takes time, effort and commitment. It is not late to do it but we must start today. We cannot live long enough to make all the mistakes ourselves and correct them. As a result, we must learn from other’s mistakes, like that of Solomon and Mr. Mensah, and use them to guide our lives and actions. Why Mr. Mensah did not do a will for his children on his properties still beats my mind. Mr. Mensah was smart enough to discern that his children would fight over his properties when he dies but he was not smart enough to find a smart solution to it. There is no challenge in this world that has no solution but we have always taken the easiest but not the best way like Mr. Mensah. It is my prayer that we will all, as parents, invest our time and resources in raising our children and putting in place family succession plans. It is critical for the continuity of families and family’s legacies. God bless us all and give us the wisdom He gave to David so we can work on our family succession plan.

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