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At the same time, says Helen Hanna Casey, it’s important to make a mutual effort to find that on-off switch.

“It isn’t always easy to stop being colleagues and just be a family,” she says, “especially if it’s been only hours since you had a disagreement at work. But we all know how important it is to leave stress and conflict at the office. We really make the effort to turn it off and just enjoy being together.”

Knowing When to Look Outside for Perspective
Drayton Saunders acknowledges that finding a balance in a family business can be extremely tricky. “It took us a few years to toggle between when we were talking as mother-son, when we were talking as partners, and when we were talking as employee-boss. It’s a constant process.”

The closeness and sometimes blurry lines are one reason why it’s critical to know when to look to experts and outside advisors for perspective, says Michael Saunders.

“We weren’t afraid to reach out to executive leadership coaches. We have worked with a company that has developed leadership with our entire team. In a family business, knowing when to look outside for some perspective and assistance is really valuable,” she explains.

It can also be important, notes Jason Waugh, when it comes to succession planning.

“My father,” he says, “would be the first to tell you that I didn’t get anything on a silver platter—that I’ve worked hard for many years to earn this position of trust. The one true thing about my taking the reins is that our hearts are in total alignment. We view each other with admiration and respect, and we place the same high value on our company culture, and how well we treat our agents and employees. But for all that we agree on, we did feel it was necessary to get outside legal advice on how the succession would take place.”

Planning For Future Generations
Retirement planning can be bittersweet, especially when you love what you’re doing. But there is comfort, and even pleasure, in knowing that the company you’ve built will stay in family hands.

“When Christy came to work for me 13 years ago, retirement was the farthest thing from my mind,” says Linda Sherrer. “I was far more focused on watching her in action to see if—and how—she would progress. But in the five or six years since she moved up to corporate, I have witnessed the most incredible thing. My daughter is level-headed, compassionate, capable and decisive, qualities I admire so completely. And while I don’t see myself retiring anytime soon, I know that I would be honored—and everyone here would love it—if I put her in my chair when I do.”

For the Finn family, as in many real estate families, succession is an evolving process, beginning with informal family discussions and progressing to a written plan overseen by outside consultants.

“What’s important,” says LP Finn, “is that you trust in one another and in your mutual, company-first approach. We take pride in what we’re building together, and we hope one day our own kids will care enough to carry on the traditions our parents worked hard to establish.”

For the Hanna family, the future is now, with a fourth generation of sons and daughters, nieces and nephews already standing in the wings.

“We served Christmas dinner on my Grandmother’s china,” says Helen Hanna Casey. “Four generations with shared values passed down to us along with the china. We know we have a lot to be grateful for—and so much more to look forward to.”