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posted: 12/14/2018 1:00 AM

The next step: Do you have the right people in place?

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By Henry Munez

Whether your business is positioned for growth or your exit, personnel decisions can weigh heavily on the process. If you're on the growth track, you'll need to know whether you have the right resources in place to support your growth plan.

When you're ready to hand the business to the next generation, you'll need to be honest about whether your family members have the skills needed -- or the desire -- to take over the business.

Companies looking to grow must often confront the fact that the team that got you where you are today may not be the same group that takes you where you need to go.

Realizing this can be emotionally difficult, especially for owners for whom business and family are closely intertwined.

Building your bench

As you look to grow, it's critical to make sure you have the right people not just at the top but in middle management as well, which can help drive sales in the near term while establishing a strong bench that can eventually grow into the next generation of leaders.

Also, retaining talent is often as important as acquiring it. Take the example of Fromm International, a beauty products company based in the Chicago suburb of Mount Prospect, Illinois. The company recently opened a satellite office in Bucktown as a way to attract and retain millennials. Employees who live in Chicago have the option of spending part of the workweek in the city and the remainder in Mount Prospect.

"We've created a space that is convenient, accessible and functional," says Bill Kelly, Fromm's chief financial officer. "Their commutes to Mount Prospect have been reduced by 60 percent, and they're finding their time in Mount Prospect more focused."

But bringing in the right talent isn't easy. We've heard from business owners across all industries about the challenges they face in finding the right people. That's where your external partners can be a great asset.

They can help you make the right connections and help you align your workforce with what you need for long-term growth.

All in the Family?

Having the right talent in place is just as important if you're looking to leave the business to a new generation of leadership -- even if the next in line is part of your family. That's what Jeff Thrall, the second-generation owner of Thrall Enterprises, parent company of Nazdar -- a manufacturer of digital inks and screen printing supplies -- is currently focused on.

"In the next generation, there's only one family member who's working for one of the operating companies," Thrall says. "We want to encourage the third generation to be more engaged. We're working on educating them on our businesses and our strategy."

In the case of Arro, a Hodgkins, Illinois-based food manufacturer, the long-term plan is to position its largest business unit for an eventual sale, according to company President Patrick Gaughan.

He has no plans to leave the business to his children, preferring they pursue their own paths.

"Long term, we'd like to give our kids liquidity as opposed to a business that they may not be capable of running -- or even want to run," Gaughan says.

• Henry Munez is Market Executive,

Head of Diversified Industries Group - Illinois for BMO Harris Bank.