Imagine having the opportunity to sit down with a seasoned business coach, who has navigated numerouse business transitions and exits. Meet Chris Yonker the founder of the Center for Conscious Living and Fulfillment, a transition coach with a knack for guiding small and medium businesses through the complexities of business continuity and succession planning. In this episode Chris shares his journey from his corporate days at 3M to his current role, underscoring the value of assembling a board of advisors and fostering an atmosphere of stewardship, particularly in family-owned businesses.
In this conversation we take a look at the nuanced world of family businesses, dissecting the often-overlooked aspect of identity. Aligning your personal values and principles with your role in the business, understanding your strengths, and prioritizing what truly matters in life – these are some of the gems Chris shares in this episode. Tune in to gather insights that can reshape your perspective on business transitions and the unique dynamics of family businesses.
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JOSH KLOOZ, CFP®, MBA
1780 Hughes Landing | Suite 570
The Woodlands, TX 77380
Music by bensound.com
Hello again and welcome into another edition of Wisdom and Wealth. As always, I'm Josh Clues and I host this podcast. Today's topic is going to delve into business owners and, specifically, the transitions that a business owner will go through in their lifetime. As many of you may be aware if you're listening to this podcast, the Houston market, in really many places in Texas, are going through different transitions from a small business owner perspective, and so, as I think, through the different resources that I would love for my friends and neighbors to have, chris Yonker comes to mind as someone who is a business coach, who is a succession and planning coach, a transition coach and a trusted mind in this space, and so I'm thankful that he's been able to join me on the podcast today, and I'm excited to have him share a little bit more about his personal story, what he does today, and hopefully you'll come away with some tidbits that will enrich your current situation or maybe even your future situation coming down the pike. So, without further ado, chris, thank you so much for joining the podcast and welcome in. Thank you, thanks for having me. So, chris, you have a pretty interesting story and I find it interesting how you started out and so where you draw upon the kind of your background. Could you give us just a little bit of a brief introduction to your career and how it shaped how you view what you're doing today?Speaker 2:
Sure. So I started in corporate America and got hired out of college in working at 3M actually, and I worked there for over 25 years, but I'd probably say 15 years plus or so into my career there. I started doing executive coaching, consulting, helping companies grow in scale, and I just taken some of my experience from leadership, organizational health, sales and strategic planning from 3M and just applying it to the small medium business sector. One of my clients that I was working with actually who's a financial advisor. He brought me into a family business who was navigating a consequential transition around succession and they were not on the same page in regards to how this was going to go, who was going to do what. And the financial advisor, the attorney, the accountant, were all stuck State planner in regards to moving forward with his family because they couldn't get any agreement in regards to what we're going to do. And he had asked me to come into this meeting and I said well, okay, why? He said well, you have the skill set to help navigate the conversations that need to happen. And he said I've worked with you enough to know your abilities and just trust me, just come in the room and I'll introduce you and we'll go from there. So I said okay, and that was a very rewarding and rich experience and it led to other referrals. And then I pursued a certification in family business advising and I also I was really I'm a busy bit personal development junkie A friend of mine introduced me to a neurolinguistic programming a coach of mine actually and then I pursued a relationship of mentorship with the Tony Robbins original coach and mentor and got a certified as a practitioner. So I've got family business advising certification through FFI, I've got an NLP certification and then also I've got context and business strategy operations. I know how to read financials, I know how to give strategic advice, I know how to give organizational health and leadership advice and I also know how to navigate family dynamics. So from what I've seen and if someone's been able to take mindset and strategy and family business advising and bring them all together in one place, I have not come across too many folks that can swim in very well in several lanes and that's kind of became a bit of the work that we know. Really it's that sort of the work that we do now at my organization.Speaker 1:
And it's so true, you'll find someone that has necessarily the soft skills to help negotiate through a problem, but very rarely do you find someone that has the business skills in the, the chops to, to walk through both of those worlds at the same time. I think it from accountability perspective, I imagine it has to pay dividends just from the levels of conversations and levels of depth that you're able to get to. So, chris, can you tell us a little bit more about there's? I've kind of broken our conversation today up into business continuity and then transitions for business owners, and I'd really like to hear from you what are some of the challenges that you've seen from the continuity perspective? What are some of the curveballs that you encounter as you are out in the marketplace?Speaker 2:
Yeah, I think it was strategically in the continuity side. There's a lot of really great practical things that are in regardless of the size of the company folks can do in regards to even building a board, whether that's a fully functional fiduciary board or or just an advisory board, a group of folks that you surround yourself with that can give insight and perspective in relationship to navigating future decisions. I think the biggest challenge most families that I experience kind of run into when it comes to continuity is is, you know, if we believe we have a product or service that stands at the test of time or we're not, or innovating, depending on what it is that we do, then are there other folks in the family that want to have some level of owner involvement, ownership or stewardship in regards to the business. I mean, I'm working with families that in some cases that they don't even they're not even in the business, not even involved with the business, but they're learning how to be stewards of that business in relationship to managing their ownership as a family. And then the other side of it, I've worked with families that are that are, all you know, not only owners, but they're all involved and they're in the operational side of the business as well. But the question is always the same as who, and not if we know who we are and we know where we're going, who on the family wants a level of involvement with this business? And how do we cultivate? You know what's possible for future generations? I'd heard once that the you know when we're the family business really is taking care of the business for your grandchildren, and not just the next generation but future generations, and really thinking of it more longer term, I think often times. Then, well, who's going to do what next? Like? Can we think beyond that of like? Well, how do we, how do we nurture and take care of this entity in a way that it continue to conserve the community, it continue to serve the customer base, it continue to serve the, the collective employees, the stakeholders that are involved, as well as the family. You know the folks that I work with. They care about all of those things and they want to allow what they you know, the mission of that organization, the core values of that business, to thrive through the context of time.Speaker 1:
And it's. I think you hit on a point that I've just always found fascinating and I'd be curious for your, your take on this. I think there is a unwritten or an unspoken assumption sometimes within family businesses that of course it has to be complicated and it has to divide the family. And I always, I just oh, it drives me nuts, just like what if that could be the uniter of the family? What if, what if that business, whether you're involved in it or not, could be something that's cohesive? What if, what if it could be something that you all gather around and could, you know, continue to be a legacy builder for generations to come? And it's all about the mindset that you approach that resource, and it starts to your point with stewardship. What, how do we steward the resource of our family and steward the resource of this entity that we've created to its best and, and you know, most maximum potential? But it's subtle, but you can, you can even see it creeping in, and I don't know whether it's society pushing that on to us or not, but it's, it's there, have you? Have you noticed that at all?Speaker 2:
Yeah, I think you know the number one objective I have when I end up working with it could be a fan, maybe even made me a family. We're talking about family businesses, but I get introduced to family businesses that are not family owned and they're looking still to navigate the same problem right succession continuity could be moving something on to another employee in the company, could be selling it, but they still care about the employees. They still care about the customers, all those things they still care about, care about. The goal is is how do I help them? Now, I know that you're a human being and not necessarily you, josh. I know you're a human being too, but I'm just saying and taking, generally speaking this is the AI generation to me, just so, yeah, yeah that's good. That's good, but I believe that you know, whereas human beings we're all driven by self-interest I mean Patrick Lencioni talks about that like if we're gonna build a team, we've got to take self-interest off the table. But it's hard to do because we're we're wired for preservation, and so my ultimate objective is is how do I help take what's most important to you, assuming that it's aligned with the greater good, and help you see how that can fit inside the context of the business and or the future of that business and any relevance right, how that relationship you have? How do I connect that dot of your world, your core values, your personal vision, your in what you want to do with? your life to the overarching mission vision of that organization or your relationship there of to that, and that that, at least that way, gets people Rowan. If we can read one thing, you know me, sometimes it's just like we agree, we, we love the business, or we agree, maybe it's not the case. We agree that we believe this business that provides value and provides the ability for 150 to be people being employed. We agree that it provides a solution to the marketplace okay, we all agree to that, great. And we also agree that we'd like to continue to provide that as an opportunity for other people in the future great. So what can we agree upon? I think what happens is that when folks are an opposite ends, they get focused on what the opposite ends on and mainly be. If you look at, there might be ten things going on. It's the one thing we don't agree on, the two things that people tend to focus on. And let's, let's first get aligned on the five things you think, whatever they are, that we, even if it's one, let's find something that we, we both agree to, that we can, we can say you know what. Let's set this as our goal and then let's find a way to navigate our differences, yeah, and in a way that we can still get to that goal.Speaker 1:
Yeah, I'm, chris. I'm a huge believer in the power stories, and one because they reveal opportunities, you know, for our audience, but also they reveal why we do what we do to a degree. Yeah, you have any stories that you found meaningful, especially on the business continuity side, you wouldn't mind sharing with us?Speaker 2:
yeah, I mean there's. There's several different aspects of that and the common thread and I'll share a few, a few high level the stories. The common thread is that it really just juices me is how do I, how do we help that next gen person, the next person at the helm, to step into their own vision of the future? But still, have you know, I was just talking to someone who is in a just taken over in the last year and a half taken over fairly large international family business, several hundred employees, and what happened? And this, this has happened a month ago and I got referred to someone else who is you larger firm and then it's happened in the company that with twenty five employees. So the story is the same. It's I'm stepping into business. My parents, my grandparents, someone else had started this, my uncle started this company and I'm starting to compare myself to that person, I might be in their shadow. I'm trying to make decisions to honor my own truth, but I'm running through the filter of what would my father say, what my uncle say, what my grandfather say, what would they believe is right? And then also, how are the other people viewing me and looking at me in relationship to who I am and the work I'm doing? And comparing me, and you start running this in your dialogue and I really provide, I believe, these opportunities provide a high level of potential transformation for that person. Now, sometimes, sometimes, josh folks are put into positions that perhaps maybe they shouldn't have been and, in regard, they're put into a certain seat on that. You know on that bus, if you will, that perhaps they'd be better off in another seat Doesn't mean they don't belong on the bus and it's okay. We all have different strengths. We don't come in with our strengths developed and that helped us to get clear on what they are and this to develop them. But I find, you know, oftentimes there's a lot of potential within that next generation that hasn't been unlocked and sometimes it gets. I mean, I think it gets pushed down. There can be like well, I can think of a family I'm working with right now, where the daughter, no matter what she does, she doesn't believe it's gonna be good enough to satisfy what her father believes about her. And so you know, whatever she does, it's not good enough. And so that story and so part of my goal is is how do I release people from these stories, to get better clarity on who am I and why am I here and how do I? How I had to leverage myself at a higher level and it's okay. You know, I think there was a family business I was working with. They had tried succession three times, meaning that they had brought other people in, figured out. You know the family wanted to keep the ownership, but maybe they were gonna put someone else at the helm. And through my discovery process I got very clear that one of the daughters really she was already in the business Part of her really wanted to step into that CEO role, take over from her father, who had been doing it for a long time and he was in the 70s as we got deeper into it. The reason she was hesitant is because she believed that she would have to run the business the way he did and she didn't want to be that absent from her own family as a mom having high school and middle school kids, and she didn't see how so she was, and so no one really even had this conversation with her. And because she wouldn't even participate in the conversation, because she already kind of opted out because of that paradigm. And through our work. I'm like, well, you don't have to step into that role. I mean, we can put a COO. You didn't have a COO. What if you had a COO in that business so you weren't wearing two hats? I mean, we can make this look different than it does right now. It doesn't have to look the same as it did and you don't have to be someone else, we just need you to be yourself in regards to that role. So helping someone really get clear on their truth and supported in their truth is, I find, very meaningful work in this relationship. And there's one other story regards to a family business I was working with, whereas we got into it when the daughters there's several siblings this daughter in the business she was not on board with and she wasn't against the businesses they were in, but it wasn't what she her sure if she felt she should be doing and she really wanted to be in the medical arena and to pursue her vision, her dream of being a nurse. And I'm like, okay, well, let's what's holding you back on that? Well, you know, I'm concerned about my dad's committing brothers and me. Well, what am I suddenly gonna think about that decision? And so we ended up having a conversation around that and Nielsa say she came out of the business and pursued her degree in nursing and became a registered nurse and that's what she's doing today and she's really happy. And you know, life is short and you know, just because your family owns a business doesn't necessarily mean that you need to be in it, even though sometimes. I remember I was at a conference and I was speaking at and there were people broken up in tables in this room as a breakout room and I found out that these family members were different. The same family were at these different tables they're sitting and the one was sort of talking about but with one family member who wasn't in the business and basically how they were ostracizing him from not being in the business and he was speaking about him. He was in the room like he wasn't there. It was wow. I was like wow, I'm trying not to pass judgment on other people, but I'm like man, life's short, like what's most important to you, and sometimes for folks I'm. They have to decide what's more important to me money or family and sometimes that ends up. Folks end up getting a little backwards in regards to their priorities.Speaker 1:
Yeah, it's funny to me. I mean this I don't have a family business, as it were, but I have a family and so I have an enterprise right. And so I tell my kids, even though they're younger, like, hey, my resources are your resources to figure out why you were put on this earth. My only requirement is that you can't be afraid to fail, like I can't tell you what, why God put you on this earth. I'm gonna help you explore and figure out what you're good at and whatever else. But you have to be willing to risk being bad at something right, and so sports help through that. There's different things that help you along the way. But even I look at my own self personally. One of the greatest gifts my dad ever gave me was he never, I remember, probably past the age of like eight or nine. He would never tell me what he thought. He would look at me and say, well, sounds like you got a decision to make. What information do you need? You know, kind of not in so many words, but you know at the time it would just drive me nuts growing up. But I look back on it and I'm just like, wow, that was such a gift. And again you go back to the piece of it it has to start with. We want to maintain our relationships as a family, first and foremost, so I'm so thankful for that and that perspective coming from you. Transitioning to those transitions for business owners could you speak to, and specifically around, business owners that have decided that they want to exit a business? Could you speak to some of your experiences around someone that's listening to this podcast and saying you know, hey, I see a transition in my future. What are some of the hurdles and speed bumps that you commonly see out there?Speaker 2:
Yeah, okay, good question, I think, first and foremost, is this is especially true for businesses that that person leaving founded the company, which probably is a prior a lot of the folks that you were referring to in that category potentially. Right, that's not a family business unless they bought it from someone else or took it from a friend or so. Whatever. Somebody probably started and what ends up happening is that oftentimes we link our identity to this child, because if you started a business, then you had a child. In essence, you built something up and you start building your identity to it and then the challenge comes down to is this is exercise and letting go. Who would I be if I didn't have this? This is part of the reason I love doing this level of work, because I love getting into who am I and why am I here, which is a great question to always revisit our lives, but especially when we're looking at a transition, like an exit, that's one piece. If we have some clarity around that, then also, what do I want to do? I've built a process through helping folks. I work them through a hierarchy fulfillment starts with spirituality, goes health and well-being, and then mental, emotional mastery, and then loving relationships, family, and each one builds upon the context of the next one, then eventually gets to the experiences and environment how we want to live, what we want to live, what do we want our days look like with weeks, months, what's this future version of us that we want to step into? Having absolute clarity, josh, on that is really important. It's just fascinating to me how often I come across folks. Granted, my process is pretty thorough, but haven't really spent a lot of time even articulating a vision and writing out You've heard that old adage of people spend more time planning a vacation than they do their future. It's sad in a way but how clear are you?Speaker 1:
I'll admit it, it's convicting. It's a big two yeah.Speaker 2:
Well, it's like this is your life.Speaker 1:
This is an address rehearsal.Speaker 2:
We are here for a finite period of time. I don't know how long that is. You don't know how long that is. You and I have been around long enough to see people come and go that we didn't know what, holy crap, what just happened right there. I lost two clients this year to cancer, both in their 50s. I watched that in one of those diagnosed with cancer a year ago and ended up working with his family. Just working through those dynamic management, especially for the work that you do and helping people prepare for the future, it builds so much more resolve into hey, this is it. Today is a gift. What are you going to do with the gift of today and or tomorrow? And take some time out to step outside of your life and get clear on your core values, get clear on why you're here and your purpose, and then get clear on how do you want to live a meaningful life. I'll add this very important piece aligned with your truth Not what society says you should have or want. Not what your family thinks you should do what you want for you and individually, and also for your own inner family. What's best for you and your world, not someone else's. I'll tell you from the work that I've done, it takes a little bit to get people out of that external frame of wondering what other people think or how they're going to navigate these things based upon other people's perspective. I'm not saying we don't get input, but it should be still on what we want and why. For us it goes back to and I'm sure you've heard there was a hospice worker I can't remember her name, I cite the work from time to time who sat with people on their deathbeds and did interviews and then she put it into a report, a study and do whatever the top things that people wish they had done differently, or in regrets, if you will. Sure, like for guys, one of the top three was working too much. I wish I didn't work so much. But the number one for everyone was I wish I'd made decisions that were most aligned with what I wanted to do and not being concerned with what other people would think. I wish I really honored decisions that I wanted to make for me and follow through with those, as opposed to weighing in so heavily on the frame of other people.Speaker 1:
Yeah, because, whether we realize that or not, we are influenced by what we think. We are people pleasers. We have the desire to want to be liked, naturally, and one of the ways that we figure out when we're younger that we can be liked is by doing what we think will please other people. Right, yeah, so it just perpetuates itself. Chris, this has been such a interesting conversation and we could go on for hours. Is there anything that we haven't gotten to in today's conversation that you think would be beneficial if somebody's listening to this?Speaker 2:
I think I want to just to round out what we're talking about, and I mentioned this to someone else earlier. I think sometimes people build a business and then are they involved with the business and then they're like, you know, I'm tired or I feel like this thing owns me or I need to get away from it. I want to sell whatever it could be. I want to exit, I want to sell it. On any of that, by the way, nothing other topic another time. You should think about exit today and or the day you start your business, not when you're a couple years out, but regardless. If you do not get, what ends up happening is if you're trying to get away from something, away from your business, away from what you don't like, if you have the. When I was at 3M, I realized that this is not my purpose. This is not. I've granted, it's been great, it's been a career, it's awesome, the company is good, but I wasn't living my purpose. I knew that I would belong somewhere else. I had to get clear, though, that I wasn't trying to get away from a job, and when we're trying to get away from something, we can't get to where we want to go while focusing on trying not to be somewhere else. It's like they're, because you can end up in a totally different destination and end up somewhere else you don't want to be. So that's why having absolute clarity where you want to go and what you want to step into is key, Because then when you start moving that way, then things work out and sometimes you know folks we were talking about before we started recording. Sometimes folks are in a business. Maybe just the context of how you're involved in your business might change. Maybe you just need a different person to backfill what's sucking your energy. When part of my work with the clients is that we do an energy audit which gives me energy, takes energy and is energy neutral, so we can get some clarity around the other assessments we do to get clarity on what's best for me today going forward in my life.Speaker 1:
Yeah, chris, this has been a great conversation. If somebody's listening to this and wants to follow your work further, what's the best way for them to do that? And then, what's your preferred method for people to reach out to your organization?Speaker 2:
Yeah, thanks. Well, the Center for Conscious Living and Fulfillment is our company, but the URL we use is chrisjanckercom, so C-H-R-I-S-Y-O-N-K-E-Rcom, and you can contact us directly there, and I'm also on LinkedIn. You can contact us directly through either place.Speaker 1:
Excellent, chris. I wish you and your family and team nothing but truth, beauty and goodness in the road ahead. I look forward to having you back for a follow-on conversation shortly.Speaker 2:
Thank you, josh, I appreciate you being here.