Think Inc.
A forum for Hawaii's
business community to discuss
current events and issues

Sunday, January 11, 2004

» No excuse for work abuse
» Plan for business succession


No excuse for work abuse

There's a bumper sticker that never fails to send a shiver down my spine. It reminds us that there is absolutely no excuse for domestic violence. None. The last time I saw it, I found myself wondering what difference it could make if we started to think about and act toward our work places as if they were our families.

They are, after all, the social systems in which we spend more than one-third of our waking hours as adults. Here are a few examples of what came to mind.

Let's tackle the issue of violence first. Imagine a loved one of yours is being treated for a somewhat serious health condition in Average Hospital XYZ. The nurse caring for your loved one is one of the 2,500 nurses nationwide recently surveyed about the extent to which they experience or observe firsthand a variety of forms of abusive behavior. These acts of violence ranged from condescending and disparaging remarks to fits of anger resulting in the throwing of medical charts or equipment.

This caregiver may be one of the almost 35 percent who reported weekly or daily occurrences of such abuse. The primary perpetrators of this abuse were less that 10 percent of their colleagues, all of whose identities were well known. In describing how they coped with such a constant barrage of abuse, most simply shrugged their shoulders and said: "You learn to have thick skin and get used to it." Do you want a thick-skinned nurse taking care of your loved one?

Suppose now this same loved one is being rushed into the ER of the same Average Hospital XYZ, but now with a life-threatening illness. Matters of seconds can be the difference between living, becoming a vegetable, or dying. Would you be "interested" in knowing whether the attending physician and nurse were carrying the weight of an unresolved interpersonal conflict on their minds and in their hearts? You bet you would. Hard evidence confirms that such tensions -- exactly the kind that go along with frequent, and excused or tolerated, verbal abuse -- are highly correlated with whether ER patients with life-threatening illnesses live or die.

Health care too close to home? Take a moment to think about the number of businesses that have been ruined because the "parents" heading up those organizations manipulated information about profits. Values of full and open disclosure, the way good parents try to teach their children to communicate, were replaced by two sets of books. Face-to-face honesty and ethical integrity were replaced by bald-faced lying and manipulative press releases. Equitably sharing whatever profits were available was replaced by "we'll take ours and leave you with crumbs."

Aside from the direct consequences of these types of examples, what is most insidious is the flood of excuses made to justify and rationalize the actions; with virtually no personal accountability. There are a mere nine words that make up almost 25 percent of everything we say. They are: and, be, have, it, of, the, to, will, you. One word is conspicuously absent. The word is I!

So the next time you see something wrong taking place, at home or in your work place, ask yourself: What difference can I make?

Edward Everett Hale gave us the answer: "I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do."

Irwin Rubin is a Honolulu-based author and president of Temenos Inc., which specializes in executive leadership development and behavioral coaching, communication skill building training, and large system culture change. His column appears twice a month in the Honolulu Star Bulletin. Send questions and column suggestions to or visit



Plan now or pay later,
succession planning
for your business

Krispy Kreme and Wal-Mart have a lot in common. Die-hard fans line up in front of their locked doors the night before grand openings, licking their lips for a puffed up glazed doughnut or a bargain that can set the neighbors talking over the fences. But what do these two incredibly successful businesses and the families that started them have that sets them apart?

Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart, is an excellent example of a man who planned not only for the future of his business, but also for the future of his family. He and his wife, Helen, formed a family partnership called Walton Enterprises, which allowed them to pass part of their business interests to their children, while keeping part of it separate. When Walton passed away in 1992, his estate tax was much smaller because he was able to protect his assets by planning ahead. In addition, his children were tied to the family business through Walton Enterprises. Effective estate planning allowed Sam Walton to protect his wealth and pass it on to his heirs when he died.

But not all entrepreneurs take an active interest in planning for the future of their business, as well as for their family. Vernon Rudolph, founder of Krispy Kreme, is a case in point. While he was a successful doughnut maker and entrepreneur, his failure to create a succession plan for his family business left his family without a business. Upon his death in 1973, Krispy Kreme had to be sold because Rudolph had no business succession plan. Had Rudolph had the foresight to plan, Krispy Kreme could still be in the Rudolph family, run by his children and thus preserving his legacy. Instead, Krispy Kreme was sold in 1976 to the Chicago conglomerate, Beatrice, which nearly resulted in Krispy Kreme's demise by leading it into serious debt.

The failure to plan is central to the downfall of many family businesses. Only 30 percent are successfully passed to the next generation, 12 percent to the second generation, and 3 percent to the third generation. Sam Walton's sound succession planning benefited his family and allowed them to maintain an active role in Wal-Mart. Vernon Rudolph's tale exemplifies the risk in failing to plan.

Business succession planning provides business stability, tax savings, and most importantly peace of mind. The central questions are 1) who should take over the business when you phase out your involvement due to retirement, disability, death, or you just want more time with your family, and 2) how will that transition be funded? Choosing a successor is not an easy task. But, if you plan ahead, a successor can be groomed slowly and will be ready to step in should unforeseen circumstances arise. Choosing a successor in an emergency is a near impossible task.

Once the identity of the successor is chosen, a strategy can be formulated to accomplish the goal. The strategy can allow you to retain control for as long as you want. But, it can put a mechanism in place that will allow you to have an exit strategy.

A qualified estate planning attorney can help you wrestle with business succession issues and determine which strategies will work best in your situation.

Attorneys Judith Sterling and Michelle Tucker are partners in the Honolulu law firm of Sterling & Tucker. Reach them through or, or by calling 531-5391.

To participate in the Think Inc. discussion, e-mail your comments to; fax them to 529-4750; or mail them to Think Inc., Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana, Honolulu, Hawaii 96813. Anonymous submissions will be discarded.


E-mail to Business Editor


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2004 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --