In the United States, there are more than 75 million Baby Boomers, and it is estimated that approximately 7 million of them are privately held business owners. I reference these facts because there are a large number of family-owned business owners in Mississippi that will are or will be thinking through how to transition their business in the next few years. Some may opt to sell their business, some may transition to family members, and others may simply close their doors. I used to do a good bit of estate planning, and I was always amazed how many people failed to plan properly for their family’s future through estate planning. As I transitioned to business consulting, I have been even more amazed at how few owners of businesses have properly thought through the business succession/exit plan. As an entrepreneur; however, I can understand. Business owners face daily pressures simply to survive. The issues at hand are usually much more immediate and urgent than thinking through the ultimate exit of the business which seems way off in the future.
My interviewee this week is another “Leader to Watch” in our state, and he has lived through a successful family owned business transition.
Walker Tann is the managing broker at Nix-Tann & Associates, LLC, which he co-owns with his mother Becky Tann. Nix-Tann was founded in 1977 by Walker’s grandmother, Elaine Nix, and owned and operated for years by Walker’s parents, Bill and Becky Tann. Walker grew up in Jackson, and he knew from early on that he wanted to join the family business.
While still in school at Mississippi State, he went ahead and earned his real estate license prior to graduation, and has been the designated broker for the company since 2009.
Walker shared, “Growing up, I did not realize how much work my parents actually did. I did see that there was no such thing as clocking in and clocking out for them. My parents have been my biggest mentors.”
The key operating principle for the company is the Golden Rule. Walker’s personal leadership philosophy is to “have the right people around you and only work with the best then at the end of the day you will be satisfied with your work.” He noted that he wants his team to feel like more than just another person who works at Nix-Tann, but rather “part of our family because at the end of the day our office is one big family.”
Walker also emphasized the importance listening to others. He said, “It is amazing how many people want to direct and tell people what to do or not to do and don’t take the time to actually listen.”
Walker, 31, has made a smooth transition of being the head of the firm that has three offices and 44 associates. Besides being a leader in the company, Walker has also established himself as a leader in his industry. He has served on the board of directors of the Jackson Association of Realtors as well as the board of directors for the MLS of Jackson, and he was recently appointed the treasurer for the MLS of Jackson.
The Tann family is a great example of how to make the transition in leadership. It is exciting to see enterprises which can continue to flourish as the torch of leadership is handed down. For many Mississippi family owned businesses, succession/exit planning will be an important issue in the years to come. As for Walker, a fourth-generation Jacksonian, I believe he will be making a positive impact in the community for years to come.
» Martin Willoughby is a business consultant and regular contributing columnist for the Mississippi Business Journal. He serves as Chief Operating Officer of Butler Snow Advisory Services, LLC and can be reached at martin.willoughby@ butlersnow.com.