WOODALLSCM.com May 2018 - 27 what should happen at the time of transition, then someone else besides the family gets to decide what happens to the business,” said Brownfield. Without laying the groundwork years ahead of time, the best intentions of family members will not be enough to ensure a successful transition. “Succession happens one of two ways: either by the passing away of the generation that owns the park or they pass it on before retirement,” he said. “A smooth succession requires a deliberate, systematic effort to organize and ensure continuity of a camp- ground.Successionplanningisonethingand estate planning is another — but succession planning and estate planning have to hold hands.” Amy Wirtz, a certified exit planning advi- sor at Ohio-based Fam- ily & Business Success, has presented on this topicatcampgroundas- sociation conferences throughout North Amer- ica. She tells owners that businesses break up mainly due to the “Five Ds” — death, disability, disaster, divorce and disagreement. “Owners need to have plans in place that will protect their business if such an event occurs,” Wirtz said. “They need to be able to answer questions like, ‘What information does my family need to know?’ ‘Are there passwords and other key information they need to be aware of?’” Besides the “Five Ds,” it is important for any campground owner to develop an exit strategy, something that should begin when they purchase the campground. “It is important to be cognizant of the fact that it typically takes three to five years for a campground to sell and for the succession process to be completed,” said Wirtz. Family Matters JeffSims,seniordirectorofstaterelations and program advocacy for the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC), points out no two campgrounds are completely alike. Every situation is different, which means there are many different ways to transfer ownership. In some cases, there is an actual transfer of ownership through the younger generation purchasing the park from their elder family members, said Sims. Other family business ownersexecutethetransitionthroughatrust in which they still maintain ownership of the park but allow their children to run it. Then their ownership would transfer upon their death. Some may want to hold onto the family legacywithoutbeingfullyinvolved,explained Sims. In such cases, succession involves hiring a manager and letting the family sit on the board of directors, thus freeing the heirs of the day-to-day operations. Wirtz mentioned that passing down a campground to a family member does not necessarily make it a smoother process. “With families you can have multiple different opinions about who should be in control of the campground and how things should be managed, so there can be a whole slew of things to work out,” she said. “Also, past owners may let family members make payments to them as a way to ease the burden of purchasing the business outright. So, you have family members that have owned the campground with a vested inter- est in how the campground is operating and need to sit down and figure out what are the advantages and limitations of a business structure as it relates to a succession. “For example, there are business structuresinwhichtheheirscouldbuyallthe shares and then own the business,” Brownfield continued. “Some are structured asapartnershiporlimitedpartnership.There are a number of ways to get it done, but park owners need to understand advantages, disadvantages and limitations as it relates to the succession.” It is also important to set a target date for handingdownthebusiness,althoughnothing has to be etched in stone. Campground ownersshouldbewillingtowriteplansdown and review them on a regular basis. “Remember, personal goals drive busi- ness goals,” Brownfield said. “Do I want to retire to Florida at age 62? Is that my date? Or maybe it is determined by length of time you thought you wanted to hold the campground. Sue & Jim Randall, owners of Alton RV Park in Galloway, Ohio, began succession plans early and now their daughter, Joy Randall, is ready to take over. they may be coming in and checking up on the new owners.” Of the many scenarios, Sims said things can get complicated when more than one sibling is involved. It takes careful planning and transparency to make it equitable for everyone. “As park owners, you must create a solid plan, so you do not put your family in a posi- tioninwhichtheyhavetosellassetstomain- tain a business,” he explained. “Everything you worked for you want to pass on to them — and there are ways to do that well and legally without crippling the business.” Brownfield also said it is important for campground owners to separate their business from family. “You need to decide if your park is going to be an LLC, a sole proprietor, a C-Corp or an S-Corp,” he said. “How is your business structured?Theoptionyouchoosewilldeter- minehowthesuccessioncantakeplace.You Amy Wirtz Jeff Sims