When Keeping it in the Family Isn’t an Option

I sometimes find owner managers approach me with a dilemma about what to do when their children are not interested in taking over the reins of the family owned business.

This not only presents a succession issue but also a sense of loss and massive gap accompanied by the questions: “What have I been building this for all these years?” and “What was it for, if not for them?”

Their next major question is: “What do I do now?”

As a business strategist and performance coach, I know that answering these questions is a process worth investing time in.

Here’s some great advice on how to tackle it from change management specialist Sue Firth:

Start with examining where you are now:

Let’s define ‘A’ as a description of what the business does, where you are personally, or what you think the current issues are. Impatient business owners seeking a quick solution tend to want to leap from the present e to where they want to be – which is at ‘C’.

However transitioning from ‘A’ to ‘C’ requires you to look deep inside and determine what is holding you back, or to robustly challenge your thinking around what the issue really is. For example, if you’re not bothered that your children don’t want to join the business – have you actually told them that?

Although you may think this isn’t necessary, I’ve lost count of the number of clients I’ve coached who haven’t given themselves permission not to do something.

Communication with and reach out to your children first and foremost; you may be surprised at the assumptions they’ve been making or you may have previously expressed disappointment for which they are ‘carrying’ a sense of responsibility.

Leaving your business to your family to carry on is admirable – but ultimately your responsibility as a parent is to give your children the opportunities they seek. However you can’t be responsible for the choices they ultimately make. Nor can you be in control of everything they do.

To travel from ‘A’ to ‘C’ you must go through ‘B’:

  • This is the strategy or plan that gets you from where you are now, to where you want to go, but again it’s critical that you don’t bite off more than you can chew. You don’t need all the answers for your future, only those that impact a bite size chunk; for example, discuss the issue with your family so you’ve taken all their needs in to account. You may then be in a different place than you thought – and decide that your issue is to externally recruit someone to replace yourself rather than encourage one of your children. This could change the values of the business so you might wish to analyse the values you see as important, before you leave ‘A’, so that you can recruit the right person for your business in order to achieve something you’re proud of.
  • ‘B’ may only be a matter of a 3 to 6 month bite size piece and then the ‘C’ that was relevant when you first set out becomes the new ‘A’. Now you again analyse what is happening at this new ‘A’; where you want to be for a new ‘C’ and in what time frame, then, once again set about a strategy to get yourself there. Slowly you will find that you have begun to answer the daunting questions of what you are about and what you want – but in manageable bite size pieces rather than huge, daunting issues.

To find out how I can help to set these processes in place for effective succession planning contact me on richard.bosworth@whatifspecialist.com or go to @richardwhatif on Twitter, Richard Bosworth on LinkedIn or www.whatifforums.com.  For help and information on managing change, visit www.firthconsulting.net for further information.

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