We’ve all seen something like this play out on TV:
- Parent succeeds in life (builds a business, wins notoriety, etc.).
- Parent wants the same for Child.
- Child doesn’t want Parent’s life.
- Tension builds.
- Conflict ensues.
- Resolution occurs.
- Credits roll.
We’re sorry to say this familiar trope shows up in family business all the time. Only, there’s no studio audience, and it often ends up with dissolution rather than resolution.
As we tell our clients, the key to avoiding this unhappy ending is communication. The trouble is, the day-to-day pressures of running a business (compounded by the complexities of family relationships) keep these conversations from ever taking place.
The solution is clear enough: have the conversation. But how that conversation should unfold is somewhat murky. Unfortunately, this isn’t television; there’s no script to read.
Family business owners do well to keep two fundamental objectives in mind:
- Learn whether or not a potential successor is, in fact, interested in taking over the company.
- Affirm their conversation partner, strengthen the relationship, and seek the good of all parties—regardless of the desired successor’s decision.
Conversations like these are often tricky. But, in the end, they lead to much-needed clarity for incumbents and successors alike. That clarity could just make the difference between a family business that thrives into the next generation and one that doesn’t. Have you and your chosen successor discussed their future role in the company?
By the way, if you’re not sure how to have the conversation, this step-by-step guide from a psychologist will help. Check it out.