Grandpa built it. Mom scaled it. Cousin Charlie wrecked it.
This progression is all too common in family-owned business. One generation launches the company, the second takes it to new heights, and the third runs it into the ground.
Of all the factors that keep 88% of family businesses from making it into the third generation, poor communication tops the list. Somewhere in the busyness of everyday operations, important conversations are missed, vision fades, core values dissipate, and the business loses the essence of what once made it great.
In our work with family businesses, we rely heavily on the power of foundational communication. When owners sit at the table and seek alignment with their successors, they set the business up to thrive. When they don’t, a rift opens that keeps the next generation from truly understanding what it’ll take to lead the company into the future.
If you’re heading into a transition, don’t assume your successor is on the same page as you are. Instead, sit down and have an honest conversation. Speak openly; listen patiently. Ownership is challenging. Not everyone is ready to take on the burden.
Don’t let your enthusiasm railroad your successor into saying whatever they think you want to hear. Instead, open a genuine line of dialogue to learn whether your chosen successor truly wants the job and how they plan to carry the torch after you’re gone.
By the way, if you are struggling with aligning the goals of owner and successor or really want to start the succession journey off right check out this Conversation Guide.