Too much of a good thing…

Whether we’ve had one ice-cream scoop too many, or we’ve spent a little too much time in the sun, we all know the meaning of those words.

While many owners approach succession as the proverbial search for a ‘needle in a hay stack,’ we often find the opposite to be the case. In fact, by the second or third generation or in high-performing family businesses, the issue often isn’t a lack of successor candidates, but an abundance.

And the owner’s abiding challenge isn’t to find a suitable candidate, but to whittle down a field of good candidates in order to find a truly great choice for the business.

This is a good problem to have, but it is a problem nonetheless. If it isn’t handled with care, this situation can easily lead to divided loyalties, mishandled expectations, and intra-family squabbles.

To prevent that, we’ve found it crucial for family business owners to talk early and often with key stakeholders and potential successors.

There are four key questions to keep in mind:

  • How will I fairly engage each candidate, regardless of my personal relationship with each?
  • What criteria will we use to “thin the herd”?
  • How will we proactively deal with conflict?
  • What will we do with under-qualified candidates?

These conversations can be difficult at first, but when approached with intention and an eye on preparation, they have the power to align all interested parties and prevent intra-personal conflict from spiraling out of control. Are you sorting through a field of potential successors? Not sure how best to work through the process?

Manage the 4 questions above well, and you’ll turn your abundance of potential successors into a cohesive unit that is ready and eager to support the chosen successor as he/she leads the company into the future.

Before I forget, if you need help with managing the conversation, this step-by-step conversation guide from a psychologist is great. Check it out!


succession strength logo Succession Strength, Inc helps entrepreneurs and family business owners pass the business smoothly from owner to heir. Take the free survey today to assess your succession readiness.