As they say, “It takes two to tango.”
When it comes to choosing someone to take over the family business, those words are exactly right. In our previous post, we spoke about the importance of owner’s decision. Nothing hurts a transition more than an owner and a successor who aren’t on the same page—particularly when the latter isn’t sure they even want the job.
On the one hand, reluctant successors love the company and want to see it succeed. For that reason, their fear and insecurity steer them away from taking up the family mantle.
Thankfully, love for the business translates to a desire to stick around. If that’s the case, then future conversations should revolve around training and preparation. If your top choice isn’t ready to take over today, how can you change their mind about tomorrow?
On the other hand, an unwilling successor may find herself ready to lead a business—just not your business. In this case, you’ll need to ask a few critical follow-up questions. Is there something legitimate in this person’s reluctance to take over? Do they see something you don’t see? Or, have they simply not bought into your company’s vision?
Whatever their motive—positive or negative—the challenge for every family business owner in this position will be to discern how best to move forward. Planning is a process. This is just another step in that journey.
Again, this is why we stress open and honest communication among owner and successor. The conversation may be frightening, but it’s crucial. The sooner you and a successor can learn to tango, the sooner your company can start heading confidently towards the future.
Have you discussed the future with your chosen successor? For help wading into that conversation, the book (The 5 Critical Succession Conversations: A Comprehensive Guide for the Family Business) or conversation guides to the succession conversation may help.