Freedom From The Family Business #succession

Richard Shrapnel's Orienteering Succession blog

Not every child will want to be part of the family business, even if they are the most talented family member. Is supporting the family business compulsory?

There are those family businesses where not a second thought is given to retaining the business in the family and it is simply sold off. Sadly, I say, this is the case for the majority of family businesses. Then there are those at the other end of the scale where the business has been passed down through many generations and being in the business is part of being in the family –  no questions asked. And then, of course, you have those families who are not sure whether the business should or can be passed down along family lines.

What is the obligation of a family member to work within the business? It is clearly a family issue but it is also critically a business succession issue.

If it is part of a family’s tradition that succession occurs, and all family members are required to support the business and be willing to work within it, then the culture of the family and the business must be such to make this commitment compelling. And I don’t mean compelling in terms of there being ‘no choice’ but rather ‘too good to refuse’.

In today’s society, whether we agree with it or not, we have created an environment of globalisation in which young people have many choices and are encouraged to pursue and explore them.

If we want succession to occur then it needs to be attractive to the next generation and provide them with career opportunities that will excite and retain them, today and well into the future. This becomes about their choice and not about obligation.

The second key aspect is about the success of the business. If any business is going to continue to be successful in the future, then it must attract and retain the best talent leaders and employees. These will be people who are passionate about working in the business and are not simply there because they feel they have no choice.

The last person you want in your business is someone, family or not, who does not really want to be there and are not giving 100%.

However, a warning that often ‘obligation’ goes unstated and is assumed. In speaking to next generation family members, it is not uncommon to hear them ask, ‘Do l really have to work in the family business to be considered part of the family? Can’t I have a choice?’

Whether succession is the norm in your family or just something you are considering, an open discussion within the family about what everyone would like to do is an essential starting point.


Active Knowledge Question:

  • Has your family discussed what will happen with the family business and who may or may not be interested in crafting its future?

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All the best in the success of your business,

Richard Shrapnel