NPR News, Classical and Music of the Delta
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
KEDM is operating at very low power due to a transmission line leak. Thank you for your patience as we work to have repairs made as quickly as possible.

Stressful Succession

David Clow

Nothing seems more American than the successful family business.

But if you’re a family business owner in the real world, you know it can be quite stressful.


Sometimes it seems as if you’re being forced to choose between your family and your business? A broken heart or a broken business? Some choice!

As a family business owner, you know you’re trying to wear two hats – soft hearted parent and hard-nosed business owner. These two sides of you may find themselves in sharp disagreement from time to time. It can be very stressful.

The business owner side of you obviously wants a well-run business and ultimately a smooth transition and succession. You want a clear roadmap for success so the business can stay afloat (and pay you to stay home!).

On the other hand, the parent in you wants any adult children in the business to succeed, not fail. But what if having your adult children in the business actually hurts the long-term success of the business?

Here’s something important to think about: have you taken the process of training and transition seriously enough?

Or have you simply had a few off handed conversations with your adult child in the business which ended awkwardly? Or maybe you’ve tried to hand off to that child some of the details or duties of the business, but even that has not worked out so well.

If you’re ready to give it your best shot, try these steps to open a healthy dialogue and begin to work towards a real plan for your family business success and a successful succession.

1. Be clear. Does your adult child in the business know you want him or her to have the business one day? Have you told him? Do you know if she even wants the business? Is this what he would do with his life if you were gone? You and your child need to have these conversations. And if you have difficulty having those conversations, that’s all the more reason to take this next suggestion.

2. Get outside help. There are consultants that assist in these kinds of family transitions all the time. Go see as many as you can over the next year to discover who you like, which one has good chemistry with you both and your son. A third party may be just what you need to open the dialogue and make difficult decisions.

3. Spend money. A good consultant won’t be cheap. So don’t you be cheap either. This is perhaps the most important business decision of your life. It certainly is one of the biggest personal decisions you’ll ever make. So spend the money to get good help.

4. Take time. This could easily be a one to five year process, so don’t rush it. Respect the process, which may be as important as the outcome.

5. Define success / failure. Make sure you and your adult child in the business eventually agree on standards of success and failure in this process. Unless you are both working towards the same outcomes, the process could be very frustrating.

Good luck with the process! Maybe your adult child will one day have this conversation with your grandson!

Byron is a Certified Financial Planner and Managing Director of the Planning Group at Argent Advisors, Inc.
Related Content