Is your son or daughter your successor? What are some things you and they can do to make this a successful succession? Mistakes to avoid when trying to make your son or daughter your successor? Mistakes they should avoid?
As a succession coach who advises multi-generational family businesses on how to bring in the next generation, and as a business professional whose daughter has been working with her for nearly 10 years, I can offer a few tips that I have found to be helpful:
- While your children are attending high school or completing college, provide work experiences during the summer that allow your children to try out different departments and tasks, working with different managers (best never for you personally).
- Develop a family business employment and expectations policy defining requirements for education, professional experience and behavioral and performance expectations. If you are thinking ahead, introduce this to them when they are in high school or college to help give them a sense of how they need to prepare, what they should be studying and what it will take if they are considering a career in the family enterprise. This will create a road map so that your children have an opportunity to succeed.
- Before designing a job description or entering into any kind of discussion regarding potential employment in the family enterprise, make sure you spend some time in thoughtful discussion together investigating each other’s vision for the future. You may think you know what your children want to be “when they grow up,” but you may be surprised when you actually inquire.
- It can be helpful to engage an experienced coach to conduct the interview, using a personality styles tool (like PDP, DISC or Meyers Briggs) to help frame the conversation related to their natural strengths. Many times, I have found kids feeling like they are being squeezed into their parents’ shoes, and it’s not a good fit. If Dad started the business, is a natural at sales, relationship-building and strategic thinking, and Son is a thoughtful, reserved communicator who is very process- and detail-oriented, I can promise you, it will be a difficult path for the Son to ever live up to his father’s and the company’s expectations. Additionally, he will be miserable.
- Once you have identified the ideal career path that excites and suits your son/daughter, bring in your senior management team and discuss what you would like to do with them. Enroll the team in creating the right on-boarding process, job placement and develop agreements for how you expect your children to be managed and mentored. Also, how you will support your managers so they can hold your daughter or son accountable without fear of repercussion.
- Lastly, establish a family council to share information with all your children, not just the one or two who are currently showing interest. Let all your children know that there are many ways to participate with the family enterprise. Some may want to be community cheerleaders, helping in events and philanthropic activities, while others may dream of managing a division or eventually becoming your successor. You can achieve succession in a multitude of ways. You don’t have to always create a King of the Mountain, where your children have to vie to take your position upon your retirement.
Working with my daughter, watching her grow, keeping it real has been a great joy. I always, ALWAYS keep the most cherished element of our relationship in mind: She is my daughter. I wish her life to be happy, healthy and fulfilled. If that can happen while she’s working with me, it’s icing on the cake.