What Happens After you Succeed?
We like to ask of very successful and thoughtful next-generation CEOs: "What challenges did you face when taking charge that you’d want to share with others who are in line to become CEOs of their family businesses?"
Following is what a 42-year-old European successor said after succeeding his business-founder father five years ago.
1. Managing your father’s top team.
I used to work for them, and then I was their colleague; now I am their boss.
2. Learning on the job while leading the business.
This requires listening, listening, listening…then being decisive.
3. Defining the transition period.
It’s important to have an agreement on when it starts and when it ends.
4. Working together with your father.
We needed lots of direct, honest discussion in order to set up the rules of who did what.
5. Dealing with the rest of the family.
They assume you got “the prize”; they are jealous.
6. Dealing with the press.
Don’t talk to the press until you have proven something. Don’t discuss plans, hopes or personal
biography; that only raises expectations and reinforces the perception that you haven’t earned
the job yet.
7. Knowing your limits and using your strengths.
Be yourself. Don’t copy your predecessor’s style. You can’t be as good at it as he or she was.
8. Resisting change.
Don’t change strategy, policies, culture just to change them. Beware of that temptation to do
so to gain credibility. Realize most of what you inherit is working well.
9. Realizing you are the “bad guy.”
While you’re debating and struggling to define roles and transition schedules with your
predecessor parent, all your siblings will offer emotional support to the parents.
10. Helping your predecessor to retire gracefully and with dignity.
If he’s beginning to fail, help him be remembered as a great man; protect his dignity; talk
with him caringly, yet directly, about his stumbles.
11. Assuring a family council is in place.
It’s invaluable to have established family communications systems in place before you take
charge. Otherwise you have to get it in place as soon as possible.
We hope these lessons are valuable to those new successors and their predecessors in our readership. For those in the process of succession, we recommend discussing these principles with peers or predecessors or wise advisors for their views and experiences.
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