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Even If Dad Won't Let Go, Siblings Should Prepare for The Future


Dear Advisor:

Here’s the situation: Dad is 78. He founded the business which is very profitable and now the largest in our industry with 1200 employees. He comes in at dawn and stays until 8 p.m. every day.

We three “children” are 52, 47, and 45. We’ve worked in the business for many years and have shown our abilities. But Dad questions every decision we make. Dad doesn’t have any intention of letting go.

Can you offer us any advice, techniques or hope?

 

Unfortunately, our experience offers little short-term optimism. If a business founder is still leading the business full-time after age 65, we’ve had little success in facilitating transitions. One of our clients in this situation explained: “God sets our retirement policy.”

If Dad remains reasonably effective in his role, our advice is this: If you siblings have not initiated a process for making decisions together, you should. Share your hopes and dreams for the future with each other, preparing yourselves for that inevitable day when your dad will be unavailable for leadership. You should develop a vision that includes leadership, governance, strategy, finance, ownership transitions and more. As you gain commitment and specificity for your vision, share it with your father. If you lay out a compelling vision to which you siblings are mutually and strongly committed, your father may give you some room in which to implement your vision. And if he doesn’t, you’ll still be ready when the time comes.

If Dad’s role has become ineffective, or worse, destructive, the problem becomes more urgent and dangerous, but not any more optimistic. Sometimes what is required is something like an intervention in which the patriarch is confronted by you three siblings, your advisors and board members, working in concert with your father’s best and most powerful peers (some of whom may have let go of their own family businesses). This is a dangerous strategy that may backfire and should be considered only where the risk of the senior’s role is greater than the risk of the explosion that may ensue.

Your situation is very difficult. We empathize and wish you wisdom, patience, and common ground among the successor generation.


 

 

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