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Helping Family Businesses
Prosper Across Generations®

What's A Father To Do?

The transition from founder/father to non-owning parent can be troublesome—particularly when successor managers experience conflict over business difficulties.

 

As Founder As Parent
Seeing the boys working side by side in the business I began was one of my proudest moments as a business owner. Had I known the business was going to cause such conflict between our sons, I would have sold the company when I retired.
I always felt the boys would make a terrific team---one strong in administration, the other strong in sales. I sacrificed so much to be able to pass this business down to my sons. My wife and I justified the long hours I spent away from the boys with the hope they would someday work side-by-side to continue the company.
I hate to offer my opinion on the decisions the boys are making. I don't want the new management team-including my son-to feel I don't have confidence in their leadership. Perhaps I should go back to work-if only to protect the family's harmony.
I feel a responsibility to our employees to make sure the company runs smoothly. It's high time the boys behaved like the loving brothers I know deep down they truly are.

 

We see parents struggling with this dilemma all too often. Having left what they believed was a healthy business, they now see a business in difficulty with sibling leaders pointing fingers of blame at one another. Sometimes the problems occur because of changing market conditions, poor planning, or any number of normal though significant changes in the business’s evolution. Next generation leaders may turn on each other rather than reacting as the unified team that difficult times demand. When adult sibling teams accept the responsibility for running the family business, they must accept the duty to serve both the family and the business. Since problems always emerge, siblings need to discuss in advance how they will treat one another when disagreements occur and how they will respond to worst case scenarios.

Before exiting, the founder/parent has three responsibilities: leave the business in the best possible shape; assure sufficient personal resources outside of the business for lifetime financial security and make sure your successor team has worked through their own plan for business leadership, strategy and finances. It is also most helpful to assure that a good board of directors is in place and it is properly used. The elder generation should receive their successors’ commitment to seek solutions in the best interest of the business and the family.

When problems arise, resist the temptation to jump back in. Encourage your adult offspring to work things through themselves and find the solutions that, after all, they will have to live with for their lives and careers.

Drew S. Mendoza

 

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