Family business succession planning is a process, not a one-time event. This is a reality I wasn’t aware of until I was faced with it head on.
Our family business succession planning and transfer was triggered when my father got sick, and after having gone through this process myself, I made it a mission of mine to help others navigate its intricacies.
Succession planning can be overwhelming. When you account for the time, energy, stress, and care that comes with fighting a terminal illness while running a business and doing succession planning, you quickly become stretched thin.
Although my father’s diagnosis kicked our succession planning and transfer into high gear, he had been laying the framework for the continuation of his business beyond his leadership for some time. My brother, who is now CEO, held a position within the family business for almost 20 years and had essentially been groomed to run the business.
When my father was first diagnosed, I was pursuing my own entrepreneurial endeavors and had never been interested in a career in the family business. It wasn’t until our family was faced with the reality of my dad’s health condition that I developed a deep appreciation for and devotion to the family business. It was at this point when I began to accept and value my inherited responsibility – and took on the challenge of balancing it with my own set of goals and aspirations.
Essentially, my father’s ask of me was simple: Help him to secure his legacy. Help him live as long as possible to get my siblings and me ready for his departure. It was an ask loaded with more responsibility than just business succession planning. Due to my age, the flexibility and freedom of my life and career (void of 9-5, a husband and kids), plus my historically close relationship with my father, I was the child in the best position to take the lead on this task.
For almost four years I served as my father’s caregiver but also his apprentice and successor. I learned from him. He transferred his knowledge to me. We documented and recorded his life and lessons. He taught me the history of my family and our legacy of entrepreneurship and land ownership. We resolved personal and professional affairs. He introduced me to his network. In short, he taught me how to think, how to see opportunities, and how to run his business.
In that time, we truly became a dynamic duo but would always say how we wished we wouldn’t have waited for him to get sick to start this process. We wished we had more time because we could have done way more and prepared the business to be even stronger than it was at the point of transfer.
After going through this process with my family, I’ve learned many lessons and gained tremendous insight on succession planning. These are the three priorities to consider: Planning, Support, and Time & Responsibility.