Hubler For Business Families

Succession Planning: Family Business Fathers - Part Two

Who they are is likely who their kids become - and how advisors can help

Key Takeaways:
  • Nearly 70 percent of family businesses fail to make the transition from the first to the second generation.
  • The succession process can be a challenge in a family business because the leadership transfer to offspring is more often "assumed" than prepared for.
  • In many cases, family business owners are good about explaining the mechanics of the business, but struggle to connect emotionally to their sons and daughters.

In Part One of this article series we discussed the importance of emotional connections between family business fathers and their children. Here we'll discuss ways to prevent suffering when the family business leadership changes. The succession process can be a challenge in a family business because succession is more often "assumed" than prepared for. For the heir-apparent, there is not only the technical matter of learning the job, but also the emotional matters of generational loss, passing the torch and the need for validation. The family spends too little time and preparation on succession in the business. This is a powerful factor that contributes to the fact that nearly 70 percent of family businesses fail to make the transition from the first to the second generation, according to organizational dynamics experts Dick Beckard and Elaine Kepner.

Richard Rohr, O.S.F., an ordained Franciscan priest said, "Men know how to pass along the rules, the roles and the money, but they don't know how to pass along who they are as people." This is precisely the issue in succession planning. The father stresses the mechanics of the business and fails to connect emotionally with his son or daughter. In family-owned businesses, this deficit creates, or contributes to, most succession issues between fathers and their adult children.

The entrepreneurial founder carries the inevitable concern about the well-being of the business. "Does my son/daughter have what it takes to run the company? If they take over, what will I do with myself?" Just below the surface is Dad's secret expectation - never voiced - to have his adult children express some appreciation for what he has done for them and for the family.

On the other hand, adult children are eager to take over, ready to try their hand at running the business. They may have educated themselves in the business. They have invested years in the company hoping (waiting) to take over. They are eager to show their stuff, to demonstrate to their parents what they have learned. In their eagerness, they quietly feel that their parents don't appreciate what they have to offer.

Get the topic of succession planning out in the open
Thus, the kids secretly feel gratitude, but are woefully unable to articulate it. The parents feel vague misgiving and loss, but are unwilling to mention it. Both sides feel underappreciated, or misunderstood, or worse. Unable to discuss succession concerns constructively, openly, and directly they polarize on the issue. They blame each other for the reluctance to proceed. They have never expressed the emotional part of their expectations.

While Dad taught the rational, the child absorbed the emotional. While the child realized the rational, Dad ignored the emotional. Given these dynamics, no wonder leadership succession planning can become so volatile. How can the frustrations of the leadership succession planning process be avoided?

I advise my clients to create a leadership succession planning "task force" to address the issue. The task force consists of the entire leadership team - current and pending - including non-family managers.

Start early. Get the leadership team involved to explore, together, the options for leadership succession. Establish the family's criteria, skills, education, and expectations regarding the position. Interview the owner-entrepreneur about his/her expectations and plans. Evaluate and train the next generation so that they are ready. Use non-family managers to bridge any gaps while family leaders mature into their roles.

As you build a leadership team of the future, I also encourage you, as the original entrepreneurs, to build simultaneously the emotional equity of your father-son and father-daughter relationships. Make time in your busy schedule to nurture those relationships. Spend time with each other at weekly lunches, periodic nights out, and sporting activities, for example. Use these shared times to explore your relationship and your expectations of each other. As Neil Chethik mentions in his book, Father Loss, take the time to share the words you always wanted to hear: "I love you, I appreciate you and I admire the life you are leading..."

In the same way, adult children can take the initiative and act on their expectations. A friend of mine recently lamented that his relationship with his dad was not affectionate enough. When his dad was diagnosed with the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, he realized that he had to change the relationship. Now when he greets his dad, it's Dad who initiates the hug.

Offer your own hugs. Reach out to each other. Let other family members know what you want emotionally. Demonstrate involvement. A dad who is emotionally engaged is invaluable to a successful family-owned business. In other words (for those dads who don't like mushy conclusions): Get involved with your kids. It makes good business sense.

If you enjoyed this article please consider leaving a comment below, sharing it and/or subscribing to have future articles delivered to your RSS feed reader.
blog comments powered by Disqus
click edit icon to configure CONTENT-SMICONS element

Ownership PlanningSuccession Planning - Family Business Fathers - Part Two
Offer your own hugs. Reach out to each other. Let other family members know what you want emotionally. Demonstrate involvement. A dad who is emotionally engaged is invaluable to a successful family-owned business.  Read More
Succession Planning - Family Business Fathers - Part One
I have realized over years of consulting just how vital dads are in the emotional development of their adult sons and daughters. Fathers who take the time to bless their children by participating in their lives recognize the powerful bond that is created. The fathers' investment of time and energy reaps tremendous rewards in the relationships they enjoy with their sons and daughters. Read More
Intellectual Property and Succession Planning
Many conflicts can erode family relationships in a family-owned business - succession, ownership, estate management, leadership, retirement, perceived fairness and more. But one of the most unique and damaging can be the disagreement over intellectual property.  Read More
Inside-out Succession Planning - Part 2
Understanding the Four Plans Read More
Inside-out Succession Planning - Part 1
What motivates a successful plan? Read More
Emotionally Speaking - Exploring the poignant points of passing the torch
Many family businesses go through a terrible time when the leadership succession process is in full swing. There is not only the technical matter of learning the job, but also the emotional matters of loss and the need for validation and passing the torch. Read More
10 Most Prevalent Obstacles To Family Business Succession Planning
Ten obstacles derived from my observations of client situations that became stumbling blocks and obstructed their ability to move from their current state to successfully navigate the succession planning process. Read More
Plan Now to Ensure a Successful Transition Later
Marvin Schwan established a successful multibillion dollar business and was an extraordinarily successful owner/entrepreneur, yet at the moment of his death, everything he worked for seems to have fallen apart. What went wrong? Read More
Through Family Philanthropy and Service Wealth Enriches Your Life
The family, business and community all benefit from acts of philanthropy and service. Family philanthropy and service allow you to express your values in meaningful and tangible ways. Read More
The Successful Family Business is Both a Successful Family and a Successful Business
The leader of a successful family business has to answer two questions that the leader of a publicly held company doesn't have answer Read More
Heritage is the DNA of Your Family Business
Heritage will never show up your family business's balance sheet, but it is one of your richest assets. Read More
Where Does Your Family Stand
Your family values live in your family business. This business legacy contains powerful emotional forces like belief, fear, control and acceptance. Under the stress of change, especially succession, those forces become even more evident-and perhaps conflicting. Read More
Family Wealth Management
An important part of wealth management is often overshadowed by the amalgamation of wills, taxes, trusts and investments that make up the financial side. The often-neglected side of wealth management is its emotional side. The emotional side of wealth management requires managing the impact wealth has on family relationships. Read More
Attuned to the Importance of Wealth Preservation
Wealth preservation is important for your family-owned business because it impacts both the family and the business. Protecting economic security benefits both the business and personal relationships. For family businesses, particularly those preparing for a transition in management, wealth preservation is a top priority. Read More
The Richness of Your Family Legacy Articulated and Preserved
Your legacy weaves together the spectrum of values, emotions, relationships, and personalities found in a family with the ambitions, struggles and successes of business. Have you ever looked at your unique tapestry? Read More
Fine Tuning Your Legacy
I would suggest that legacy is both financial and non-financial. I have come to look at legacy as your gift to the future to help others find their own success. Read More
Learn More and Get FREE Resources

Now Available:

Cornerstone of Hubler for Business Families:

The Soul of Family Business


Take this risk-free first step in ensuring the continued success of your family business now. There is no charge for the orientation meeting other than out-of-pocket expenses for travel. 


Does your family business need help with succession planning, conflict resolution, management or other issues? If so, we'll arrange a one-on-one orientation meeting with you and Tom Hubler to help you explore the possibilities of working with us. If you choose, your family and business associates can also attend. Here, in a relaxed environment, you can talk about:

- Key family business issues
- Plans necessary for the success of your family-owned business
- Possibilities and expectations
- Terms of the relationship
©All Rights Reserved | Hubler for Business Families - America's preeminent family business consultants
Ownership Planning | Management and Leadership | Business Planning | Family Planning
Contact | Site Map