Business Succession 101: Think Like A Royal in Ann Arbor

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There any many reasons why patriarchs and matriarchs often have great difficulty letting go of the power and ownership of the family business. These may include (as with Queen Elizabeth) a fierce sense of duty, intense popularity, deep familiarity with the business, a desire to complete the heroic mission, and, not uncommonly, an unconscious fear of his or her mortality. Sometimes, however, family business owners lack confidence in the next generation or cannot find a suitable successor among them.

Business succession seems to be a hot topic as of late, what with the aging baby boomer generation set to start passing on the baton to the next generation.

If you are a baby boomer business owner, then consider a family that has some real life experience in managing successful successions – the Royal Family.

For some royal perspective and thoughts on the young Prince George Alexander Louis (the instant media darling and infant son of Prince William and Kate Middleton), recently offered an article titled “A Lesson from the Royals: Succession Is a Two-Way Street.”

Succession really is a two way street. In one lane, it is the king stepping down to name his successor. In the other lane, it is his successor seeking to prove himself worthy to be the king. The principal is the same in business, and yes, even in small family businesses.

The perennial problem is that a business requires tested leadership and ability. Unfortunately, real life experience is a very difficult thing to acquire until you are actually holding the reins. That noted, few business owners are comfortable handing over reins even to their own successors.

If you are a would-be-king, then there are some principles to learn to prove yourself, to stand out, and to step up to the task on your own. Fortunately, the original article offers some practical advice.

And then there is the other side. As the current business owner – king of all you oversee – you also need to be mindful to give your successor some “playing time” while you can coach them.

The actual act of transferring the business can be complicated, for reasons legal and financial. As with any “dance,” timing is key.

If your family business is worth keeping afloat, then the successful succession of its leadership is as great a goal worthy of your time and focus.

The Owner has retired; God save the Owner.

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Reference: (August 30, 2013) “A Lesson from the Royals: Succession Is a Two-Way Street

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