This week we’re going to look at something that came up in a non-family business context, and apply it to our usual domain of businesses that are run by multiple generations of the same family.
It goes back a couple of months to a luncheon I attended that was hosted by a successful local private wealth advisory firm.
I’ve attended a few of their events over the past few years, and it’s always nice to stay plugged into the financial asset world, even though my work with families is now almost exclusively on the family side of things, as opposed to how they invest their liquid assets.
The company in question is now owned by a number of their “second generation” partners, who bought into the firm over the years, and the original founders now no longer own any shares.
As I sat there and listened to them share this part of their story with the audience, which included mostly clients and potential investors, I couldn’t help thinking that some business families I know would be envious of their successful succession.
But my favourite part of the story was about one of those founders, now in his 80’s, who still comes to the office every day, and acts as “wise counsel” to the others.
When You Like What You Do
Apparently he likes to come in and be with his peers and friends, “without the pressure of performance”.
But the real money quote was this, which is what that man added,
“When you like what you do, you do it
long after you still need to do it”.
Hmmmm. I began to think about how this whole situation might apply nicely to some of the business families I know.
So many of the senior leaders of family businesses still really like what they do, yet they often feel like they still need to do it, even long after their successors have shown that they are more than capable of handling the work.
If only there were a way for them to keep doing some parts of what they love, while allowing others to take over other responsibilities.
An Opportunity to Co-Create Something
Handing over the reins of a business is almost never a simple exercise. It takes lots of planning and the execution is rarely as easy as expected or hoped for.
However, with lots of dialogue and sharing of ideas, a great training program to ensure that the rising leaders are equipped to handle larger roles over a number of years, having new leadership ready to assume top roles can certainly be accomplished.
Sometimes, especially in family businesses, it’s having the old leader step aside that’s the biggest obstacle. But there is definitely an opportunity here, if the two generations work together to create a Win-Win.
Family Ties: Easier or More Difficult?
Some may think that this process should be easier in a family business, where the exiting leader has more confidence in the new person or people, because they are literally a “chip off the old block”. Indeed, sometimes it does work out that way.
Anecdotally, though, it seems like family situations often make it harder to execute such a transition.
Perhaps this biased view comes mostly from founders or wealth creators who are the first generation (G1), and they notably have more difficulty bidding adieu and leaving things to G2 than occurs in subsequent generations.
Doing What You Like, Lots of Options
But let’s go back to the title and quote, about doing what you like, and wanting to keep doing it. As the leader for the past few decades, the number of roles that person held and the tasks for which they were responsible was likely pretty diverse.
Wouldn’t it make sense to try to discover which of those roles and tasks they particularly enjoyed, and find ways for them to continue them, yet, “without the pressure of performance”, as the example above noted?
It strikes me that there’s a huge opportunity here, for members of both generations, to co-create the conditions where they actually co-exist for a certain number of years.
It probably won’t be something that happens overnight, of course, and the longer the plan is in the works, the more likely it probably is that it will be a success.
It all starts with a discussion…