Transition timing can be very stressful. How long will it take to transition parents out of the business? It seldom happens overnight (unless by death or divorce). Yet the multi-year transition can be enough to kill the business, the relationships or both.
The challenges include:
Customers. Do customers always want to work with Dad, since he gives them a long-term customer discount that Junior won’t? Do they like the way Mom runs the business and always ask for her, making it hard to establish a level of leadership?
Boundaries. So who really is in charge? Daughter? Mom? Dad? All of the above? Who makes the decisions during the transition time? Create a plan that lays out the transition. Is this a six-month, 12-month or two-year plan? You may have to revise the plan at some point. Do not just go with the flow. It might work out, but there is a great chance that it might not. Hoping things will go well doesn’t work. Hoping no one will get their feelings hurt doesn’t happen. Not making a plan puts you on a path to having issues.
“But we have always done it this way.” That statement has been heard around the world in businesses of all sizes. Family business owners do not have the corner on this market. It does take on a new twist when changes need to take place to keep up with the times, the skills of the next generation or just market changes. One of my favorite books is If It Ain’t Broke, Break It by Robert Kriegel and Louis Patler. Their concept is to examine conventional business wisdom and to break those rules in order to gain a competitive advantage. This book was written in the ’90s but much of it still applies today. When something is working, you need to analyze why it is working and what can be done to improve how it is working. In other words, what can be done to make things work better? Football for many years was solely a running game. Even after the forward pass was legalized, it remained a running game until a coach decided to have his team try throwing the ball. Everyone was shocked and critical. Yet, today football is very much a throwing game; just look at what quarterbacks get paid for their throwing ability!