Succession Planning: A Father to Son story

Updated: Aug 17, 2018

Recently I was having a coaching session with a father and he acknowledged that he often acted and communicated as a father, rather than as a business owner. He was reflecting that he had finally changed in the way he communicated and he could see the way his children who worked in the business had begun to change.

He explained it like this.

When I am their father I can show frustration and anger and tell them where they are going wrong and I do. However as the business owner I must listen, coach them and guide them to their own answers and be patient as they make the changes. I have started to change hats with them and when I do this, the personal dad still is present but I have started to bring out the business owner more and more with them. This is bringing me a sense of satisfaction as I am seeing them through new eyes.

Often when we are too close to a situation we are not our best selves and patterns of behaviour creep in over time. I have always believed behavioural coaching works extremely effectively before all communication has broken down. In a time like succession planning in a business which is a critical issue in family owned businesses it causes a lot of stress and can fracture even further, tenuous relationships between parent and child. It needs a reset or a "new rules" approach. Both the parent and the child need this.

Without generalising too much, we often see a frustrated parent who can see where the business is going wrong but no longer has the patience, energy or desire to drop back down in to the detail and see it through. Instead they often adopt the seagull method which has a fairly predictable outcome. The children (who are not children - they are grown men and women) are often frustrated by lack of progress, poor communication patterns have set in and the real issues are rarely being discussed and so they long for the time that the parent simply steps out of the business.

At the time of succession it is a real opportunity to reset a relationship back on solid ground. It is also an opportunity to get the business DNA, the secret recipes, the history from the incumbent business owner. Trust me when I say, this has real value and is rarely done well. The other important objective is to reset the family dynamic at this time and get better communication occurring. Lots of work to be done in what can be an emotionally fraught time. But the chances of making it a healthy and happy exit is all about the timing and the process.

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