This is Part 2 of the 2-part post on the challenges of the family-owned business, especially if you are thinking about your exit.

Retired couple 5If anything sounded familiar as you read last week’s post, like perhaps your spouse had mentioned it a few hundred times, and you still can’t see it, it is possible your eyesight is not what it once was – happens to all of us, I’ve found. Here are some ideas for helping to improve your eyesight – and your ability to pass the business along intact:

  1. Treat your children in the business like any other senior manager. Evaluate their performance formally and objectively (as you do with your other employees), and help them work out action plans to correct deficiencies before they become excuses to fail. A child who thinks this is unfair may need to be employed somewhere else for a few years to get a flavor of life “on the outside.”
  2. Make a detailed list of the skills that are needed to succeed in your business. Not just the ones you used to start the company, but the ones that will help the business grow in the environment in which it now does business. You may need help from impartial but knowledgeable outsiders to complete this one, but it’s worth it. Then build your would-be successor’s grooming program around that list – fill in the holes.
  3. Outside advisors can be priceless (no reflection on their fees intended) in this situation. They bring a broad range of expertise and a high level of objectivity. They don’t sit around the dinner table and glare at you in the evening and they don’t own part of the company. They are the experts from across town, whose advice will have the greatest chance of being accepted as unbiased and valid. Use them to identify what your child needs, to craft a plan to get it, to evaluate the progress along the way, and to support your child in those areas where retraining is just not possible.

All these ideas can be acted on with the same supportiveness that is the glue that holds the family-run business together. If it sounds too much like “tough love,” consider the alternative: the pain felt by the son who runs the business into the ground, knowing he has let his father down. And then there’s the pain you will feel when you can no longer jump in to fix it, when you have to just watch your daughter gradually fail.

As always, I welcome your comments and thoughts, and we’re here to help.

Reacting to an early symptom now can prevent a serious illness later on. We help diagnose the problem, identify a proven cure, and administer just the right dose. If you’d like to talk about the details, give us a call at 1-888-788-6534.

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