Wednesday, April 6, 2022

It Takes A Team To Sustain A Family Business

Navigating the organization from where you are to where you want to be is hard.  Knowing where exactly you should be going can be even harder. Family Business succession planning is a process, not a one-time event. Large, publicly traded companies have the benefits of expensive, fiduciary boards providing oversight, expertise, and feedback. Well-funded start-ups and VC- and PE-backed operating companies have private boards with experts helping leadership guide the organization. Many leaders at family businesses and closely held organizations, however, are starving for input from others with outside experience and expertise, with fresh ideas for their organizations. Even the best leaders, leaders who have great vision and skill, are sharpened by the feedback of other experienced leaders. 

“As iron sharpens iron’ a strategic team of advisors sharpens the Family Business leader. (paraphrased from Proverbs 27:17)


As businesses grow, leadership and governance need to evolve. As Marshall Goldsmith says, “What got you here won’t get you there.”  What growing organizations and leaders need is an efficient team of strategic experts who are committed to the organization and its leaders. They need a team of highly qualified advisors providing honest feedback, offering outside perspective, and helping leaders navigate the way forward.


Succession planning can be overwhelming. Many business owners and leaders, though acknowledging how valuable it could be, too often resist creating strategic teams for a number of legitimate reasons. Sometimes, they don’t know how to get started. Sometimes, they see too many advisory teams that are ineffective or, worse, dysfunctional. Sometimes, they are wary for other reasons: fear of losing control; difficulty identifying and recruiting board members; unengaged or uncommitted board members; uncertainty regarding the cost in both time and financial investment.  


One way to get started may be to talk with other Family Businesses that have transitioned the business to the rising generation. Involve your family in these discussions so there is complete transparency in the planning process. It will also be critical to seek support from a management consultant, an accountant, a banker, and a lawyer.


A key question as this process is started is: Who will quarterback the process? This may be an outside, non-family, advisor who will be unbiased and will maintain accountability for the process, while the Family Business leader operates the business.


What is holding you back from the invaluable advice that will help you drive your organization to continued success?