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Article Teaser: I don't have a lot of memories of my Dad since he left the family when I turned six and passed away when I was only nine years old but there is one memory that seems to be burnt into my brain. It was a day when just he and I were together. I was only five years old and he decided it was time to teach me how to swim.

Keep reading below...

Succession ----Have You Taught Your Son or Daughter How to Swim?

Copyright (c) 2008-2017

I don’t have a lot of memories of my Dad since he left the family when I turned six and passed away when I was only nine years old but there is one memory that seems to be burnt into my brain. It was a day when just he and I were together. I was only five years old and he decided it was time to teach me how to swim. We didn’t have a swimming pool; in fact, we lived out in the woods in an abandoned trailer. There was a lake within three miles of the trailer. The nearest town, named after that lake, was called “Blue Lake”, Michigan. Somehow he had managed to find an old row boat that he kept hidden in the woods. My older brothers tell me he was an avid fisherman and that he used to take that old row boat out almost every day.

We got to the lake and as he started uncovering the boat from the brush it was hidden under, I started getting a little nervous. Up to that point I had been so excited about going out on the lake with my dad that I had nearly wet my pants; the anxiety of the reality of the situation hadn’t set in yet. When I finally realized that I was going to be in this huge—deep lake, that’s when I started to worry a little. But, not too much, after all, I was with my Dad and he was going to teach me how to swim.

SOooo... He rowed that old boat out to the middle of the lake, put down the oars, looked me right in the eye and said:

“Are you ready? ---- You can do this!”

I heard the “You can do this” as I was flying thru the air over the side of the boat. He must have thrown me fifteen feet away from the boat. It was sink or swim time. Obviously, since I am still here, I learned to swim. Not without swallowing several mouthfuls of water and seeing angels dancing in the clouds; but I finally figured it out. That is one of the few memories I have of my Dad. I wish I had more and better ones.

Learning to be a Leader can be Like Learning to Swim

You are probably wondering why I started this article with a story about how I learned to swim. Well, if you are an owner that has a son or daughter working in your business, ask yourself this question.

“What are you doing to teach your son or daughter how to run your business? Do you have an actual plan or are you just going to throw them over the side of the boat.” If that’s your plan, remember, the lake you are throwing them into is filled with alligators.

If it is your true desire to keep the business in the family and pass it on to the next generation, you have an obligation to yourself, to the business, to your employees and yes to your son or daughter to make sure you are doing everything you can possibly do to help them prepare to take over the business. I can offer one simple piece of advice; when they are ready, back off and get out of the way. There are all kinds of published recommendations on this subject regarding family qualifications etc. E-mail rick@ceostrategist.com and receive a free guide titled “Leadership and Succession in the Family Business.

If Dad is a typical old school autocratic type of leader who believes that sweating blood, an exceptional work ethic without concern for balance and shows no interest in discussing the emotional feeling side of succession, the kids will have difficulty maintaining a clear sense of expectations for themselves. They will not eagerly address interpersonal family problems and may even shut down. When that happens, the necessary skill development to take over the business becomes exceptionally difficult. Generally that results in just throwing them over the side of the boat and hoping they learn to swim.

1st and 2nd Generation Comments

I have discussed this situation with numerous 1st and 2nd generation owners and they all describe similar circumstances when describing how the torch was passed on. Many second and third generation leaders had to learn the hard way. It was sink or swim. Not all families work well together. Often time’s sibling rivalry impairs development. Jealousy, personal agendas and the weakness of Mom or Dad allows things to deteriorate in the family relationships as a result of the pending succession. Some families just become totally dysfunctional as a result of succession. That’s not to say that there aren’t families that handle succession seamlessly and everything works out great. Many do, however, those that do have consciously planned well in advance for succession and have taken the proper steps years in advance.

Consider the Business Culture

Keep in mind that privately held family owned businesses often develop a culture that is just an extension of the family culture. Family roles are often emulated when multiple family members work in the business. This creates additional challenges. Every family has it own by-laws, sacred cows, cherished beliefs, myths, rules and roles. Sometimes there are so many sub culture family issues left unaddressed that a big blow up occurs that can affect the entire company. However, this underbrush of sub culture issues must be cleaned up for the company to continue to grow and prosper. This makes the blow up not only imminent but sometimes necessary.

Keeping the Torch Lit ---- A Succession Guide

The answer to passing the torch is not that complicated even though execution is often difficult. Consider the following guide in setting up your succession plan and you may avoid many of the pitfalls and hopefully your son or daughter won’t be thrown over the side of the boat.

  • Business needs should come first
  • Focus on the long term health of the business
  • Get outside opinions on the leadership skills and the leadership development of your children. (You are too close to make unbiased judgments)
  • Develop a family legacy statement, a family doctrine and even a family code of conduct
  • Establish succession requirements and qualifications (education required, outside experience required, leadership and other skills training, in-house internship requirements)
  • Establish specific job descriptions for family members
  • Establish expectations up front
  • Create advancement criteria up front
  • Establish official family compensation programs paying family members based on the position
  • Establish accountability and structure up front
  • Establish a framework for dealing with family performance issues
  • Create a Board of directors that is not family dominated
  • Make no exceptions for family regarding performance

  • Remember, even if you do everything right, there may come a time that you realize that your son or daughter just isn’t capable of accepting the torch. If that reality hits you between the eyes and you can validate it factually with trusted board members, other trusted executives or even outside consultants, it’s not the end of the world. Please, don’t ignore it and just throw the kid over the side of the boat. I guarantee you he or she will drown. There are other options. Those options range from bringing in a CEO from the outside to selling the business. Of course there are a myriad of circumstances that need to be discussed and analyzed before you make that final decision. Don’t sacrifice your relationship with your child but don’t be held hostage to DNA either. It just isn’t worth it. E-mail rick@ceostrategist.com for sample family legacy, family doctrine and Code of Conduct.

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    CEO Strategist will hold a “Leadership Conference” on July 24th and 25th in The Villages, Florida. Bring the family and stay for the weekend and visit Disney World. It’s only $495 per person for Howl Subscribers. (Promo Code - HOWL) This is the one development event you will want to attend. Click Here for details.... http://www.ceostrategist.com/profit-event.html Check out CEO Strategists Learning to Lead So Others Will Follow Planning Workbook and CD set. http://www.ceostrategist.com/resources-store/real-world-leadership.html



    About The Author: Shop Amazon - Top Gift Ideas
    http://www.ceostrategist.com - Sign up to receive “The Howl” a free monthly newsletter that addresses real world industry issues. - Straight talk about today’s issues. Rick Johnson, expert speaker, wholesale distribution’s “Leadership Strategist”, founder of CEO Strategist, LLC a firm that helps clients create and maintain competitive advantage. Need a speaker for your next event, E-mail rick@ceostrategist.com Dr. Eric “Rick” Johnson (rick@ceostrategist.com) is the founder of CEO Strategist. CEO Strategist LLC. works in an advisory capacity with company executives on strategic planning, board representation, executive coaching and education and training to make the changes necessary to create or maintain competitive advantage. Check out CEO Strategists Learning to Lead So Others Will Follow Planning Workbook and CD set. http://www.ceostrategist.com/resources-store/real-world-leadership.html

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