Most of the family leaders I meet know that SOMEDAY they will transfer ownership of the business over to the next generation.
What they may not consider is the importance of WHEN that happens.
Here are three important considerations family business owners should keep in mind:
Did you forget what it felt like to want to have “your time” to “leave your mark?”
When you’re 60 or 70 and you’ve been leading the business for thirty years, you forget what it felt like to someday want to be the boss and get to leave your mark.
The best and most well-equipped next-generation leaders are ambitious and want to have an opportunity to have “their time” and “leave their mark” on the business.
If you are fortunate to have up-and-coming leaders who have that mentality, you have a responsibility to step aside and give them their moment. Don’t forget what a great gift it can be if they can have their moment AND have you close by to provide a little guidance and wisdom.
If you keep putting off transferring ownership and leadership, at some point they will lose their drive and ambition and become discouraged and stale. It is your responsibility to know when to step aside. You had your time, now give them theirs.
Did you forget if YOU are the only person who can lead the company, you missed one of the most important jobs you had?
Too many founders can miss this important lesson. I’ve met many dads and moms who proudly tell me nobody else can run or lead the business like they do.
The wisest founders and owners realize one of their most important acts of leadership is to identify and groom their successor.
Too often the leader uses this excuse as some sort of unfortunate act of trying to reinforce or perpetuate their ego. What they should be thinking about is how to proudly hand the reins over to the next qualified person. They need to see that transition as one of their most important steps to family success and their leadership legacy.
Did you really think your business would never change?
The other scenario that plays out quite often is that the business is changing on multiple levels: technology, demographics, and workforce, just to name a few.
Wise founders see these changes coming and realize, (I can’t believe I’m saying this) “It’s a young person’s game.”
In other words, the younger generation is usually better equipped to adapt to the changing needs of the business. Stubborn founders run the risk of holding onto the reins too long. They need to make a change before losing significant market share or key talent. We know that is what is needed to compete in an ever-changing marketplace.
Letting go is never easy. Realizing it might be someone else’s time doesn’t have to mean your life is over. It means it might be time for your role to become chairman of the board, mentor, grandfather or grandmother, or world traveler.
Be courageous and be thoughtful about when the right time to transfer ownership of your business is. If you are stuck along the way, put your pride aside and reach out to other business owners and leaders who have had successful transitions. You can also hire a family business advisor or coach who can help you with a more objective view of the situation. They can help you put a plan together that you and the whole family can feel good about.
Play to your potential!
Pete Walsh offers family business consulting services, workshops, tools and resources as the founder of the Family Business Performance Center. Subscribe to his newsletter or get in touch to get actionable insights to help your family business grow for generations to come.