In April 2010, I was introduced to Ron Harper, the patriarch of a very successful Aerospace manufacturing business. Ron wanted help developing his sons and daughter as he prepared for his eventual retirement from the business.
Great Dads Realize The Necessity of Future Leaders
Ron was one one of the brightest visionaries I had met and this was another example of his vision for his family and the business. He knew a day would come where others would have to take leadership roles in the business–if the business was going to survive and thrive after his departure.
Over the following five years I helped the family design and participate in several organized activities helping the family learn how to communicate and work together.
Family Learns How to Operate at a Board Level
One of the most important activities was to help the family hold quarterly board meetings. It was a little awkward at first but over the next few years the family members all learned how to prepare and participate as owners in the Board setting.
I’m glad all that happened because those new skills were needed as Ron passed away last fall. What happened next was a bit surprising, yet beautiful.
Ron’s wife, Fran, had been at every board meeting, yet seemed content to watch Ron and the adult children find their voices and learn to work together. Maybe she didn’t realize her time was coming.
After Ron’s passing, within a couple of months, as luck and business would have it, the family faced a serious challenge that the board needed to solve. As happens too often, the family was split on the decision, and low and behold was deadlocked and missing Dad.
Mom Steps in as Chairman and Settles a Deadlock
It was time for all the hard work and practice to pay off for the family and the business. Fran followed the process, called for the vote, and then without flinching cast the deciding vote and moved the family forward.
I was so proud of her, and am confident Ron was looking down happy knowing he had given the family a sufficient amount of time to learn how to be a board and rationally deal with difficult decisions.
I know Fran and her children were a bit startled that the deadlock came so quickly after Dad’s departure. At the same time I know they respected the way Fran handled the situation.
The crisis was averted. The family could have been stuck in a deadlock which could have done significant damage to the family and the business.
Coaches Insight: More patriarchs need to give their family the time and resources to prepare for life after Dad. It seems counterintuitive, yet facing your eventual departure head on is one of the hallmark traits of a great leader!
Pete Walsh is a demanding, courageous and playful Master Certified Coach in Phoenix, Arizona. He is the founder of Peak Workout Business Coaching and the Family Business Performance Center. Check out Coach Pete’s free tools: the Family Business Landmine Detection Map and the Family Business Survival Kit. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.