Family Feuds are nothing new…they have been around since the Hatfield and the McCoys. They exist inside many businesses, not just as part of the popular TV show Family Feud. But they are far more relevant in small businesses than most may realize. And when you are trying to leave your business to a family member(s), it can be ripe ground for a family feud.
Family feuds don’t have to happen…contrary to popular belief, they can be avoided. There is one simple word that will help you avoid a family feud…PLANNING. Planning is the number one way to prevent or avoid a family feud.
How to PLAN and PREVENT Feuds
So what exactly do we mean by the word “Planning” when it comes to helping you avoid a potential family feud. Here are some key components to keep in mind when you do some preliminary planning for a succession plan that is positive and works well…
Take Stock in Current Family Quarrels
If there is anything going on between any of your family members today, rest assured they will be amplified 10 times when the discussion of business succession is started. Small quarrels can become big issues and can crater a discussion of how to handle the next phase of the business. Take time to accurately assess whether there are any of these currently going on within the family members or others who may be involved in the succession plan. Be honest with yourself and don’t dismiss even the slightest sign of unrest.
Understand Everyone’s Agenda
Everyone has an agenda when it comes to passing along a family business whether it is to family members or outsiders. This agenda is essentially what they need and want to accomplish when it comes to owning the business. Perhaps the best question you can ever ask anyone is, “Why do you want to own this business?”
The key to getting the best result to this question is to listen, listen, and keep listening. Ask the question over and over again to get deeper and more meaningful answers that help you truly understand their interests and passion behind the business. This is a great opportunity to be, as they say, a “dog on a bone” when it comes to getting to the real reason of why they want to own the business. The more time invested with this question, the less surprises surface along the way.
Create a Viable List of Options
One of the areas many business owners can become a bit myopic about is what their options really are when it comes to succession. Generally these are far more limiting than what actually can exist. Often times the thinking is fairly narrow when it comes to potential options for passing on the family business. Be creative and think of as many possibilities as you can. Using an outside facilitator in this exercise can sometimes be very helpful to getting you to think outside the parameters you may have set for yourself. Even if something is a “long shot” or has “low odds” of happening, get it down as one of the options. The key is to brainstorm every possibility first before you prioritize anything. Only after you have exhausted the list of options should you start to prioritize.
Get Some Outsiders to Help You
This is one of the best times to seek outside counsel and insights. As the saying goes, “you may be too close to the trees to see the forest.” You are involved in your business and so you have your own perspectives and biases. The only way to help you see things from an objective level is to go get an objective opinion. An outsider can help you see the business in a way that you may never have seen it before. When we act as an “outside advisor” to a business owner we always give them an objective, real world view of what is going on in the business. Sometimes it is hard for the owner to recognize initially but eventually the see what we see and it gives them a much broader perspective of what is truly happening inside their business.
What to do next…your next move
While there are more things to consider, this can get you started on your path to identifying potential opportunities for business succession plan. Invest the time, it will pay great dividends. And when you take the time to do the PLANNING you will not only prevent and thwart most of your potential family feuds but you will come up with some great options you might not have even considered. If you ever have any questions along the way, we are happy to meet with you or you can shoot us a question and we’ll be happy to give you some insights and direction to consider taking. Either way, you don’t have to (nor should you) go through this alone.
When you can eliminate the potential for a family feud you can redirect this effort and energy into finding the very best plan for your business today and into the future. This is how legacy companies are born and continue for many generations.