Taking the Next Step

Let's face it, some sons and daughters (and other relatives and long-time non-relatives) would love to be handed the reins of running your business. And even if this continuity of your legacy would give you great joy, the fact is that they might not be adequately prepared for the challenge.

Many children have no interest in a parent's business — and that's okay. Some of them might never be prepared to handle running a business of any type, regardless of its complexity. But, this topic is one that all entrepreneurs will need to consider at some point.

Often, children express no interest in following in the footsteps of their parents who operate a business. Sometimes it's a question of readiness to deal with the necessary commitment. But, some see that it's right for them later on. There's something to be said about having your children have some other (outside of your business) employment, before they assume a management role for you. Avoid being pushy. But, be clear that there is the possibility for them having a leadership position in the company, and exactly what you have in mind.

Your business probably means something different to your heirs than it does to you. To you, it's a symbol of what you've been able to achieve, a complex system that you've built over a long time. It's a source of income, but also a source of great pride.

To them, your business might simply be that — a symbol of what you've done. It's a source of your pride, but not necessarily theirs. While many will accept the challenge of living up to your standards and improving upon what you've created, many might want to start something new, set their own goals and find their own challenges. As disappointing as it might be for the business to eventually leave the family, it would be a true shame to saddle the business on someone whose hopes lie elsewhere.

Sometimes I'm asked to give an eager progeny an idea of the challenges of business operation as well as advanced training. Often, they have a clear vision of the financial rewards and other perks that can be earned, but are not be fully aware of the commitment to hard work and long hours you've invested to get the business in the position it is now.

It's important not to be tougher on your offspring than other valued employees. It just isn't fair and it should be avoided.

Put together an individualized and structured management training process to gradually introduce them into operating the business instead of just handing them the reins. Preparing the next generation for a successful transition is important. The key word is "transition."

Another key issue is the uncertainty of the roles, authority and responsibilities for them and you. And almost always, you will have some involvement in the business. Some personality and management style differences and conflicts are common. Sometimes a facilitator can help uncover the issues, get them out in the open and offer solutions to resolve differences.

If it's a good fit for both parties, the next step is to have a detailed plan. Have an agreement and a logical progression of when and how the transition will take place, written job descriptions, etc. It sounds like a lot of work to put all of this together, but it's well worth the time and expense. This is not the time to cut corners and costs.

Dick Detmer is a nationally recognized consultant, lecturer and writer and has 35 years of experience in the equipment rental industry. He is the author of "The Guide to Great Customer Service" as well as "A Practical Guide to Working in an Equipment Business." For consulting, on-site employee training or to order books, visit www.detmerconsulting.com. Dick can be contacted at dick@detmerconsulting.com or (309) 781-3451.