A Father-Daughter Family Succession Case Study

A Father-Daughter Family Succession Case Study
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It’s my life’s work to help business owners create transitions out of their companies that meet their most important goals, keep their relationships intact and position their companies to succeed under new leadership. That’s a tall order, and no transition is as perfect as owners envision because, more often than not, one of their goals (or more) conflicts with others. Then what? Let’s look at a father-daughter family succession case study.

From Simple to Complex: A Father-Daughter Family Succession Case Study

Owner Greg and his daughter Lisa (not their real names, of course) were both committed to installing Lisa as the company’s CEO upon Greg’s departure. When Greg set his goals in the first phase of creating his Transition Roadmap, in addition to having his daughter succeed him, he indicated that he wanted to leave his company completely within 18 months. That timeframe surprised Lisa and, after some reflection, she told Greg that she believed an MBA would better position her to become CEO. The program that Lisa chose would take two years to complete.

When Goals Collide

Greg’s timeline was in direct conflict with his successor’s and put the future success of his company at risk. Lisa’s options were to forgo the MBA degree and enter the C-Suite without the education she believed she needed or give up the dream of taking over her father’s company. Greg, however, had more options. He also could give up the dream of leaving his company in his daughter’s hands or adjust his timeline by as few as six months or as many as he and Lisa agreed to.

Is a Plan a Win for All Involved?

One of the operating principles of the process we use to help owners craft successful transitions is to put relationships first. Greg and Lisa both valued their relationship and wanted to avoid any action that would put it in jeopardy. And one of the ways we assess the likelihood of success is to determine whether a transition plan will deliver a win for all involved: owner, successor, and business. If the answer is no, we go back to the drawing board and do some creative thinking.

A Business Transition is a Team Sport

In Greg and Lisa’s case, we suggested to Lisa that she commit to returning to the company after completing her degree and ask her father to work with her for one year. For the good of the company, Lisa and her father agreed that she needed more than a theoretical knowledge of business. She wanted her father to teach her how he made decisions, how he intuited future threats and opportunities and how he motivated and led the company’s employees.  In return, Greg would extend his timeline by 18 months, and commit to mentoring his daughter. That meant he would have to hand over increasingly complex tasks to Lisa and let her make mistakes as he had done in the early days.

Once the two agreed on their plan, Lisa left for school and Greg had time to think about how he would teach his daughter to do the things that he did naturally. We helped him create “curriculum” that started out simple and progressed to the most complex tasks.

Compromise or Career Capstone?

When Lisa returned to the company with her newly minted MBA, father and daughter began what Greg would later describe as one of the best years of his life. He felt invigorated by Lisa’s enthusiasm and the new ideas Lisa brought to the table. He loved teaching his daughter what he loved to do and had done well. Lisa was excited to put her theoretical knowledge into practice and absorbed her father’s entrepreneurial skills and drive. By the end of the year, both Lisa and Greg were confident in her ability to lead the company into the future, and Greg considered teaching his daughter to lead a business as the capstone of his career.

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