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  • Writer's pictureJudi Cunningham

Effective Succession Planning in the Family Business

Updated: Oct 10, 2023

family business

Succession planning continues to be a prominent discussion point in the world of family businesses. Numerous terms have arisen, each placing its emphasis on various aspects of succession planning. Some concentrate on exit planning, others on continuity planning, and still others on estate planning. These terminologies shed light on concerns such as the smooth transition of assets, the perpetuation of continuity across generations, and the withdrawal of owners from day-to-day business operations. Regardless of the specific focus or viewpoint one adopts, several essential factors are crucial for guaranteeing the enduring prosperity and sustainability of both the family-owned company and the family as a whole.

Below are six benefits of effective succession planning:

  1. Preservation of Family Values and Legacy: Family businesses often have a rich history and a strong sense of identity, tradition, values, and history. Effective succession planning can help preserve the family's legacy and values, ensuring that they continue to guide the company's culture and decision-making.

  2. Leadership Continuity: With planning comes a plan. Succession planning facilitates a seamless transition of leadership and ownership within the family enterprise. This ensures that the business continues to operate efficiently and effectively as leadership changes hands and minimizes disruptions. It also ensures ownership has been discussed and decided on how the ownership will be structured into the future.

  3. Minimized Disputes: Often the root of conflict in family business is a result of a lack of transparency. Having a well-defined plan around who will lead the company and how ownership will be divided can help minimize these conflicts. Providing clear guidelines and expectations for family members' roles and responsibilities goes a long way to minimizing disputes.

  4. Next Generation Talent Development: The process of succession planning involves grooming the next generation of family members for leadership roles. This includes providing them with the necessary skills, knowledge, and experiences to excel in their future positions. This includes providing them with the necessary training and experiences to prepare them for leadership roles, which can ultimately benefit the business.

  5. Financial Stability: A good succession plan includes a good estate plan, tax strategies and overall asset management. This can lead to improved financial stability for the family enterprise and ensure that wealth is preserved for future generations.

  6. Strategic Growth and Innovation: The next generation of leaders often brings fresh perspectives and innovative ideas to the family enterprise. Succession planning encourages this innovation, helping the business stay competitive and adaptable in a changing market landscape.

If done well and thoroughly, succession planning in a family business goes beyond merely passing on leadership or ownership. It helps us focus on preserving family values and legacy, puts our attention on developing the next generation of leaders, ensures leadership continuity for ongoing stability, attempts at reducing conflicts in the family system, plans for financial stability, and positions the business for continued growth and success.

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Judi Cunningham was the founding Executive Director of the Business Families Centre at UBC’s Sauder School of Business. She is also the founder of the Family Enterprise Advisor (FEA) accreditation program - which is now run by the Family Enterprise Exchange (FEX) - Canada’s key education program for advisors who serve enterprising families. She remains a faculty member of the FEA program, while also continuing to innovate family enterprise education in her work with the Trella Advisory Group.

Learn more about Judi and the rest of the Trella team on our About page.

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