Succession Planning

It never ceases to amaze me how many owners of businesses, especially family businesses, aren’t prepared for succession. They have never even considered succession planning. Sometimes I wonder if what they really want is stewardship.

What’s the difference between succession and stewardship? Here are some definitions of Succession.

  • “a number of people or things of a similar kind following one after the other”; or
  • “the action or process of inheriting a title, office, property, etc.”

A couple of definitions of Stewardship are:

  • “the position and duties of a steward, a person who acts as the surrogate of another or others, especially by managing property, financial affairs, an estate, etc.”; or
  • “the responsible overseeing and protection of something considered worth caring for and preserving”

When discussing with those family leaders who are looking to transfer ownership of their businesses, I find many want stewardship. They want the thing they have created, or stewarded, to continue on in a way that will enable the family and the business to make a difference. To make a difference to the employees of the business and their families. To make a difference to the suppliers and customers of their business and the communities in which all these families live.

It is so much more than just handing over the keys to the family car and saying “here’s the car. It’s yours now.” It’s saying “here’s the family car. You need to look after it. Cherish it. Lead it. Manage and support it. Grow it. Maybe even share it. And when you are ready to hand over the keys, you will hand it over in as good condition, or better, than when you received the keys.”

Stewardship is more a way of life than an event. And succession planning helps build both family and business culture.

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