Sian Steele, PwC UK Family Business Leader
There are five key things the current generation can do to make sure the next generation have the best chance to succeed:
1. Plan ahead.
The single most important success factor for succession is a good plan. That starts with detailed career and development planning for the next gen, so they can get a wide range of experience and acquire the right skills. If possible, find ways for them to work outside your home market, as well as outside the family firm. This will help build their credibility if they do eventually decide to come back to the family business.
2. Make it an opportunity, not a burden.
Many of the next gen are excited about the chance to work in the family firm and take it over one day. But make sure they don’t feel expectation as a burden, and have the chance to make a free choice about their own future.
3. Give them the chance to build something of their own.
44% of respondents this year talked about the possibility of setting up new entrepreneurial ventures to run alongside the main firm, and 47% of those questioned in our next gen Great Expectations Survey said they would like to do this. Such ventures can be a wonderful way to give the next gen their own area of responsibility, where they can learn, explore new ideas, and gain vital skills. And who knows – those new ventures could evolve into the future for your firm.
4. Understand where and when to let go.
Almost all next gens say they would welcome continued support from their parents when they take over (91% in our next gen research), and many talk with feeling about the mentoring they’ve received, and the lessons they’ve learned. But there’s a fine balance between being there to help, and never letting go. It’s an understandable wrench to step back from a business you’ve run, and in many cases, built – 61% of next gens in Great Expectations acknowledge this as a challenge in their own family.
So spend time discussing the exact shape of your future role, and find yourself something else to do beyond the business, so you won’t constantly be tempted to ‘just show up’.
5. Address family governance.
One positive role the current gen can play is in relation to family governance. We all know how dangerous conflicts and misunderstandings can be in family firms, and 52% of next gens in our Great Expectations Survey said that they were worried about the prospect of dealing with ‘family politics’. The older generation are ideally placed to help manage this, both through their experience and the ‘gravitas’ of age. So if your family firm hasn’t yet got to grips with family governance, or could benefit from a proper family constitution or family council, why don’t you take on this task yourself, so the next gen can concentrate on taking on the business.