In the Best Transitions, Successors Build Bridges

The longest suspension bridge around may not be the Mackinac or the Golden Gate, but the span between generations in a family enterprise. More often than not, the emphasis in succession planning begins with the senior generation and their pressing concerns. When do they plan to exit? How will they see a return on their investment? How will tax and estate issues be handled?  These and many other issues naturally receive a great deal of attention. But as a successor, your role is every bit as critical. Here are five ways that successors can help build the bridge in a smooth transition.

Show Respect for the Past

Many successors are the children of parents who founded or inherited a business. Growing up in a family company, it’s easy to take your parents’ success for granted. Remember that their story is a basis for your learning. Their hard work has planted the seeds for your future opportunities.

Take Responsibility for the Future

As a future leader, take responsibility for your own development. Ask for feedback on your strengths and shortcomings. Find mentors who can help guide and encourage you in the transition. Connect with other successors like you, who may be experiencing some of the same challenges.

Know the Business

You may have grown up with business talk around the dinner table, but do you understand the business like the back of your hand? Have you worked in different roles? Do you fully understand company operations? What about your knowledge of the industry and about business in general? There’s a lot to know, before you can lead.

Be a Good Steward

As a successor, do your part now to protect all of your family’s assets, human, physical and financial. Maintain the highest standards. Work on your relationships. Live within your means. Set an example that others want to follow. You may be about to inherit a business, but leadership is earned.

Exercise Patience

The transition from one generation to the next takes time. Years even. Weaving together multiple  transitions – ownership, leadership, management, business, family and personal – isn’t a sprint. The goal is a seamless transition over time, not a sudden jump from one place to the next.

And that’s where bridges come in. As a successor you’re in a unique position to help span the gap between one era of leadership and the next. You have energy and new ideas. You’re looking toward the future. You have a stake in it. If you’re part of the next generation of a business family, work on your role in the transition, just as hard as you’ll work on the business when it’s your time to lead.



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