Lessons on Family Business Succession from the British Royals

The recent birth of Prince George Alexander Louis to Prince William and Kate Middleton gives the House of Windsor a living 4th generation heir to the throne.  Prince George will undoubtedly need to wait for 60 or more years until he ascends to that throne, given the longevity that runs in his bloodline.  His grandfather, Prince Charles, has been waiting 64 years, and since the throne is not something royalty retires from, it may be a much longer wait indeed.

Letting go the reins of power is something most business owners struggle with, so preparing successors is something they should consider carefully, especially if you’re keeping it in the family.  Here are some tips for preparing to let go of the family business:

Develop capabilities.  You undoubtedly will feel more comfortable handing a business over to the next generation if he or she has developed the proper capabilities to run the firm.  For a family business, that may mean letting a son or daughter work outside the business for a number of years to gain that valuable experience.

Share interests.  Don’t try to pre-determine the roles your children will play in the business; instead, expose them to a number of different disciplines so they can find their own niche.

Share power.  To train the next generation to be good stewards of the family business, you need to let them make and own their own decisions.

Bow out gracefully.  Once you have passed the reins on to the next generation, learn to respect their decisions and don’t try to insert yourself in areas where you no longer belong.  Let them know you are available to share your experience, but don’t try to force yourself on them.  This inevitably leads to family conflict and destabilizes the business.

If you’re a small or mid-size business owner, call us today to schedule your comprehensive LIFT™ (legal, insurance, financial and tax) Foundation Audit.