Philip J. Kavesh
Nationally recognized attorney helping clients with customized estate planning guidance for over 40 years.

Outside of the world of pomp and circumstance, failure to pass the baton to the next generation before the senior generation has actually passed away is detrimental both to the family and the business. A leadership gap weakens any business, while an unrehearsed succession process can tear apart even the most tightly knit families.

Likely you have seen and maybe read a steady stream of articles on the subject of “business succession.” As the demographics reveal, there is a tidal wave of aging baby boomer business owners who will be passing the baton by design or by default. The latter is a much messier affair than the former.

If you are a baby boomer business owner, then consider a family that has some real life experience in managing successful successions – the Royal Family.

For some royal perspective and thoughts on the young Prince George Alexander Louis (the instant media darling and infant son of Prince William and Kate Middleton), recently offered an article titled “A Lesson from the Royals: Succession Is a Two-Way Street.”

Succession really is a two way street. In one lane, it is the king stepping down to name his successor. In the other lane, it is his successor seeking to prove himself worthy to be the king. The principal is the same in business, and yes, even in small family businesses.

The perennial problem is that a business requires tested leadership and ability. Unfortunately, real life experience is a very difficult thing to acquire until you are actually holding the reins. That noted, few business owners are comfortable handing over reins even to their own successors.

If you are a would-be-king, then there are some principles to learn to prove yourself, to stand out, and to step up to the task on your own. Fortunately, the original article offers some practical advice.

And then there is the other side. As the current business owner – king of all you oversee – you also need to be mindful to give your successor some “playing time” while you can coach them.

The actual act of transferring the business can be complicated, for reasons legal and financial. As with any “dance,” timing is key.

If your family business is worth keeping afloat, then the successful succession of its leadership is as great a goal worthy of your time and focus.

The Owner has retired; God save the Owner.

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