Family Business Succession Planning

"With skill and sensitivity Linda guided our family through some difficult moments to a place of clarity and direction" Paul Newbigging

Family Business Advisor - Who Needs One?

Succession planning is a forward-looking process that ensures the effective performance and transition of your organization by providing coaching for leadership development and replacement while retaining family harmony and good will. Could your banker, accountant, lawyer, insurance broker or financial planner do that? Not likely. And if they could, would you want them to? Often business-owning families don't know who to call. If you have a problem that's not quite right for any of your regular professional advisors then you probably need a Family Business Advisor (FBA).

Take The Test

If any of these statements resonate with you, then you probably need the services provided by a Family Business Advisor.

  1. You have an idea about the future direction of the family firm but you don't know how to go about accomplishing your objectives.
  2. You spend a lot of time talking about changes to the business operations but nothing ever seems to get done.
  3. You have a multi-generational business but you've never had a minuted business meeting.
  4. You wake up at night having the same difficult conversation with your child, parent or sibling.
  5. You and your siblings don't see eye-to-eye and you all wonder about your future in the family business.
  6. Family employees treat you with disrespect or ignore requests to improve their performance.
  7. A partner, shareholder or family member's personal problem is impacting the business i.e. gambling, alcoholism, verbal abuse
  8. There is conflict between sibling heirs that's disrupting their ability to function as an ownership or management team.
  9. You have a family business with some adult children participating and some not and you wonder how to keep everyone in the loop.
  10. You retired two years ago but now you are back.

Make Things Happen (MTH) helps identify and address challenges like these linked to leadership continuity and succession planning in family businesses. We solve your succession planning problems either directly through consulting and facilitation or by providing a tool for you to solve them yourself.

Succession Planning - Consulting

MTH helps business owners and their families sort out the complex aspects of succession planning. When we think about the dynamics of family businesses we think about the interplay between their three systems: owners, family and the business. We're usually called because the family and business are ready to move forward with their plans or something has happened that's affecting one or more of the systems.

Succession planning involves working with owners and family members to determine future ownership, employment and resource allocations for those working in the business and those outside it. This could be a second-generation sibling partnership with one or more third generation employees.

Sometimes we work with business-owning families where there is a lot of goodwill, trust and even temperament that are ready to discuss future ownership, roles and responsibilities. In this case we help them clarify goals, overcome barriers, identify development needs and implement the plan.

More often we work with families who can agree on one thing only: We have to do something. We have worked with families where it's taken a year before they could manage their behavior well enough to hold a business meeting. We have worked with fathers and sons that have not spoken in years.


Speaking the Unspeakable - Facilitation

MTH facilitates people having crucial conversations about what's on their minds and in their hearts concerning the future of their business and the family members involved. Money, power, control and business ownership mixed with family ideals of unconditional love are dynamite combinations. These are high stakes meetings where the goals to achieve and maintain family harmony, solve problems and make decisions can be derailed by not reaching an agreement, potential conflict, unresolved misunderstandings and fear of speaking resulting in continued inertia. We bring the third party perspective along with experience and proven processes to clarify understandings, reach agreements and to move forward.

Examples of this work include: formalizing the business aspects of the family by creating a family council, behaviors at work and in the community, aligning behaviors with expectations, business-first/family-first issues, ability/willingness performance issues, sorting out issues dealing with power, control and ownership, current and future family business partners, confronting and resolving conflicts that steal energy and diminish performance and resignation/termination of a family member.


Getting Started

We start with a "chemistry meeting" to determine if there is a fit between the consultant's skills, ability and personality and the needs of the family. This could be a single meeting with the leading generation or may include several meetings that include members of succeeding generations. This is considered part of the needs assessment and contracting phase and generally there is no charge for these meetings.

The chemistry meeting results in the development of a proposal that describes the nature and scope of the work, goals, timelines and project costs. Before the engagement begins everyone knows what's involved and agrees to the process.

For most families this is the first time they have worked with a family business advisor and there is some uncertainty. Families worry about their "secrets" and entrepreneurs think they can do "it" themselves. Non-disclosure agreements between the consultant and the family are common and may be signed at any phase of the meeting process to ensure your privacy

Doing something means you're finally going to have to deal with "it."  Yes, family business work is very personal but the risks are worth the rewards. MTH has worked on many family business issues and transitions and, in our experience, the things you find most personal and unique are also the most universal. Working with an FBA has a beginning and an end. Once the goals are reached the engagement is over. You are also free to terminate the work at any phase of the process - something you may not do if you were working with other long-time professional advisors. Read client testimonials.

Tools to Go It Alone

If you're still not convinced that engaging a Family Business Advisor is the way to go then you want to pick up the road map we wrote just for family business owners -Exit Right: ® A guided tour of succession planning for families-in-business-together. This Canadian best selling business book is the ideal tool to support and guide your transition. We have provided you with the Introduction Chapter.

On a Personal Note...

Make Things Happen is a second-generation management consultancy. I grew up in an entrepreneurial family and have been self-employed since God's dog was a puppy - almost four decades. Growing up, my Father used to say to me, "The best way to predict the future is to create it" - and I've been doing that ever since. For example, I built a business out of an idea and created a successful exit - something many clients want to do eventually. I have experienced the joy and tensions brought by partners, partnership agreements and both ends of a shotgun agreement. I understand the responsibilities of holding a payroll. For me, and other entrepreneurs, this is the easy stuff.

Understanding your self, human behavior and interpersonal relationships is the hard stuff. For me, and many of my clients, we're at the age in life and stage in our businesses where we don't worry as much about making money as we do about what to do with it. We worry about the legacy we leave behind and how and who to leave it to. We worry about our relationships with long-term employees and family heirs. I believe you can't guide someone to a place you've never been or aren't willing to go yourself. Being a Family Business Advisor requires a great deal of self-awareness, professional acumen, relevant experience and audacity.

I work from a place of deep respect for family members, compassion for owners and understanding of businesses. My eclectic educational background paired with decades of experience as a business entrepreneur, change agent, art therapist and adult educator provide the right mix of skills and sensitivity required to successfully guide the often challenging process of succession planning.  I have helped hundreds of organizations and families successfully sort out the difficult issues associated with families in business.

I look forward to meeting with you. Please contact Make Things Happen for a complimentary consultation to see how we might contribute to your success.