When starting a family business, the last thing on the mind of the owner will probably be what will enable them to retire and sit back. Yet by taking action early on, enjoying the fruits of the labours that built the family business will be all the easier.
Planning for the future is so often one of those ‘important but not urgent’ activities that, over the years, will so often sit on the back burner. Before they know it, owners so often realise too late that they need to take steps to enable them to explore the benefits their success has brought.
Nowadays, many family business owners are thinking ahead for the time they will seek to spend less of their time in the business themselves. They plan for the future by ensuring that those who might step into their shoes are experiencing whatever it takes to have a rounded view of the business and the people who work in it.
Sometimes, this will involve the next generation of the family who are keen to get involved and add their capabilities into the mix to help sustain and evolve the business. Where there are capable family members who will seize the opportunity – and are prepared to make the journey – this succession is of great value and can be encouraged and nurtured by existing management teams.
It might be the case that external expertise is needed to take the business into the future. This could happen for at least two reasons:
- There are no family successors, either in fact or who wish to be involved in the business.
- There is value to be added from bringing in external talent who can add new perspectives.
In both cases the owner will face some significant personal challenges that will involve a lot of emotional concern. After all, when you develop a business, or you take over one from a previous generation, there’s a lot attached to it.
A mature family business owner will assess the true needs of the business very objectively and make appropriate decisions based on the business and not on emotion. This may require saying ‘no’ and upsetting some of the ‘nearest and dearest’ – and yet has to be done.
It’s no good working to grow and develop a business and still be there the only one ordering stock when you are 73. It may be that there is a role, yet it has to be one of choice and not of dependency.
Bringing in people who can help will enable a family business owner make decisions that they want to make as they get older. Creating a strategy sometimes requires the support of someone offline; someone outside the business who is strong enough to challenge perceptions and ask the tricky questions no-one else dares to.
This very objective position can be difficult to do from the inside, yet this stance is vital to make sure that the challenge is met and, at the chosen age of 62¼, the business owner will be able to sail off into the sunset, feeling save in the knowledge that they can – and the business is in safe hands.