Turning Over the Management of a Family Business

These steps can help you retire from a family business with a positive outlook and no regrets.

Turning Over the Management of a Family Business

Succession is another troublesome issue for in-laws and their family business. That canny CEO Queen Elizabeth I solved the problem by deciding not to retire -- but then again, she had the ultimate in job security. Difficulty deciding when to retire or not is a surprisingly common situation for the CEOs who rule by blood lines, whether they're royal or not.

It's All Relative

The Windsors' role in governing the British Empire is ceremonial, but they take it very seriously nonetheless. The ne plus ultra of in-laws as outlaws, they refer to their task as monarchs as carrying out " the family business." You think it's tough working for your in-laws? Try it if your boss is the queen!

I don't know what excuses today's Queen Elizabeth gives her son Charles, but I do know the Top 10 reasons that CEOs of family business often give for not turning the reigns of their companies over to their in-laws. And here they are, in reverse order:

  1. "Too many people I've known have died soon after they retired (or acted like they were dead)."

  2. "Without me, the business is nothing."

  3. "Without the business, I'm nothing."

  4. "I hate gardening, find cruises boring, and get sunburned if I play too much golf."

  5. "I need someplace to go. My spouse married me for better or for worse-but not for lunch!"

  6. "My in-laws want to change the way the business is run. If I'm not there, they will destroy what I've built!"

  7. "I don't want to choose between my in-laws to name a successor."

  8. "The business is my major source of income. My in-laws will run it to the ground."

  9. "Nobody can run the business as well as I can."

  10. "They may run it better than I did!"

Family Matters

Money issues can be more delicate than a man's ego. To solve money issues, it may be necessary to use experts to facilitate the dialogue in the beginning, or at points along the way.

Family Matters

While there's no link between early death and retirement, you can probably ensure a longer, healthier retirement if you develop interests outside the business. Women, consider golf, bridge, or visiting the Chippendales on a regular basis, for example.

Don't Go There

Members of a family businesses often take themselves quite seriously. In part, that's because there's often constant job and family pressure. In family business, there's no let-up, no disengagement. Even though that's the nature of the beast, you can build in some pressure valves -- and you must.

And your ammunition for the response volley…

  1. There's no correlation between mortality and retirement. (Though if you outstay your welcome in the business, there's no saying that an overly ambitious in-law won't cosh you a good one with a nine-iron.)

  2. Hey, kid, can we rein in that ego? What are you -- a legend in your own mind?

  3. Retirement doesn't have to be an "all or nothing" proposition. There are many constructive ways you can maintain your identity and connection with the business. Why not spend time with your successors and trusted advisors investigating all the possibilities? (That should kill at least a year.)

  4. So find other leisure activities that excite you. Do those things you've always wanted to do, but for which you never had the time.

  5. True fact, boss. There is no denying that major life changes can stress any relationship. Get a new focus on your life, one that keeps you out of your spouse's face.

  6. If the business doesn't change to keep up with new demands, it will suffer. Businesses thrive on fresh ideas and energy. Do you really mean to tell me that you didn't make any changes when you became the head honcho?

  7. So let them duke it out after you're gone. Better yet, involve them in the decision now.

  8. You ran a business and you don't know how to invest your money? Please. This excuse is lame.

  9. No one is indispensable; we can all be replaced. (Okay, maybe not Cindy Crawford and Brad Pitt, but even Rin Tin Tin lost his slot to a puppy.) Besides, you're probably not the only one running your business now. You may make major decisions, but chances are, you're not involved in all the details.

  10. And what's wrong with that? Complete succession planning will help your business thrive under the next generation. This is one of the most important legacies you can create for your family.

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