Selection of the Successor
Note: Remember… the process of Selection of the Successor can be done from the inside OR the outside. If you decide to go outside … the process remains basically the same as outlined below.
Selection is the process of choosing who will be the firm’s leader in the next generation. Of the entire transition process, this can be the most difficult step, especially if you must choose among a number of children. Selecting a successor may be viewed by siblings as favoring one child over the others, a perception that can be disastrous to family well-being and sibling harmony. Owners select successors on the basis of age, sex, qualifications or performance. Because of the potential for emotional upheaval, some owners avoid the issue entirely, adopting an attitude of “Let them figure it out when I’m gone.”
Nevertheless, there are several solutions to this dilemma. Assuming you have more than one child who is or can become qualified for the position of president, you can select your successor based on age. For example, the oldest child becomes the successor. Unfortunately, the oldest may not be the best qualified. Placing age or sex restrictions on succession is not a good idea.
Alternatively, you could have a “horse race.” Let the candidates fight it out, and the “best person” wins. While this is the style in some major corporations, it is not the best option for all family businesses.
Family business owners may want to take advantage of a successor selection model developed for corporate executive succession. In this model, family members, using the strategic business plan, develop specific company objectives and goals for the future president or chief executive officer. The job description includes the requirements for the position–such as skills, experience and possibly personality attributes. For example, if a firm plans to pursue growth in the next five years, the potential successor would be required to have a thorough understanding of business valuations and financial statements, the ability to negotiate and a good relationship with local financial institutions.
Designing such job descriptions provides a number of benefits. First, it removes the emotional aspect from successor selection. If necessary, the successor can acquire any special training the job description outlines. Second, it provides the business with a set of future goals and objectives that have been developed by the whole family. Finally, the founder may feel more comfortable knowing objectives are in place that will ensure a growing, healthy business.
If you have an outside board of directors, you may want to solicit their input regarding successor selection.