Family Business

Tough Decisions: The Next Generation of Leaders

I was recently asked this question by the owner of a family business with four sons working in the firm: “How do I choose which one will run the business?”

Wow! There are so many ways to answer this question. Family business succession can be complicated. My first response was to ask, “Who wants to?” To which the owner did not know the answer. So that is a good place to start; however, there is more running the family business than just who wants to.

When deciding who should be the next generation CEO and who should play supporting roles, let’s take a look at a few of the tough decisions at play here.

The owner may be asking several questions: Who can run the business? Who wants to? Do we have the talent? Do we expect that they will want to?

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Where do I fit in?

Non-Family Members in the Family Business

As you may know, Revela is a family business. Our founder, Wayne Nielsen, started this business (among other companies) so that it would be around for his grandchildren’s grandchildren. We’re a smaller family business, but we do business across the United States. Family businesses come in all sizes. We work with a few in different industries: banking, manufacturing and distributing, transportation, and other business services.

Family business owners often contemplate who will take over the business when they retire. Revela is now owned by Wayne’s daughter, Andrea Fredrickson. Actually, many owners consider their family members as first options. Leadership teams may consist of spouses, siblings, children, cousins, etc. All the same people that sit around the table at Thanksgiving dinner. But as a non-family member in a family business, sometimes you have to wonder… Where do I fit in?

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Should the business stay in the family?

This is a question that most business founders must face at some point in their lives. Family business planning is the process of selecting and preparing the right person to lead the family firm into the future. The average life of a family-owned business is about 24 years, usually ending when the owner/founder retires or passes away. It is reported that approximately 30 percent of family-owned businesses survive the succession from the first generation to the second and only ten percent to the third generation. By 2019, the number of family-owned businesses that will transfer from the first generation to the second will be the largest the world has ever seen.

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