Succession is Not for the Weak of Heart

Middle aged mature mentor training interns, corporate coach teaching staff, teacher explaining work process to new employees. Female business leader speaking at meeting, conference, briefing

When I was a kid, I wanted to be many things when I grew up.  I dreamed of being a radio personality, movie producer, and a lawyer. However, I learned that to break into broadcasting, you had to have an affinity for poverty.  To be a movie producer, you must put up with some repugnant people.  Seeing the movie “Swimming with Sharks” galvanized that thought process. But being a lawyer was more realistic to me because it was the family business and seemed like a good place to start.  

My mother had her own firm and allowed me to succeed her and begin my individual chapter as a business owner with the goal of deriving capital to allow long-term flexibility to put it into other ventures.   When I discovered that taking over for my mother would be a more arduous and lengthy process because of the great recession of 2008, I realized being a business owner was indeed baptism by fire.  And one where learning and adjusting on the fly was an education I never learned in law school.  

So once we emerged from that hard-fought economic battle, we transitioned to a succession plan, which was finally completed in 2016.  Many family-owned businesses fail because the next generation doesn’t share the same passion as the original founder. So to prevent that, I decided I had no desire to practice law in the same area as my mother and instead moved into real estate law. This allowed me to put my own stamp on the company. 

I didn’t follow in her footsteps; I created my own.  But none of this would have been possible if she hadn’t bought the shoes and I will always be thankful for that.   

I also learned the last thing you should do in a succession like this is to be content with the way things are.  So, we rebranded, refocused and transformed the company while applying what I’d learned in the previous decade.  Unfortunately, while we were on our way to taking the company to the next level, we got pounded by the pandemic.  But that situation forced us to become more agile in shifting our operations to endure and flourish again.     

So, if you’ve got the stomach for succession, never be afraid to change.  Never be scared to try new things. Being reluctant to evolve is the worst thing you can do to continue a family business legacy.