family business

“The Show Must Go On” – Family Business Succession Planning in a Crisis

There’s nothing like a crisis for creating a higher sense of urgency in succession planning

In January, a 7-year old girl was the miraculous lone survivor in a tragic plane crash that took the lives of both of her parents and her cousin. The parents were the owners of a second generation, 50-year old family business, Gutzler’s Furniture in Nashville, TN. 

The Chicago Tribune reported, “Employee Troy Dunbar said a steady stream of people “from all over” was stopping by to offer condolences. Dunbar said store employees are doing OK in the aftermath of the crash, saying “the show must go on.”

Read the whole story here.

If Tragedy Strikes – Are You Ready?

With the majority of family businesses not having succession plans in place, these stories are becoming more common.  If you don’t have a succession plan, you’re not alone.  Less than 30% of family businesses have prepared a formal succession plan.

Top Reasons Family Businesses Aren’t Preparing Succession Plans

  • Too much process
  • Avoid the sensitive issues and difficult decisions
  • Immortality-we never accept it will happen.
  • Mentality that succession “just happens
  • Many feel the process is just a formality
  • Some feel it’s not a high enough priority at this time
  • Many feel it is an event that happens too far in the future

Create a Sense of Urgency:

One method of motivating family members to discuss these sensitive issues is to create a sense of urgency. Discussing case studies of family businesses that didn’t have a succession plan in place can show family members the consequences and impact on the family and the business. Posing the question, “What would happen if the founder passed away?” can help move the issues into our short-term thinking and make it more relevant.

  • Horror Stories-Family businesses that failed without having a succession plan
  • Crisis Contingency-What would happen if the founder was suddenly incapacitated?
  • Financial Planning-Comparing the differences in family wealth with and without a plan

Two things that often help to move the succession planning process forward

  1. Realizing the comfort and security of having a plan in place in the event of a crisis
  2. Understanding that the plan is not a final document and can be modified at any time.

Sometimes it takes a crisis to motivate family businesses to prepare succession plans.