Family Business Matters

10 Most Prevalent Obstacles to
Family Business Succession Planning

By Tom Hubler, Executive Consultant

In a presentation at the University of St. Thomas Center for Family Enterprise Family Business Forum, John Davis, family business consultant, researcher and educator, commented that everything consultants like himself teach, their clients already know. In order to be successful, they need to confront or deal with the obstacles. Of course, the first question that popped into my mind was: What are those issues? As I looked back over my practice, I began to identify some common obstacles—and ways to avoid them.

It begins with family business members realizing they have to help the B.O.S.S. be successful so they can successfully navigate obstacles and deal with their issues. At an orientation meeting when I introduce this concept, which comes from the book Collaborative Team Skills (Miller & Miller, 1994), all heads usually turn toward the father or mother. I then announce to him or her they have just been demoted, and that the real boss around here is the four constituencies that make up the acronym.

The stands for the Business and what the business needs to be successful.

The O, which is the most important part of the B.O.S.S., stands for the Other. What do you want for the Other and what does the Other want? In the context of succession planning, each member of the family has to know that others are committed to help each other be successful - it's a bilateral, mutual process.

The first is what do I want for my Self? This is the one area in which people generally are most concerned - themselves. To be successful, clients need to understand the systemic nature of family-owned businesses and that, for personal goals to be achieved (the S), they must create a win-win success for all four constituencies.

The final stands for the Stakeholders, which generally includes the whole family, the employees, the customers, the vendors and anyone else who is connected with the family business.

After understanding how best to help the B.O.S.S., we then turn toward obstacles to successful succession planning. Here are the top ten most common... MORE

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