The Family Business Center at the University of New Hampshire has put together “Nine Helpful Steps Toward Succession in a Family Owned Business:” You will notice that all of the steps’ major components are “human capital” issues. These steps are valid for family owned business but most are also valid for any closely held business.
1. All family members, whether active in the business or not, need to be put on notice by the family head, that the process is about to begin.
2. Family members active in the business can become a committee to examine the issues. Key executives or outside advisors may also have input.
3. The first question is: Are we prepared managerially to continue operating the business if something should happen to the CEO tomorrow?
4. If “yes,” then what are the plans for the next generation, and are these younger managers on a clearly defined executive track? Are their current jobs providing them with the necessary training and experience?
5. If “yes,” then you may stop here!
6. If “no’” then the question becomes what training and supervision do they need, and what are their reasonable expectations for their future in the company?
7. If you answered “No” to #3 above, the next question is what do we need to do financially and managerially to be prepared? What about wills, trusts, estate taxes, key person financing?
8. After you have addressed the immediate problems, then ask yourself what the ideal situation would be. Try to describe it.
9. Begin the planning process to make the dream the reality.