Family-Owned Businesses

How to Fire Dad

For many family businesses, there comes a time when the older generation should bow out. But what do you do when they simply refuse to hand over power?

The time has come for the next generation to take the reins of the family business.

How to Fire Dad

Everyone is on board with the transition . . . except for Dad.

Is it possible to gently nudge Dad out of the top spot and keep your relationship intact?

The short answer is "yes", it is possible to fire Dad in a way that will still leave you on speaking terms when everything is said and done. However, it's going to take no small amount of finesse and organization on your part. Here's how to get the ball rolling . . .

Drop subtle hints.

The best way to start the process is to drop subtle hints that you are ready to assume a leadership role. Who knows? The right hint might launch a heart to heart discussion about how and when the transition will occur.

But even if Dad doesn't immediately react to your hints, there's a good chance he will get the message that change is looming on the horizon.

Initiate a strategic planning process.

Strategic planning is a good idea for a lot of reason. But the strategic planning process also presents the perfect opportunity for a frank discussion of leadership goals and the roles each person will play in the organization's future. It may be helpful to recruit an outsider to moderate the strategic planning process, especially when the discussion turns toward leadership issues.

Demonstrate your competency.

The most effective argument that the time is right for you to take the lead is to demonstrate your leadership ability to Dad and other key employees. If you know you aren't ready to lead the organization, guess what . . . everyone else knows it, too.

There is no way Dad is going to hand over the reins until he believes you are qualified to carry on his legacy of success. If the problem is that Dad hasn't given you the opportunity to demonstrate your competency, take the initiative and request additional responsibilities before you make the case for his retirement.

Recruit family support.

Never try to orchestrate a coup in the family business by recruiting the support of non-family members. At a minimum, your efforts will be interpreted as an act of disloyalty and will invite the scorn of your entire family. However, in some cases it may be possible to invite family members to help broach the topic of your father's future plans. These are the kinds of things families talk about and Sunday dinner might be an ideal place to do it.

Suggest a transition plan.

If all else fails, you might need to come right out and tell Dad that it's time to retire. But don't go into the conversation without a plan. Your father's primary concern will likely be the welfare of the business. A well-defined transition plan may give him the reassurance he needs to step aside and make way for the next generation.

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