– Invictus William Ernest Henley

As the next generation in a very wealthy family, there may come a time when life drops a bombshell and through the unexpected death of a parent who also happens to be the business leader, inspirer and driver of the family business – you find yourself picking up the pieces. There is no succession plan. You just have to step in. 

There are hundreds, if not thousands of employees you’re responsible for,  long standing customers around the world and ambitious opportunistic senior managers; let alone competitors eagerly waiting to pick off your best talent. Business….. it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there.

Are you ready?
Have you the experience?
Do you want to change your life and get involved?
Where do you turn for independent and honest counsel?
Who can you trust?
Who is going to show you the ropes and guide you?
Is this too big for you to handle?
What’s at stake here?

There are so many questions all spinning inside your head at once.

I believe that if you have the passion, intention, purpose, mental strength and energy, then you certainly can. But at the top of the list is ‘courage’. You don’t need to know the ins and outs of everything, but you do need to immerse yourself and learn pretty quickly about the business or businesses, products, services, the market and the competition. It takes courage to jump in and do the right thing for you, your family, your people and all of your stakeholders. 

Here are some of my top tips for not just surviving, but for thriving. Firstly and most importantly, spend time on yourself to discover your own purpose in life, the legacy you want to leave and the difference you want to make in the world.  Make it your intention to follow your dreams. If this includes taking over the business then and only then: 

  • Work out who in the business (s) you can trust using your head, heart and gut. 
  • Commission an independent 360 degree perception study on all of the group of businesses based on truth and evidence. The depth of questions and recommendations will table a lot for discussions.
  • Gather a team around you who are skilled, experienced, proven, loyal, successful, wise and trustworthy. You will soon discover your champions, sideliners and terrorists around the Board table.
  • Create a roadmap and strategy for moving forward. This will include short, mid and long term achievable and aspirational goals.
  • Take a road trip and visit your people in your offices and factories; your suppliers, customers and consumers everywhere. There is nothing like seeing it for yourself and having an informal chat.
  • Appoint a personal assistant who can get and keep you organised, look after your diary and be an enabler so you can integrate family and business life. She will also create you time and space.
  • Remember, there is no hurry. The business is performing under the current management. Get your ducks in a row first.
  • Organise workshops with family and the Executive Board to revisit values and vision. An alignment in both camps is essential going forward. Living your values and articulating your vision is the route to success.
  • Visualise your place in the organisation, your gifts and strengths. What can you bring to the party?
  • Explore your options. Do you want to remain the steward of the business for future generations? Do you want to sell now or later? Plan now.

These are just the starting blocks. The journey will be a roller coaster of emotions and a test of your mental strength and agility to see things from a new perspective. As the saying goes ‘If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got’. You are not your parents. William Ernest Henley wrote Invictus having gone through many traumas in his life before he was 19. What it means to me is – I am responsible for my actions – I am responsible for my choices I make in my life. I cannot blame my parents, family or others. I am responsible.

If you are at the point of deciding whether or not to take the new found responsibility of leading your family’s business or group of businesses and really don’t know where to begin… Please get in touch. We can guide you.

Anita Brightley-Hodges
Founder, Saphora Private