Like any business, family businesses should engage in succession planning, particularly given the natural life cycles of engaged family members. But what happens when an obvious family business successor suddenly meets the life-partner of their dreams at a foreign bar or beach? Or heads off to the third world to change society for the better? Similarly, an “heir apparent” may switch from Commerce to Humanities in their final year of university, or otherwise lack the skills demanded by the family business. Sometimes life gets in the way of business, but for a variety of reasons, the family outsider shouldn’t be left out in the cold.
For individuals who remain interested in the business but don’t (yet) have the aptitude of the previous generation, the objective should be to keep them engaged while preserving a healthy family dynamic and structure(s). This can be accomplished by “employing” these potential successors, part-time, on a Board of Directors, Family Advisory Council or Business Advisory Board. Family members involved in this way sustain and support the family values of the business while gaining valuable outside experiences.
Making room for a key ‘outsider’ family member balances the more immediate, personal needs of a potential successor with the longer term requirements of the family enterprise. By staying ‘in the loop’ on the big picture discussions of the business, these important family members will maintain a level of engagement that preserves family harmony while providing some broader governance. You’re also giving these individuals the time to improve their skills, fostering the development of a unique perspective and potentially a more worldly executive.
All characteristics they’ll need should these family outsiders ultimately choose to join the family business.