How do I en­sure a healthy fam­ily busi­ness suc­ces­sion

Irish Independent - Business Week - - BUSINESSWEEK -

Q AI AM 62 and run a suc­cess­ful busi­ness. There are sev­eral mem­bers in the fam­ily, some of whom are in­volved in the busi­ness and oth­ers not. How do I raise the sub­ject of suc­ces­sion and in­her­i­tance? THIS is a sub­ject and close to my own heart and pretty much a replica of what we had to go through. In my case the most im­por­tant start­ing point was to have the con­ver­sa­tion. Get the whole fam­ily around the ta­ble and openly dis­cuss ev­ery sin­gle as­pect.

There were all sorts of prac­ti­cal ques­tions like who wanted to be in­volved in the busi­ness go­ing for­ward? Who would in­herit what parts of the busi­ness? Should one of the fam­ily run the busi­ness on be­half of the oth­ers? All of th­ese needed to be care­fully dis­cussed and each per­son’s views taken on board.

We ac­tu­ally pro­duced a doc­u­ment which would guide ev­ery­one in the fu­ture. The pur­pose of this was to en­sure that ev­ery­body’s views were taken into ac­count and we were able to cre­ate what we called the ‘Quinn fam­ily con­sti­tu­tion’.

This was an 8,000-word doc­u­ment which re­ally took out any am­bi­gu­ity as to what would hap­pen in the fu­ture. I have seen in so many fam­ily com­pa­nies huge rows de­vel­op­ing af­ter the founder moves out of the busi­ness. In our case, all of th­ese con­ver­sa­tions were able to be had in an am­i­ca­ble fash­ion and re­spect­ing ev­ery­body’s view­point. We also took the de­ci­sion to use a third-party suc­ces­sion expert. He was in­valu­able and most im­por­tantly was not emo­tion­ally at­tached to the fam­ily or the com­pany. He also brought in valu­able ex­pe­ri­ence from work­ing with oth­ers and lots of so­lu­tions we would never have thought of our­selves.

My key mes­sage is to start hav­ing this con­ver­sa­tion with your fam­ily. If you leave it too late and it will be­come ex­traor­di­nar­ily dif­fi­cult and could cre­ate un­nec­es­sary prob­lems in the fu­ture.

Q AUNTIL re­cently I ran two sep­a­rate busi­nesses. One con­tin­ues to be re­ally suc­cess­ful, the other failed and I was forced to close it. I am re­ally ques­tion­ing my abil­ity af­ter this. Any ad­vice you can give me? UN­LESS you are try­ing new things, you will never ex­pe­ri­ence fail­ure. To fail at some­thing is not to be a fail­ure per­son­ally and you are con­fus­ing busi­ness and your­self.

Quite clearly you are a suc­cess­ful busi­ness en­tre­pre­neur and have a thriv­ing busi­ness. I learnt this les­son many years ago. We had seen a trend in Amer­ica where some of the su­per­mar­ket groups had their own su­per­mar­ket-based bank.

Th­ese banks were very suc­cess­ful as cus­tomers found it re­ally con­ve­nient to do their bank­ing while shop­ping in the su­per­mar­ket.

In 1999, Su­perquinn in part­ner­ship with one of the banks opened TUSA, the first su­per­mar­ket in­store bank­ing ser­vice in Europe. Very quickly de­spite hav­ing all of the staff and in­fra­struc­ture in place, we found we were do­ing lit­tle or no busi­ness. Ini­tially we couldn’t un­der­stand the dif­fer­ence be­tween the Amer­i­can model and our in­abil­ity to make it suc­cess­ful

The an­swer was in Amer­ica, you could ap­ply for a loan as you en­tered the su­per­mar­ket and have it ap­proved by the time you got to the check­outs. Due to strict Ir­ish laws against money laun­der­ing, we had so much pa­per­work to do, that it negated the con­ve­nience of hav­ing the bank. Even­tu­ally we had to pull the plug af­ter in­cur­ring heavy losses. While the con­cept failed, it didn’t mean that the team were not great busi­ness en­trepreneurs – they all con­tin­ued to run Su­perquinn suc­cess­fully.

In the same way, you need to sep­a­rate your own per­sonal skillsets from the un­for­tu­nate clo­sure of one side of your busi­ness. I would com­pli­ment you on try­ing new things. Don’t be over­crit­i­cal of your­self. You are a suc­cess­ful en­tre­pre­neur – don’t for­get that. Send your small busi­ness ques­tions to him­self@ fear­galquinn.ie

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