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The latest studies show that about half of all businesses (publicly traded or otherwise) in the US are family owned. This means that understanding how to successfully run a family business and transition it from one generation to the other is as important to economic success in this country as it has ever been.
Many studies and books that have come out in recent years have helped collect and analyze the data. Today, it’s become clear that there families who successfully operate and transition ownership of a business from one generation to the next do so because they follow a few key principles:
Clearly define everyone’s role
The first thing that all successful family owned business dynasties do is make sure everyone’s role within the business is clearly defined. This becomes more important after a business has been handed down from the original founder to the next generation. At this point, most of the owners feel the company is “theirs” on a certain level. By making sure all family members have a clearly defined role – many of the conflicts that can arise in such situations can be staved off beforehand. Make sure that everyone knows who is in charge of what.
Always tell each other the hard truths
One of the biggest reasons family businesses fail after the transition from one owner to the next is a lack of open and honest communication. Often times, family members in such families feel obligated to pass on the business to someone they don’t really believe can handle it. On the other hand, many children have taken over a business from their parent without really wanting to because they felt obligated.
No matter what the situation – families that are able to tell one another the hard truths about the business, their abilities, and their desires are the ones that end up being successful in the long run. One of the best ways to help with this is to schedule regular meetings where any such concerns are openly discussed.
Always watch the business numbers
This can be a big one. If there is no one in the family qualified to stay on top of the financial data of the family’s business – outside help must be brought in. Finances are too important to leave to someone in the family just because you need someone to do them. Your business finances must be correct at all times or any decisions you make can be skewed.
Experience has taught the best family owned businesses to immediately hire outside financial help if they believe no one in the family is qualified to provide it.
Never promote a relative who isn’t qualified
This one may seem simple, but it trips up even the best of companies. Simply put: if someone is not qualified or competent for a job they CANNOT be expected to perform it to the level the business needs. Therefore, in order to remain profitable, a family business must avoid hiring incompetent employees simply because they are in the family and must also ensure every job each family member has is something they are qualified to have at any other company.
Never overpay anyone in the family
Though families tend to want to take care of their own, overpaying family members can be extremely short sighted. Therefore, in order to best protect your family business always pay members a fair amount based upon the market average for the position they perform in their industry.
If you pay one child too much, when a second child wants a job, you may not be able to support two-such inflated salaries. Additionally, if finances of the business changes and you find you can no longer support an inflated salary, reducing the pay of a family member can lead to hurt feelings and other issues that affect the longevity of the family business.
Don’t assume a transition will “just happen”
No transition from one owner to another in a family business can “just happen” and be successful. It must be planned carefully. As soon as you know you want to be transition ownership one day, begin to make plans. Sit down with your business attorney and other essential advisors and map out a road to a successful transition. Even if your retirement is over 10 years away, it’s not too soon to start. The sooner you begin training your replacement, the more experience, insight, and wisdom they will have upon taking over when you retire.
Still have questions?
Please call us for a free appointment with Miami business attorney Yoel Molina in our Miami office at 305-548-5020
Yoel “Mo” Molina and I am a lifelong resident of Miami, Fl. I am a graduate of Miami Senior High, Class of 1992, Georgia Institute of Technology, B.S. 1997 and University of Maine School of Law, J.D. 2001. I have been practicing law in Miami Since 2001. I am a former training prosecutor in the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office. I have experience in jury trials, appeals, and administrative hearings. I have appeared before judges across the State. My experience ranges from civil litigation matters, collection matters, foreclosure, business and corporate, contracts, real estate, leases and employment matters..
"Mr. Molina has always been there for us with timely, reliable and competent advice. He is an important and valuable part of our team." Corporate Client Eric Delgado, President of American International Export, Inc., a worldwide importer and exporter of brand name appliance parts.
"Yoel has been responsive and attentive to our company’s best interests and needs. He has been a valuable resource to our company. Any company that enlists his services would be in good hands-- including our own clients.” Corporate Client Gibran Flynn - Co-Owner and Founder of Eleva Solutions, Inc., the South Florida leader of outsourced HR, Staffing, Training, and Loss Prevention.
"My name is Anastasia Yecke Gude and I am the owner of Healing Hands Therapeutic Massage LLC. In the process of my company’s growth and expansion, I suddenly found myself a few weeks ago in need of a 1099 contractor agreement, and I needed it ASAP. As in, the very next day! I contacted the Law Office of Yoel Molina and his assistant put me in touch with Mo. I sent him what I had drafted up and he replied within a few hours with suggested revisions and clarifications, as well as a few insights I had not even considered. I was thoroughly impressed by the quality of work he provided, especially considering the time crunch I put him in (sorry, Mo!). I definitely recommend his services to anyone in need of a good contract attorney, and I will be calling him again for future work…hopefully in less of a rush next time!"