Industry: Automotive 

Location: Northeast United States

Company Overview: Family-Owned Group of Auto Dealerships 

Succession Matrix® Issues: Family Dynamics, Management Synergy & Teamwork

Challenge: First generation car dealer looking to pass the business on to the second generation, yet no clear successor. Environment for children full of sibling competition fueled by dad as well as fear of the impression their father has created of them with the other managers and employees. The active son in the business was at odds with the CFO who he felt was his biggest threat for becoming the successor. The daughter was a stay-at-home mom who wasn’t sure where she would fit in if she did decide to come into the car business. The younger son was unhappy and floundering without a clearly defined role (but still taking home a paycheck).

Actions Taken: 

  • Established covenants between oldest son and CFO as well as between him and his father.
  • Worked with COO to develop projects for the daughter to work on while maintaining a flexible schedule without a full-time commitment. This allowed her to explore the different areas of the car business and provided the opportunity for her to see if she had a passion for the industry.
  • Youngest son was offered a management position in a struggling dealership to see if he sank or swam. 


  • Oldest son’s relationships with his father and the CFO have improved with there now being more communication and a higher level of trust. 
  • Second generation has a greater understanding that the employees’ viewed them as having entitled attitudes prompting the children to work harder to earn respect.
  • Now that all three children are confident in their own personal direction with the company, a succession plan that involves a sibling partnership is able to be developed. 


Interview with the Succession Planner

1. What were the family dynamics when you starting working with this client?

The father viewed the family business from the business side, while the children saw things more from the family side. Due to age differences, the siblings did not have very close relationships with each other. The oldest son was the first of the 2nd generation to go to work for the business and the difficulties he had with his dad made the other two children hesitant about how much they wanted to be involved in the business. 

2. What is now being done to help the siblings come together?

We are helping the siblings communicate openly and effectively about future plans and addressing the questions that come along with a sibling partnership such as: “How will we do this when Dad is no longer around?” and “How do we build our relationships so that running this company as a sibling partnership strengthens us rather than breaks us apart?”. 

3. Where does the family stand now in relation to family dynamics?

Family harmony has substantially improved. I’d say on a scale from 0 to 100, we started at 0 and are now at 35. There’s still a long way to go, but decades of family dynamics don’t change overnight and the family is consistently making progress in the right direction. 

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