“Executive Manager,” “Director of the Custodial Arts,” “Chief Comradery Officer,” “General Associate Vice President” – Sweet titles, but what do they mean? Nothing without a job description. Unfortunately, a common family business mistake is endowing an important sounding title on someone in order to justify a paycheck that isn’t being earned.

No matter how creative a business owner gets in creating a title, it will not fool two of the most important pieces to the succession planning puzzle – the successor himself and the management team. Perhaps even more debilitating to the future of a successor is giving a high profile job to a successor who is unqualified and incapable of performing it. Is there a bigger slap in the face to a manager than being passed up for a promotion by an unqualified candidate? Without the management team’s respect and the successor’s own self-respect, Succession Success™ is a far off dream.

Both of these dilemmas can be the result of business owners doing their best to address very difficult questions:

  • How do I get my successor the experience they need without betraying key managers?
  • How do I pay my successor enough money so they can maintain a high standard of living while they learn?
  • How do I get my management team to follow my successor like they follow me?

It is safe to say that manifested job titles or irrational, undeserved promotions are NOT the answers. In the world of a family business, if the successor is a family member, the management team will almost always assume nepotism is at play and the successor is left fighting an uphill battle to earn respect. A successor may be the best and the brightest, but without the respect and support of his/her peers a successor doesn’t have much of a chance to continue operations successfully. Unless dire circumstances call for it, why rush the developmental process that will lay the foundation for a successor’s ability to lead?


 Sign up for our monthly e-newsletter to stay informed on how to overcome related succession planning issues.