As a family business succession planner I am intrigued with the ten interdependent factors of the Succession Matrix℠: Owner Motivation and Perspective; Successor Identification and Development; Key Manager Motivation and Retention; Strategic Planning; Business Structuring; Management Synergy and Teamwork; Business Performance; Financial Planning; Family Harmony and Family Governance. According to the International Succession Planning Association® (ISPA®), each of these factors independently and interdependently impacts the successful continuation of a closely held family business through the next generation of owners and managers. Each of these factors can be an asset or a liability to the achievement of business succession planning goals.

Of late, I am most curious about the two factors relating to the family, Family Harmony and Family Governance. As I move around the US and a few countries serving clients and visiting prospects, I seem to find myself in an entitlement zone. It is sort of like what happens with the weather; for apparently no verifiable reason patterns evolve generating predominately wet, dry, hot or cold weather. For reasons beyond my understanding, the succession planning pattern I have been experiencing recently has showcased a significant number of “brats” and “bratesses”. For those of you who are unfamiliar with my lingo, “bratess” is a Rawlsism describing the feminine gender of a nonsensical, commonly embarrassing and typically deplorable entitlement minded family member employee [FME] who has been unofficially recognized by key employees, managers, vendors and advisors as a buffoon. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this term, the definition of a buffoon includes “a jackass who lacks the presence of mind to recognize that they are a jackass”. Fundamentally, these presumed heir-do-wells are profoundly impressed with themselves, disrespectful of others and notably, they don’t have a clue as to what it takes to operate a successful family business.  As I watch these aspiring successors bumble their way through the business, I am forever amazed with the damage they can do to a precious family business culture. They serve as role models for undesirable behaviors. They frustrate key employees. They infuriate managers. They discourage vendors and advisors. Single handedly, an entitlement minded family member can put the entire business under stress. As I witness this disturbing course of events, I am in constant wonderment as to how this can happen. Considering how these family business buffoons usually follow a humble, hard working, unassuming founder, I question what it is that blinds a business owner to the obvious and allows his/her child or in-law to become so out of touch with reality. How do they become on one hand a joke and on the other hand a terrorist seemingly committed to undermining my mission to facilitate business succession? 

I will try to answer these questions next week in my post, Entitled Family Member Employees – Who is to Blame?, as I examine the cause and possible cure for entitlement.

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