Leading with Resilience, Winning Against Tough Competitors, and Overcoming Adversity


With over 50 years of family business succession planning experience, we fully understand the challenges of balancing the family or the business when dealing with family members in your company. However, regardless of your approach to grooming your child as a successor owner, the ultimate goal is to ensure they are equipped to take over the business.

So, the crucial question is, “Is your successor truly prepared?”

If the answer is NO, it’s crucial to identify what steps must be taken.

Family Business Balance

First, let’s address one of the significant hurdles parents face in the family business succession planning process. As a father or mother and a business owner, you wear two hats – that of a parent and a business leader. Unfortunately, we often encounter business owners with the best intentions but struggle with being too lenient or strict with their families. It’s essential to remember that while you can provide your child with a job, a title, and even a paycheck, earning respect is something they must achieve on their own.

During a recent encounter with two brothers who had their own children (daughter & son) working in their respective businesses, it became clear that both brothers felt the need to advocate for their children to secure their future within the company. Understanding their paternal instincts, I gently reminded them that their children were no longer “kids” but grown adults who didn’t require constant protection. Ironically, their well-intentioned actions were jeopardizing the success of the business. By shielding their children from complex challenges and experiences that had shaped their paths to success, they were hindering their daughters and son’s growth and development. Each potential successor must earn their position by showcasing their work ethic, team spirit, leadership abilities, and overall performance. Only then can they gain the respect and support of the management team, ultimately positioning themselves as leaders of the company.

Failing to follow this approach will inevitably lead to the departure of talented managers once the fathers have left, putting any succession planning effort at risk. After all, these skilled individuals won’t be inclined to work under the leadership of someone who hasn’t earned their position solely based on merit.

Preparing Your Family for Success

No one intentionally sets up their child for failure! However, some dealers may inadvertently do so by neglecting to encourage their children to undertake the necessary steps for leadership. It all begins with preparation – in today’s world, education has become more crucial than ever before. The skills and mindset developed through pursuing a college education are far more valuable than any individual class they may take. Additionally, grasping the essence of being an employee often requires working for someone other than oneself. We strongly advocate for your child to gain a minimum of 1-2 years of experience with another company, enabling them to succeed independently and cultivate confidence that is harder to attain when working within your own company. While this advice may seem reasonable to many, we consistently find ourselves challenging business owners not to take shortcuts, especially when their child resists by saying, “You didn’t work elsewhere,” or “You didn’t complete college,” or “I can’t leave my family to attend training classes.”

Successor Development Curriculum

When a successor candidate joins your organization, they must have a well-defined plan to guide their journey towards becoming a potential successor. This plan should include a comprehensive curriculum that familiarizes them with all departments within your business, allowing them to gain firsthand experience of employees’ challenges. To ensure a successful transition, this curriculum should outline specific learning objectives the successor candidate must master before progressing from one department to another. Clear time frames should also be provided, helping them understand the required commitment and effort needed to achieve their goal of becoming your successor.

Ultimately, this curriculum aims to enable the successor candidate to demonstrate the necessary knowledge and leadership abilities to seamlessly step into your role when the time comes. It is essential to avoid shortcuts, as granting privileges to family members without proper preparation can hinder their overall growth and development.

This curriculum is designed to help your successor candidate explore and identify their natural aptitudes relevant to the business. By being exposed to various departments and working alongside individuals who complement their skill sets, they will be well-equipped to lead and inspire others in the future.

Business can be compared to a combat sport where success requires facing formidable and well-funded competitors who won’t handle your child with care. Your successor must learn to navigate challenges and inspire others to follow during tough times, even when the odds seem overwhelming. As the dealer and parent, you must remain steadfast when your child resists doing the hard work necessary for success. Your choices will determine if your successor is prepared for the present moment.

We Help You Solve Successor Preparation Issues:

Are you struggling with the complexities of family-business succession planning? Do you find yourself torn between wearing the hats of a parent and a business leader, unsure of how to groom your child for success in taking over the business? We understand the challenges you face in balancing familial obligations with the needs of your dealership.

At Rawls Succession Planners, we specialize in assisting family business owners like yourself in navigating the delicate balance of preparing successors while ensuring the continued success of your dealership. With our extensive experience in family business dynamics, we can provide tailored solutions to help you overcome obstacles and set your successor on the path to leadership.

Contact us today to discover how we can help you develop a comprehensive successor development curriculum, address familial challenges, and prepare your child for the responsibilities of dealership ownership. Let’s work together to ensure a seamless transition and long-term success for your family business.

At the very least, in 30 minutes, you may get some ideas to apply to your business immediately.

The article was originally published in Digital Dealer magazine: Will Your Successor Be Ready?

Successor Preparation

NextGen leaders can feel like they are stuck between and rock and a hard spot.  Working to fulfill expectations of leadership as well as making their mark on the organization to earn respect.  Click the following links for more drill-down resources on Successor Preparation.

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We can provide insights and other resources and assess whether it makes sense to work together. In just 30 minutes, you may gain actionable ideas that you can immediately apply to your business. Contact us via phone or email below, or fill out the “Ask An Expert” form.