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Family communication during succession planning refers to the inclusion of one's adult children during the planning process rather than the senior generation making decisions without the input of the next generation. Having discussions with one's adult children increases the likelihood that the senior generation will understand the next generation's ambitions and concerns, and allows the next generation to plan accordingly based on the succession planning decisions. These discussions can be difficult and stressful -- but following a regular structure can help the discussions to be more productive.

Rationale for including family communication during the succession planning process

When the senior generation can hear the goals, aspirations and concerns of each member of the family, they can better plan for a future which fits with both personal goals and business goals. Even though the senior generation may have greater knowledge and perspectives regarding the business, they would not necessarily understand the perspectives of the next generation.

Challenges in discussing succession issues with family members

Talking with one's adult children about decisions which affect their careers and financial well-being is uncomfortable for most people – let alone the discomfort of talking about your own death.

Methods for having family communication during the succession planning process

Regularly scheduled family meetings -- which are often held 2-3 times per year -- can provide a forum for these discussions. These meetings can also be a time to discuss the current status and future of the business.

An outside consultant may be used to facilitate the discussion and planning process to assure a non-threatening environment for discussion. This also allows family members to not juggle the tasks of meeting management, and leaves the process of achieving consensus and broaching difficult discussions to someone who is neutral and skilled. It is beneficial to hire someone who all family members agree is an honest broker, with good chemistry, and is not seen as an agent of elders or majority owners, or married to one particular perspective of how family businesses should operate.

Categories: Planning for succession > Creating and maintaining a plan for succession