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Succession planning

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Finding the right people to take your business forward

Not a trick question: would you go into business with your daughter?

According to the BBC, the number of father-daughter businesses is growing dramatically. The inspiring story of Smruti Sriram of Supreme Creations, the UK's largest producer of natural fibre reusable shopping bags, is a case in point. This Oxford graduate had to beg the owner – who happened to be her father - to let her join the business. Initially he said no, because he wasn’t convinced business and family would make a good mix.

Thankfully he changed his mind. It was his daughter’s initiative to introduce fashion designs to the bags, a strategy that has seen sales rise dramatically. Now at 28, and having proved her worth to her father in more ways than one, she’s made Chief Executive.

Not every family business has a bright, commercially savvy family member ready to assume control of course. We at BCMS often hear from clients who are looking to sell because they don’t have a clear or obvious successor in place. In many family businesses, the second or third generation of the business have actually ‘exited’ before their mother or father, and many look to start careers elsewhere. 

It’s not just family businesses, either. Companies of all sizes and across all sectors often tell us they have talented staff in place, but feel they are ‘not ready’ to assume full responsibility. And the perceived lack of a clear successor has been a major factor behind the decision to sell.

And here’s where an acquisition – by an ambitious third party - can have a huge, galvanising effect on a business, and the individuals working in it. It is often the case that senior management have their wings unclipped by the presence of a larger ‘parent’ company, who can support, develop and reward talented staff.

I remember the story of one client, a smaller SME we sold some years back. Our client knew he had a talented senior manager, but he just didn’t have a role for her to develop into, and she wasn’t ready to take over. She decided to stay with the business post acquisition, where her talent and commitment was immediately recognised. And today? She’s been promoted to global head of development for the acquirer, across his range of international businesses. 

My point is simple: finding the right successor is about far more than the price. It is about future opportunity, and the right people to take your business and your staff forward. 

And you never know. The future might already be on your payroll.


Dave Rebbettes's picture
Posted Jul 2015
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