Owners underestimate the effort needed to prepare a company for ownership succession
Family business owners who are thinking about selling their companies and want to tilt the process to their advantage should start planning immediately.
“One reason our family business had a successful succession was because we started the process early,” says Laura McNally, part of the third generation at McNally International Inc., a leading Canadian tunneling and marine contractor.
Ms. McNally says her father and uncle decided to bring in an outside adviser and embrace the creation of a family forum to plan for succession. One of the tools introduced was a “three circle” decision-making model that directed three questions: Is this a decision for the family? Is it for the shareholder? Or is it a challenge for management? Each circle involved different stakeholders, which added complexity to the process, but it worked.
Even though the third-generation family employees were not shareholders, it was decided that it would be sensible to include them in ownership transition discussions because they held important positions in the company. As Ms. McNally’s father and uncle started to step back from day-to-day operations, they needed a plan to do it in an orderly way. Ms. McNally played a key role as change agent working closely with other senior managers.