While Dad recognizes that it’s almost time to pass the torch, he must ensure that Junior’s ready to take over the reins.

Bob Greenwood

The industry must get through succession sooner than later, however the older generation is having an exceedingly difficult time with this issue. For business owners that are fortunate to have offspring that are interested in taking over the business, we hear comments from parents that their “child” or “children” are not ready for this business yet as they are only 21 or 23 years old. Based on that statement it is clear how parents and especially fathers are not engaging or involving their children properly.

First, the parent must acknowledge that the 21 or 23-year-old is a young adult, not a child……unless you, the parent, have always kept them at that level with your interactions with them. If you as a parent have done that then the question of “why are you doing that?” must be honestly answered. Are your own insecurities today getting in the way of the future?

Second, for a successful succession to take place an “apprenticeship training period” must take place.  This means that the young adult is fully exposed to all issues within the business and industry from all points of view. A good apprenticeship can take place for up to five-to-10 years where the son or daughter become the “right-hand person” with their opinions and views fully expressed at closed door meetings. We all mature at different rates so the right time frame must be monitored. Now they are making an informed decision as to whether they want this business to be their career. I do not believe that parents want their children to take over a business they don’t have a true passion for. That would just create future stress and misery.

The problems I have witnessed occur when Dad won’t let go.  He takes the attitude that Dad is always right, however the son or daughter desire to go down a more modern road by introducing better business processes and/or newer business technologies to streamline the systems and operate more efficiently and professionally. Dad is having a tough time grasping the new ways, so he rationalizes “we have done pretty well up until now, why change and who says that stuff is right for our business?”

If succession is going to move forward successfully, Dad must start listening, understanding, and respecting their opinions, as well as stop “cherry picking” what information their child sees or is involved with.  They must be properly exposed to all issues within the shop and be part of all discussions leading to solutions. Their opinions must be supported, respected and in the end, they too must be held accountable.  Accountability will teach the next generation where mistakes are/have been made and where successes are realized to embrace.

They must attend as many business management courses as possible and even if travel is involved, make sure the investment is made.  Ensure the content within the course is truly relevant and get a written money-back guarantee on the course to ensure no one is wasting their time. They will require a minimum of six-to-eight days of business management courses a year moving forward to ensure the business depth is fully understood in this ever changing autocare industry. 

The next generation should be attending some key technical classes with the shop’s technicians to also get an overview on vehicle technology and build positive, respectful relationships with the staff.

The next generation must be exposed to all industry association meetings and events to interact, network, connect and understand the industry which helps them to understand their own business.  

Now that being said, here are some real issues.  

First, Dad must acknowledge that all this is an important step to take and the investments must be made.  

Second, Dad you must attend with them so you can experience and discuss what all of you have been exposed to and what you have learned from the event or the course.  It is through unbiased discussion that courses of action can be drawn out and confidence can be built. Accept that mistakes will be made, and Dad, is that now how you learned too? The experiences for the son and daughter are invaluable.

There are also times when the parents do not have the skill or confidence to proceed down this succession road with their sons or daughters and that is the time when it must be recognised that additional help be brought in to facilitate the discussion and keep the process moving forward.  That is a positive decision and should be embraced.  Take the time and seek out the right individual that you would be comfortable with and engage in the succession discussion.  If after the discussion period you are comfortable, then it is time to introduce that professional coach to the next generation so everyone can start the process.

Time is growing short for a proper succession period to take place. Everyone in the current generation must make this step a priority and get things written out and a plan put together keeping in mind what a good apprenticeship period will have to be to ensure absolute success for both sides of the family.

Remember, words are what people hear with their ears; behaviour is what they hear with their eyes. 

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