Inheriting a Business – Stepping into Dad’s Shoes?

Inheriting a business, more often than not, comes with its own baggage, while starting your own business allows you to set your own terms at work. The main advantage, however, is that you avoid a lot of the start up effort to get to a profitable business with existing products and customers.

Most small businesses start out as a family business and are passed on from one generation to another. How does one deal with implementing change at the workplace, especially when the ex-boss was someone dear to you?

Inheriting a business can put a great deal of pressure on a newcomer; expectations are high, the standards to be lived up to are higher. But the real challenge comes when change needs to be effected, a lot of which might not go down well with a team all too comfortable with the existing way of doing things.

Think before you leap: To most parents who own a business, children are the obvious choice for handing over the reins, irrespective of whether the offspring would like to be endowed with the responsibility or not. This is the crucial first step to succeeding in an inherited business. Do some soul searching to find out if you are interested in taking up the new responsibility. Evaluate whether the business is built on values, ideas and principles you agree with, and discuss it with those concerned. Introducing changes in the management style at work will become much simpler once you have a clear idea of what you would like to keep untouched.

The makeover: Be it a new management technique that is doing the rounds in entrepreneurial society, or a new technology that promises to improve efficiency manifold, new ideas are bound to come in with a younger generation. It is another matter, of course, to convince everyone that these changes are good for the business. Study the scene at work and prepare a list of things you would like to change. Next, consult your family members, especially the ones who founded the business. You can expect resistance, but reiterate why you think transformation is crucial for the business.


Challenges at work: Managing staff, used to a distinctively different management style, is yet another challenge. Those acquainted with the nuances of inheriting a business will tell you that first and foremost, you need to build faith and confidence among the employees. Let the staff know of your plans and address any doubts they may have. Yet, be prepared for the fact that some will never accept your capabilities. Do not waste time trying to convince everybody about your skills, any more than you need to. Unfounded skepticism will melt when the results begin to show.

Dividing the work: In a bid to outdo each other, many managers might want to take on more than their share of responsibilities. A successful leader divides the workload fairly among the employees. Do this strictly on the basis of their merit and competence. Over a period of time, they will adapt to your style and respond to your leadership. Making your people a part of the transformation you desire is the best way to win their support.

Inheriting a business could also mean that you have to deal with more family members at work. The book ” Crisp: Managing the Family Business” can help you with some management techniques.

Stepping into a parent’s shoes can be especially difficult when your sizes don’t match. Many women opine that inheriting a business becomes particularly difficult for daughters as they have to combat chauvinism over and above everything else. Remember, these are momentary difficulties and the only way to silence the critics is to put up a great show!

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