When a Family Member Wants Out of the Business

A few years back, I was running a breakout session at an International Family Conference. The topic we were focused on was how to navigate family transitions, while still celebrating Thanksgiving together. I find that is what most people in a family business really want: the ability to make decisions best for the business and the family and not have any “hard feelings.” The integrity of the family often trumps all things.

During this breakout there was one particular family who raised a question about what they should do about a family member who had no desire to be part of the business. They wanted to know what they could do to persuade that person to be active in the business, and shared that they intended to cut this person off completely and there would be conditions as to how the rest of the family would be able to relate with them afterwards. This person was also in the room as we discussed this.

The question I posed back to them was this… Why would you want to ostracize someone in your family simply because the family business was not something that ultimately brought them joy and fulfillment? 

Some folks get stuck on this issue as many family businesses are built with a great sense of pride and the business gets tied in with the family’s honor. Many years ago, if you were a blacksmith for instance, it was assumed that your children would follow in your footsteps. But this is not the world we live in today.

If we truly love someone, we can recognize that each person alive has their own personal destiny and it’s not our responsibility to tell that person how they should live their life, or what they are supposed to do. Ultimately it is detrimental to both the individual and the business. It is not leveraging the individuals strengths, aligning their true desires, or allowing them to live in peace and fulfillment and creates hidden or obvious resentments within the family. 

This is why I have chosen to work with family businesses and apply vision work to the process as a way to help each individual get clarity on what they want their life to look like. This allows everyone to make the right decisions for their family and their business in a way that will bring everyone happiness, and in turn create a truly successful business.

Below are several podcasts for more insight on navigating transition or succession in a family business in a peaceful and aligned way.


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