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Succession plans only work when the successor is completely immersed

Wednesday, April 3, 2019 - 06:00
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The industry has to get through succession sooner than later; however, the older generation is having a very difficult time with this issue. For the businesses that are fortunate to have sons or daughters (or both) who 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 the son or daughter 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 there with your daily approach to 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, in order 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 5 to 10 years in which 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 don’t believe that any parent wants their children to take over a business they didn’t have a true passion for. That would just create future stress and misery.

The problems I have personally witnessed are when the dad will not 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 by imploring, “We have done pretty well up until now — why change, and who says that stuff is right for our business?”

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If succession is going to move forward successfully, Dad has to start listening, understanding and respecting their opinions, as well as stop cherry picking what information the son or daughter 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 courses on business management that they can find and 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 per year moving forward to ensure the business depth is fully understood today in this forever-changing auto care 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 son or daughter 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. 

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