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  • Succession Planning — Training the Heirs

    Floral Finance®

    It's one thing to want to turn your business over to your children. It's quite another to make sure they are up to the task.

    It Starts at Home

    Much of the preparation for succession will happen outside the shop. In fact, it should start years before your children know they are interested in taking over the business.

    Attitudes and habits are formed through everyday experiences. A young person doesn't turn 20 and suddenly develop managerial qualities.

    A lot of information about the business and how to run it can be communicated at the dinner table. You simply talk about issues concerning the shop.

    Slowly but surely, your children will be exposed to the many concerns of a good manager, including inventory, buying, care and handling, cost control and profitability.

    They will also learn about people. Hiring, firing, training and motivation. They will pick up on what you consider important in a good employee.

    A solid work ethic is another part of home education. Your children should have ever-increasing responsibilities with appropriate discipline and rewards. That will help them when they finally get involved in the shop.

    Of course, all the training in the world won't help if your children don't want to take over the business.

    If you constantly grumble about the pains of ownership and management, no child in his right mind will ever want to endure the same misery. You've got to speak positively about the shop.

    You won't be able to fake it. Positive talk must come from a real enjoyment of the challenge and work of owning a business. When the enthusiasm is real, it is contagious.

    Finally, encourage your children to take on leadership roles in Scouts, sports, school and church. The more they practice their leadership skills, the more comfortable they will be with that role.

    Business Training

    While your children are still in school, you can give them practical training through employment in the shop. The advantages are many. It will begin the formal training process, give them an income and provide a source of labor for the business.

    Give them as much experience as possible. Move them around from job to job, but start at the bottom. Everyone should have an opportunity to clean the restroom. It builds character!

    In the process, your children will also be learning all facets of the business. At the same time, they will build respect among your employees.

    Employees resent nothing more than an owner's child taking over with no experience. The reverse is also true. Your children will build respect and goodwill as employees see them doing solid work.

    When it's time for you to hand over management responsibilities, key relationships will already be in place. Your employee's expectations will be fulfilled, not altered.

    Outside Experience

    In addition to formal education in business or floriculture, it's usually a good idea to encourage your children to get work experience outside the family business.

    Rules that might seem onerous coming from a parent will seem natural in a different context. The need to become personally independent doesn't get mixed up with the requirements of the job.

    When your children return to the family business, much of their training will have taken place. You'll probably be amazed at the level of maturity they have developed.

    Training Attitudes

    As you turn over more business responsibility to your children, there are several things you can do to increase learning and decrease conflict.

    Don't step in to fix problems in your children's area of responsibility. If they aren't handling something well, talk to them privately about it. Then, step back and let them do what they think is right.

    Hold regular meetings. Use those times to plan long-term strategies as well as day-to-day tactical decisions.

    When a problem arises, respond only to that issue. Don't expand the problem by bringing up past "sins."

    Finally, keep in mind that most teachers are remembered more for the success of their students than for their own contributions. You're doing this because you want your children to succeed.

    With the transition done properly, the business should be better than it ever was under your management. That kind of successful succession should bring pride, not resentment.


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