My Best Advice for Navigating Succession as a Family Business

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My father and I were both raised in the family flooring business, and we found mutual respect is critical to working across generations.
My father and I were both raised in the family flooring business, and we found mutual respect is critical to working across generations.

31969869 10216321005516546 7279594710564339712 NMy grandparents started our family business over 75 years ago as a lumber company before my dad, Ralph Jr., got us into hardwood flooring. I followed my dad into the business, and today we have five retail locations in Virginia. Here are some ways we have navigated succession as a successful multi-generational family business.

Knowing all aspects first 

My dad and I both started working in the business as kids, hauling wood and going where we were needed. We got promoted when someone else left and we needed to be there. I don’t think there’s any way you can run a business without knowing every aspect.

Mutual respect

To make a transition of leadership, there has to be mutual respect. If one party doesn’t truly want it, it’s not going to work. Whoever is running the business is also going to have to understand that the new one needs to make mistakes. But it’s also a different world from when the older generation started out, so they’re going to have to refresh their minds to do things differently.

Communication

Communication and respect—those are simple terms, but when you talk about a family business, there’s a lot of merit that goes behind that. My dad and I are good at communicating and asking each other what we think of different ideas. My dad, who is semi-retired, doesn’t know as much as I do about the day-to-day right now, but he still has more experience than I’ll ever have.

Acceptance

Whoever the successor may be, if they’re not the first one there and the last one there every day because they want to be, it’s probably not their cup of tea. Both of my children decided to work elsewhere, and we’re fine with that. Sometimes it’s better to just say, “Hey, that’s not what they wanted, now what?” 

Putting the family first

I think it’s got to be family-first before the business. I just hate to see families ruined over trying to work together. If there’s a way to avoid that, I would. At the end of the day, when it comes to working with family, things will work out when you truly have the betterment of all the employees in the company in mind and at heart. 

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