We live in a somewhat traditional world where Dad runs the business and mom runs the house (there are so many other configurations of this arrangement but it was easy to stick with tradition for the purpose of this article). But so often is the case, Mom is much more involved in the business than most will believe.
Mom was the one running the house often on a shoestring budget during the business start-up. Mom was the one usually trying to figure out which bills could be paid that month both at home and often in the business. Mom was usually the one taking the kids to their activities, parent teacher interviews, and representing the family at most non-business events.
This is, of course, is a generalization of Mom’s role in the family business. Or is it? Experience dictates that Mom played and still plays a far more integral role in the family business than most might think. Mom is Dad’s confidant, sounding board, soother after bad days, and tough on Dad when necessary. She also plays another very important role when the kids join the business. She is the mediator and the always on duty conflict resolution co-ordinator. She is the keeper of the peace for the family and the family in the business.
Mom’s Role in Succession
When succession talks begin, Mom needs to be there. As it is a “business” decision, Dad often keeps this function to himself inadvertently (or deliberately) excluding Mom. Dad feels this role involves the business and it is primarily a financial decision to be made with his trusted advisors and thus moves forward with little or no input from the “partner” who is responsible for not only the business success, but the successes in the business involving her family.
Mom needs to be there as a transition of a business she has nurtured for many years, directly affects her and her family. There may be relatives other than her children in the business, her children could be both inside and outside the company, a social life that may revolve around the business, and the list can go on. Mom’s voice needs to be heard because she has always been and will always be the matriarch of the family and thus needs to be involved in the process of transferring the entity. She is probably a shareholder (a voting one) and that is another reason why having Mom as part of the process from the beginning is so valuable. Bringing Mom the “final plan” after its complete does not always work since there may be changes or concerns that she has, which must be addressed for her to be confident in supporting the transition. She has earned the right to be heard and have her concerns addressed.
As this succession process begins, Mom’s role often comes into play as an intermediary who can often better communicate to Dad than the child can. Perhaps issues that come up at the office can’t be discussed there and as such, those discussions end up occurring around the family dining room. As you can imagine, those discussions are much more open and fruitful if Mom knows what is going on. Can you imagine trying to clarify something regarding succession outside the office if Mom isn’t aware of the proceedings but you are sitting in her house? This more open form of discussion allows Mom to nurturing, caring and often the tie breaking voice of reason. Bring her in early, bring her in often, keep her in the information loop, and seek her advice. It is her family too!