As a business begins to pass to the next generation three common themes tend to develop:
- “too many” children in the next generation (also known as a great talent pool!)
- a divergence in objectives from those of the founder – eg “this company will never have debt”
- new skills required as the business grows
A written agreement or family constitution may help to address these issues. Before that is drafted, here are an initial ten questions for the family to consider:
- What are the main reasons to continue, rather than sell?
- What education, skills and outside business experience should a family member have before becoming a director of the company, shareholder or trustee of a family trust?
- Do family members not working in the business rely on dividends or seek external employment?
- What future family conflicts may arise?
- Should the business always be wholly owned and run by the family or will it benefit from external hires?
- What core business and family values need to be maintained?
- What should happen if a family member wants to sell their shares?
- What criteria should be in place to remove a family member as director or shareholder?
- At what age should family members retire as a director of the company or trustee of the family trust?
- Will dividends and pension be enough to support the lifestyle of the retiring members?