Ask Amy: I’m underutilized and see no succession plan

Dear Amy,

Last week I read your response to Vicky about her struggle to figure out her role. I feel a lot like Vicky, though my situation is very different from hers.

Here’s my challenge. My dad and his two sisters have created a very successful global business in the financial services industry. They hired a non-family executive about 15 years ago, and they are very dependent on him and trust him to run the business.

My two cousins and I all have professional degrees and we each decided to work in the business after years of experience working in other places. I am an attorney, one cousin is a CPA, and the other has an MBA. We are ALL dealing with role issues!

We all feel underutilized, bored, frustrated, and shut out of major business decisions.

Our parents are in their 60’s, and we don’t see any plan for succession. Also, the non-family executive holds very tightly to the reins. So it’s very hard for my cousins and me to feel like we are adding any value. You are probably thinking that it’s because we’re all women… but my two cousins are men and they feel just like I do!


Amy KatzDear Lindsay,

You and your cousins are the next generation-and in many families, the transition to the next generation can be challenging.  As you describe it, you and your cousins are well-educated, experienced, and likely very capable of taking on further responsibilities.  

Perhaps this is a situation where you and your cousins can ask to talk together with your dad and your aunts about your shared interest in becoming a valuable and productive team that can sustain the success and legacy of the business. Present yourselves as a team. If you can, lay out the roles each of you would like to take on in the future, and the kinds of projects and experiences that you would like to take on right now. So many people don’t realize that succession planning is not a decision-it’s a process. That may not be something your dad and your aunts fully understand. After all, they probably never experienced it themselves….and/or they may have avoided thinking about it (many founders do).

To repeat: present yourselves as team. Your dad and your aunts have obviously been a great team-emphasize that, and tell them that you want to learn how they managed to build the business together.  

I think it’s important for you and your cousins to be positive and persuasive-clear about your collective credentials, your commitment, etc., and also about your concern that without a thoughtful succession plan the business could be at risk.  Remember to convey respect for the senior leader. There needs to be a plan for his transition as well, whether or not you decide to hire someone for his position.

Thanks for writing. Figuring out your role is SO important-for you and for your business.


P.S. – You’re right …I DID think you and your cousins were all women! The term most people are using now is “nextgen”…a recognition that both sons AND daughters are becoming leaders in the family’s business.

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