Ask Amy: What can I do when Dad won’t let go?

Thanks to those of you who completed the brief survey I sent out last week. If you haven’t had a chance yet, please take the time soon to answer three questions (just three!) about what ‘s ahead for you in 2015 and how Daughters in Charge can be your best resource for information and support. Click here to access the survey. Thanks!

I know that many of you are eager to take on more responsibility. So here’s a question that you may feel you could have written:

Dear Amy,

I worked for my parents over summers in high school, got a college degree with a business major and then an MBA, learned from some great internships, and returned to my family’s business 10 years ago. But I’m still stuck in the same job. I know I’m ready for more, but my dad just won’t let go. And in our business, if he doesn’t let go, we will really struggle when he eventually retires. I don’t know how to convince him that I want more to do. By the way, my siblings don’t work in the business and don’t want to. I’m it.

~ Libby

Amy KatzDear Libby,

Some nextgens are unwilling to step up, and some founders and CEO’s are unwilling to let go. The process of sharing and eventually shifting responsibilities from one generation to another is a major transition, as you well know.

I recently read a blog post by Meghan Juday that directly addresses this issue. Meghan grew up in a large and successful family business and is now an advisor to family businesses (click here to listen to my podcast with her).

In her article, Meghan talks about the importance of encouraging leaders and family council members to take the time to engage the next generation in planning for the future. That way, next generation members become involved in creating their own future. They provide useful information about changing trends in their own generation that can help prepare the business to adapt to changing times. Meghan describes a process that can help to set the stage for the next generation to “step up”, and the current leaders to “step down”. You can read Meghan’s full blog post here.

It sounds like you’re from a small business, Libby, so your approach may be a little different, but Meghan’s ideas about strategic planning still apply. Think about the future of the business, market trends, and the roles that are likely to be important over time. As an example, many daughters are introducing social media strategies – something many family businesses probably have never had to think about before. I’m not suggesting you take on that role, but I am suggesting that you engage your dad in a series of conversations about the future of the business.

There’s a lot to talk about. What new technology may be needed? What products or services may become obsolete, and what unmet needs can your business uncover and focus on? In other words, use your knowledge and experience and “talk business.” That kind of dialogue can open the door to discussions about the way the business is structured – staffing, roles, etc.

After a series of conversations about the business, you may both learn a lot and jointly discover some new opportunities for you. Talk about what you can do and how you can learn from him.

For now, just focus on the year ahead and not the rest of your career – or his, for that matter. You may be surprised at what your dad will let you take on when he sees how concerned you are about the business’ future – he may even be relieved!

Happy New Year,


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