Ask Amy: Taking Over for Two Parents

Dear Amy,

My father started our business when I was very young, and my parents have run it together for the last 25 years. I could take over in my mother’s role any day now with little difficulty. My father is a typical “workaholic” and I anticipated that I would have at least another year before we started to figure out what my future role in the company will be. It is obvious that I will need to take on some of his responsibilities and we will have to hire other people to help fill his role. I just found out that he would like to start a partial retirement this summer. Wow! Okay, this means this is all happening a lot sooner than I anticipated. Any tips from other daughters taking over for more than one parent in their family business? I feel like I have not just one set of shoes to fill, but two.

– Sarah


Dear “Sarah,

A lot is happening sooner than expected, but what a nice tribute to you and to your leadership talents! It’s great that your dad will be available to you during this transition time.  I suspect that given his commitment to work, the definition of “partial” may mean that he’ll work what other people would consider full-time!

That being said, leaders do have to be prepared for surprise, and possess the confidence to take on whatever comes their way. I like the idea that despite the “wow” factor, you sound ready for the challenge.  And the fact that your dad will be by your side, at least “partially”, is a good sign that you’ll have a chance to ask questions and ask for help when you need it.  Some daughters take over when a parent dies unexpectedly, or when the business is in some kind of crisis.  Your situation, while a surprise, sounds pretty healthy to me.

However, leadership transitions are disruptive, and sometimes the presence of a father working in a business when a daughter is taking over leads to confusion about who’s in charge, who makes what decisions, etc.  So I would recommend that you and your parents take some time to develop a transition plan for the next year.

The plan can include a strategic focus, as a well as a practical one. A leadership transition provides a good opportunity to envision what opportunities lie ahead, and how the business might be restructured to meet those needs.  It may be that the “shoes” you’re planning to fill may not really “fit” the business they way they used to.  Or, if they do, then you may need to make some adjustments (stretching comes to mind!) until you feel comfortable in them.

Amy KatzI suspect that you’re more prepared than you may feel right now.  You sound excited and up for this new opportunity. Like your parents, you and your fiancé will have the opportunity to work together, and your parents have provided you with a great model of a partnership that works.

I wish you all the best with the major life changes you’ll be experiencing.  I have the feeling that you, your parents, and the business will continue to thrive!



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