The Twelve Dangers In Family Business Succession

Dr Richard Shrapnel PhD
2 min readJun 18, 2024

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Photography By Casey Horner On Unsplash.com

On the succession journey, there are many dangers that the traveller must be wary of and keep a close eye out for. Not only must they avoid these dangers but be proactive in protecting against them.

The dangers are the traps, the risks, the failings that you should, firstly, be aware of, and secondly (and obviously), avoid on your journey. There are 12 dangers to be guarded against.

Here is a list of these dangers:

1. LOST — A FOREST — The traveller has not sought advice from an experienced guide and has lost their way.

2. DARKNESS — IS A PATH TO NOWHERE — The traveller has failed to act quickly enough and has been left behind while everyone else has begun their journey to the summit.

3. GLACIER — ICY RELATIONSHIPS — Family members are not communicating with each other and are not participating in the succession journey.

4. BOTTOMLESS PIT — The separation between family and business is weak, governance structures have not been established and there is a danger of the business and family falling into the bottomless pit.

5. VOLCANO — FIERY RELATIONSHIPS AND CONFLICT — Family harmony has not been achieved and conflict has erupted within the family.

6. LOST SHIP — The future leadership team has not been developed and is unable to steer the ship.

7. EMPTY — TREASURE CHEST — The traveller has failed to plan and prepare early enough and has not built sufficient financial resources to support the growing family and business.

8. GREED AND ENVY — A MONSTER — Family members are envious of the position’s others have achieved and personal interests/greed is overrunning the family.

9. QUICKSAND — Existing management is unable to surrender past practices and cannot embrace new ways.

10. BARREN LAKE — The future of the business is uncertain.

11. MERRY GO ROUND — Indecision rules the camp, and the succession journey has faltered.

12. FALLING OFF THE CLIFF — At the final ascent (the execution of the succession plan), focus and endurance is not sufficient to deliver on the final plan.

There are eight guiding principles that may be used as value statements to guide you in your decisions and actions in each of the lands of succession. They will support you in mitigating the risks presented by the dangers.

This short video clip speaks into the dangers:

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