The Hero’s Farewell

When does a founding family business member let go? How do they handover?

When a family business founder begins to have thoughts about his or her role in the family business and how long they plan to remain in the business, or whether they should be thinking of ‘handing it over’, or developing their successor, it is often a challenging time. And it is a defining moment for the future of the founder, the family and the family business (FB). It is also an emotional time. It can be a time of frustration for some, avoidance for others, but it can also be a time for hope, inspiration and freedom.

In his book, The Hero’s Farewell, Jeffrey Sonnenfeld shares the research he conducted with 200 CEOs and 50 recently retired CEOs, many of whom were family business leaders and founders – often visionaries, business leaders identified with the plans of the organisation that they led. Sonnenfeld identified four types of ‘Exits’ or ‘Departures’ and believes that the style of departure is every bit as important for those who will follow his/her reign as his/her rise to power. He described the four ‘Departure’ types as follows:

Monarchs do not leave office either until they die or until they are decisively forced out through an internal ‘palace’ revolt which may be in the form of ultimatums or resignations

Generals depart in a style marked by forcible exit. They may leave reluctantly but plot their return and quickly come back to office out of retirement in order to rescue the company from the real or imagined inadequacy of his or her successor. The General enjoys being the returning saviour

Governors rule for a limited term of office, then shift to other vocation outlets entirely after retirement. Despite their graceful exits, the Governors maintain very little ongoing contact with their firm once they have left

Ambassadors leave office quite gracefully and frequently serve as post-retirement mentors. They may remain on the Board of Directors for some time, but they do not try to sabotage the successor. The Ambassadors provide continuity and counsel

Daniel Levinson, author of both ‘The Seasons of a Man’s Life’ and ‘The Seasons of a Woman’s Life’, argues that business leaders remaining in the firm after the age of sixty-five can retard the development of future leaders.

The purpose of our work focused on The Hero’s Farewell (also read Heroine’s!) is to facilitate a positive future for the founding/owner family business member, the family and the business, where an ‘exit’ is a win/win for all. Where the leader exits as they wish to.

So, which style of exit might you take? What style of exit would you like to take? What are your hopes for the future? What about Legacy? What about the story you have to tell to leave behind to share with your family, with the business. Would you like to write that story?

The Hero’s Farewell is our highly confidential and specialised FB service, an advisory and contemporary counselling process offered to founding family members of a family business or current Chair/President of the family business, who is considering their future and ‘preparing for a new season’. The process addresses topics such as:

Preparing for a New Season   The process begins by acknowledging and honouring. It takes the form of a carefully designed and uniquely tailored ‘programme’ of individual sessions and workshops plus a 2-3 day retreat (which can also involve the participation of family and non-family members from the family business). In confidence you will be able to explore, decide and plan on your ‘best future’; how you would like to ‘exit’ the business formally; the quality with which you move on and hand over to your successor/s; what you plan to do and how you plan to do it. A plan for looking forward.

No obligation Consultation   The process begins with an initial confidential consultation with Susan Kaye, The Counsellor@ The Challenge of Excellence, who has many years of experience working with small and large global family businesses and with multiple generations. Susan is bound by our Ethical Framework approach. This ‘no obligation’ consultation is designed to enable you to decide whether your expectations might be met by considering such a process; to understand what it can offer and whether there is sufficient mutual rapport and trust to go forward.

Susan will be happy to hear from you with a view to meet you or a family member for an initial consultation. Do contact her