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  • Writer's picturePaul Andrews

Why Family Business Owners Struggle To Let Go

Running a family business for many business owners is a privilege and something that they take incredibly seriously. Over their time in the business they have invested plenty of emotional and social capital, not to mention hours of toil in developing something and witnessed it evolved too. It is therefore not surprising that family business owners often struggle to let go of the reins.

Particular reasons associated with the difficult in letting go include:

  • Emotional Attachment: Family businesses are often deeply intertwined with the personal identity and legacy of the owners. Letting go can feel like giving up a part of themselves.

  • Control: Owners may fear that relinquishing control could lead to a decline in the business's performance or even its demise. They may believe that they are the only ones who can ensure its success.

  • Trust Issues: Trusting non-family members or even other family members with leadership roles can be challenging. Concerns about competence, loyalty, or conflicts of interest may arise.

  • Fear Of Change: Change can be unsettling, especially when it involves restructuring or bringing in external professionals. Owners may resist change because they are comfortable with the status quo.

  • Family Dynamics: Family dynamics, such as sibling rivalry or power struggles, can complicate succession planning and make it difficult to let go of control.

  • Identity And Purpose: Owners often find purpose and identity in running the family business. Letting go can lead to questions about what they will do next and who they will become outside of the business.

  • Financial Security: Owners may worry about their financial security post-retirement or after stepping back from the business, leading them to retain control for longer.

  • Lack Of Succession Planning: Without a clear plan for succession, owners may delay letting go because they don't know who will take over or how the transition will occur.

  • Fear Of What Comes Next: Stepping back from the business may indeed be the right thing to do but with age comes recognition that nobody lives forever and there may be a desire not to step back because of what might come next.

  • Fear Of Too Much Time: For many business owners there life is the family firm and many are concerned about what they are going to do with the time that is no longer devoted to the business and this too may delay stepping back from the business.

Overcoming these challenges often requires careful planning, open communication within the family, and the involvement of external advisors who can provide objective guidance. Succession planning and addressing emotional and practical concerns are crucial steps in the process of letting go in family businesses.


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