Succession or Fresh Start?

Last week along with thousands of others, we attended the Eagles Concert at Murrayfield. Funnily enough, we never saw anyone that we knew although it appears that there were plenty of you there. Maybe you were in the hospitality suite.

Now, those of you who are familiar with the Eagles will realise that they are an “old” group and not all the original band members are still around. Glenn Frey for example passed away in 2016. His son, Deacon Frey is 29 and for the last few years has filled the gap in the Eagles lineup left by his father’s death. He performed with the Eagles at Murrayfield singing songs that his father would have sung if he had still been alive.

If you were there, you will already know how good it was. If you were not, you’ll just have to take my word for it.

Anyway, the point here is that a second-generation band member has the opportunity to keep the Eagles flame alive, but should he try to do that. I suspect that bands are different to other businesses, but it raises an interesting point. Should a business be passed on to the next generation?

I have heard it said that the first generation builds it up, the second generation runs it and the third generation runs it down. I can see the logic in that. The business has been built up by one or more individuals who are hungry and committed. In all likelihood, they work long hours to get the business established and go through tough times. The second generation grew up in the houses of these “grafters” and will have learned from experience the commitment that their parents displayed. However, by the time the third generation comes along, the family is comfortable and the hours are not necessarily so long. They never see the hard work that went into building the business. The family can probably now afford a decent standard of living. So, they don’t have the hunger of the previous generations.

I know this is a generalisation, but this explanation makes sense to me.

In my own family, I am the first person to be self-employed for many generations and possibly ever. Helen comes from a long line of farmers, so she understands long hours few holidays and uncertain cashflows. As it happens none of the next generation of our family have shown any interest in accountancy. Maybe what they have seen over the years has put them off being self-employed in favour of a regular salary. What does that say about the commitment required and uncertainties for anyone planning self-employment? On the other hand, is it a comment on the lifestyle that the following generations now expect?

From a purely selfish point of view, I think it would be good for Deacon Frey to take on the mantle of his father’s old band. But I am sure that what most of us wanted to hear at the concert at Murrayfield were all the “old” and familiar songs and that probably has a limited appeal to a performer setting off at the start of his own career, trying to carve out a name for himself. I suppose it is a bit like one of our children becoming an accountant but starting their own practice and running it in their own way. A fresh start!

So, is it better for the business if the family exits after just one generation? It’s an interesting thought but a question for which I do not have an answer. I suppose it just depends on whether the people holding the reins in each generation are committed and competent to run the business.

So if you are looking for someone to take on the baton, that person may come from within your own family or outside. If you are in that position, I hope you find the answer that fits your situation. Happy hunting.

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