Family Business Matters 01/07 05:22
Succession for the New Year
Form new habits and toss out old ones to help with management transition.
DTN Farm Business Adviser
Understanding how habits are formed gives us the power to change our lives
for the better. By implementing new behaviors and shedding bad habits, we can
improve our health, our relationships and even our family businesses.
In the last few years, several best-selling books have been published about
habits and habit formation. Charles Duhigg's "The Power of Habit," James
Clear's "Atomic Habits" and BJ Fogg's "Tiny Habits" are some of the most
The authors all suggest there are at least three common elements in habit
formation. The first element is a cue or anchor, something that triggers the
second element, which is a behavior or routine. The third element is a reward.
For example, your phone dings (a cue), you pick it up (a behavior) and your
reward is the brief feeling of excitement a new message generates. A bad habit
might be alcohol abuse. The cues might be stress or certain social
environments, the behavior is drinking and the reward is a short-term feeling
If you hope to develop good habits, you should plug in a new routine or
behavior after a current cue, then find a way to reward yourself immediately
for the good habit. All of the authors encourage you to start small, as minor
habits compound to result in major changes over time.
These books made me wonder if the science of habit formation can be applied
to family business succession, a notoriously difficult process to navigate. If
you make little changes to how or what you communicate, can those habits
compound to make the succession process go more smoothly? Consider the
following simple ideas and whether you could adopt some new behaviors to help
the family business in transition.
Every family business struggles with communication. What if each family
member in the business, when he or she pours coffee in the morning (cue), sends
a group text message with the top three things on their to-do list that day
The reward could be a dollar allocated daily to each person who
participates, with the payout at the end of the month. The longer-term benefit
will be a sense that everyone has a better feel for what is happening in the
business and less guilt that you are not having more meetings.
FASTER KNOWLEDGE TRANSFER
Another challenge in a family business is helping the younger generation
become acquainted with key landowners and advisers. What if every time the
senior leader of the business emails, texts or receives a message (the cue)
from a landowner, the lender, the accountant or the attorney, the leader simply
copies or adds a member of the next generation on their message (behavior)? The
reward could be a tally mark on your list of key business relationships.
Multiple tallies will generate and sustain a feeling of accomplishment, and
provide a sense that you are making a true handoff.
Family members working together often take each other for granted and can
feel unappreciated. What if every evening at dinner (cue), you say or make note
of one thing you appreciate about a family member that day (behavior)?
Verbalizing your appreciation for a loved one will generate a good feeling and
introduce a positive tone for the rest of the evening. Over time, it will
result in more confidence about the pending transition.
Forming new habits is hard, but a benefit of working in a family business is
the support you get from family members. Try introducing some small, new
behaviors that will advance your succession goals for the coming year.
Write Lance Woodbury at Family Business Matters, 2204 Lakeshore Dr., Suite
415, Birmingham, AL 35209, or email email@example.com.
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