Stages of transition within the family business

The conventional model of “family succession” is for an “anointed family heir” to take over the business and the assets to be transferred either via an Estate Planning structure or under favourable taxation regimes. While this is a method that can work it has far too many people” issues attached that it is time to understand and nurture phases within the family, family business and human cycle.

Family business has three intersecting segments being Family (emotions) Business (income) and Ownership (wealth). Family members are scattered across all three segments with individuals domiciled in single segments or combinations of segments. This is part of the fundamental uniqueness of family business and is also the root cause of differences and emotional reactions.

To assist in this process it is critical to understand the evolution of people across the spectrums and then align these with expectations, roles and responsibilities. To start this journey of understanding of an individual’s evolution it is best to outline it in a tabular format;


Phase Demographic overview
Formative and early education Male – 0 to 15 years Female 0 to 13 years
Early parenting

Speaking with grandparents to understand family

Primary and secondary education

Advanced education and disruptive Male – 15 to 25 years Female – 13 to 21 years
Secondary school and tertiary education / trade

Travel and seeking personal identity

Normal teenage and early adult hood dynamics

Best to have family members operating and working in an outside business

Consolidate education years

Learning and development Male – 25 to 30 years Female – 21 to 27 years
Generally the period where family members come back into the family business

Learn about and develop a deep understanding of the business of the family business

Bring their outside ideas into the business (careful)

Learn the family business “politics” throughout the four segments of the supply chain

The workforce and supply chain learns about the incoming generation

Starting to assume a role and set of responsibilities

Commencement of starting their own “family of creation”

Management and decision making including becoming a family of creation Male – 30 to 45 years Female – 27 to 45 years
Taking a hands on management role and the associated responsibilities

Taking on and accepting accountability for decisions and their impacts on the business and supply chain

Establishment of their “family of creation”

Commencement of personal wealth creation

Leadership and mentoring including becoming a family of origin Male – 45 to 65 Female – 45 to 60
The body starts to slow down and there is a genuine desire to take less of a hands on management role YET want to stay “attached” to the business and family

It is critical to guide the incoming generation YET not stifle their enthusiasm, value proposition and energy

The early part requires a higher level of “control” over the real drivers of the business PLUS the family business risk profile

This phase is where the operations, real drivers and risk profile are gradually transferred to the next generation

There is a high probability that this generation becomes the “grandparents” therefore MUST assume a different role within the family dynamics

This later stage is the role of “mentor”

Mentoring and ambassadorship – Family of origin, historian and story teller Male – 65 to death Female – 60 to death
This is a critical area to ensure ALL of the succession planning program is in place to ensure less Estate risk appearing

There is a trend that there is two generations in this phase especially when age longevity is a family genetic trait (all things being equal)

Mentoring is about guiding the younger generation within the business PLUS imparting family knowledge into the very young generations

There is a role for the mentor within the businesses supply chain to assist the embedding of management transfer

Every family has a “legacy” that is driven by the family values AND facilitate the generations in being “custodians” and “stewards”

The Ambassador assumes this responsibility as it is the “family story”


The above provides a basic framework of satisfying the social cognitive needs of the individual by creating the platform where they can always be Relevant, Express themselves, demonstrate Leadership at their respective levels, have productive Interpersonal Relationships, gain access to the values and legacy of the family by Seeing the Facts and take ownership of the family Vision to achieve longevity.


Lloyd Russell is a 4th generation family business member and an accredited family business adviser who is based in Brisbane while servicing clients throughout Australia and internationally. Lloyd is a specialist in family business strategy and governance with a particular focus on inter-generational transfer. He has more than 30 years’ experience in senior management and is an accredited neuroscience practitioner.

Contact Lloyd on 0413 549 748 or or

Website – or

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