So You Donít Want the Business - Now What?

By: Henry Hutcheson

From: Garden Chic, January/February, 2013

So You Donít Want the Business - Now What?
Family business owners can become emotionally attached to their garden center. When it comes time for mom and dad to start thinking about getting out, it can be difficult.

For most family business owners, the most desired option is to pass the business on to a family member, especially one whoís been working in the business. On a financial note, it is also certainly much easier to handle an estate by passing the business on to the next generation than being forced to sell.

So what does this have to do with breaking the news to your parents that you donít want their garden center? Everything.
The best way to communicate a difference of desire with someone is to be able to understand their point of view and clearly articulate that to them. Convey to your parents that youíve given the matter deep thought, and youíre not taking the decision lightly.

You must have good reasons for not wanting to take over the garden center. But if youíve been working in the business for many years, rotated through the departments, been successful and are respected by the employees, youíre pulling the rug out from under your parents if you suddenly decide it is not for you.

Itís ideal to have open communication from the beginning, letting your parents know along the way that youíre unsure about wanting to own the business one day. Tell your parents that you want to work in the garden center and would like to be paid and promoted according to the contribution youíre making to the company, and that youíre interested in potentially taking over one day. But tell them you also have an interest in opportunities outside the garden center. In other words, at this point, youíre undecided.

Sit down once a year to revisit the discussion so everyone is on the same page. Be open about your concerns, whatever they may be. Then be prepared: your parents may have arguments refuting your concerns.

The part that will require a steel backbone is to be true to yourself by not letting your parents push you into running the business if you donít want to. It will only result in unhappiness for you - and your parents.

Clearly articulate that you understand the difficult position it puts them in, and you donít want it to be painful and wish it wasnít. Offer to assist with the transition. Ask them to try to understand why youíre leaving, and that youíre not trying to hurt them. Lastly, give it time. This is an emotional situation - all the logic in the world is not going to placate hurt feelings overnight.

Things You Can Do to Help
Perhaps your dream job has come along outside the garden center. If so, donít leave your parents in a lurch. The right thing to do is ensure you have a good backfill before you depart. Hire someone, train them and have them stabilized before you leave.

If youíve been in the business for a while, understand the business and are well-respected, consider being on the board or establishing one. Plan formal meetings four times a year to debrief the status of the garden center and provide input. Your parents will appreciate your input and be happy that youíre still connected to the business. They may have a small hope that youíll come back (and, who knows, maybe you will).

If youíre leaving as your parents are considering retirement, actively assist with alternatives: maybe itís finding a head buyer for the garden center and leading the deal through to conclusion.

The final factor to discuss are your shares of the business. If you and your siblings outside the business all have the same number of shares, there may not be an issue. But if you have shares that were given in anticipation of you taking over the garden center, you may need to sell or give shares back to the company. If you want to leave on good terms, arrange for no financial gain on your part and no financial impact to the company.

The best way to say you are leaving: ďI am your child, I love you, and I will help you with whatever I can. But this is my life, and I want to pursue my own dreams.Ē

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