Letting go can be hard for everyone

Maureen Kennedy
Maureen Kennedy

Alan worked for the family joinery business for a number of years before his dad, Tony, decided to hand the reins over to him.

After many years with the firm, he was more than capable of both running the business and maintaining the standard of workmanship they offered. He took on a couple of his own apprentices and all was well.

But, as is often the case, Tony found retirement (he was only in his sixties) did not live up to his expectations. He was bored. He missed work and the companionship and before long he was turning up at jobs to see what was going on.

At first Alan was okay with this but, before long, Tony started to literally stand over the lads while they were working, offering advice. He also began to take over conversations with customers telling them that he was the ‘master craftsman’. But Tony didn’t actually do any work, he just stood around telling everyone what to do.

Tony was incredibly brash to the point of being offensive and was overly familiar with customers, especially women, and repeatedly pestered them for cups of tea as well as coming out with inappropriate comments.

Alan was in a difficult situation. He realised his dad was an embarrassment but when he tried to speak to him about his behaviour, Tony just ignored him, too ignorant to realise he was a problem.

Inevitably, the business was affected. He was not the only joiner in town and customers simply did not want Tony in their homes.

All parents want the best for their kids. Passing on a family business is quite common but the trick is to step back and wait to be asked for help and advice. It’s not fair to expect to relinquish the bookkeeping and other paperwork and hang on to the best bits.

So, if you are the parent about to hand over your business or you are the recipient of the business, make sure its all thought through and discussed very carefully even putting agreements in writing to make it legal and above board.

Perhaps think about a trial period of retirement for a few months to see how it goes and if, after that time, it’s not working for either party, agree to go back to the way it was or make other arrangements for the business. Letting go is hard, but it can be seriously damaging if it all goes wrong!