Identifying Your Successor – Don’t Forget the Intangibles

As I work with farms and ranches as well as other family owned businesses, one of the most difficult tasks is identifying the right successor.  A recent post on AgWeb News discussed this issue in regards to the commitment required of the succeeding generation to spend the time understanding all aspects of the operation including business management.  I would agree that this commitment is mandatory.I would add to that commitment the importance of looking at the intangibles.  When assessing a baseball player, scouts always look how hard they throw, how fast they run, and how far they hit.  Measurable statistics.  But they also factor in the intangibles such as whether or not the player is a potential leader or more likely a potential cancer in the clubhouse.  The same holds true when scouting a successor.Does the person have strong leadership skills?  Is he or she properly assertive or reserved to the point of being ineffective?  Does the potential successor have personal issues that will affect their ability to guide and direct the business to success?   What about the spouse – will he or she become a benefit or a burden to the business in the future?  A person who is a great technician and a loyal employee does not automatically have the right skill set to be an owner.  Ownership requires boldness and decisiveness.  It requires making the tough decisions.  It requires an ability to overcome negative outside influences when making decisions that will be in the best interest of the business.When working on your business do not neglect the important work of grooming a successor and don’t forget the intangibles.