Creating business continuity between generations

Passing ownership on to the next generation means balancing business with emotions. While family members may have different values, experiences and skills, it’s important to ensure everyone is working towards a common goal.

75% of the next generation have big plans for taking the business forward

Bring the whole family together

In a family-owned business, the line between family and business often becomes blurred. As a result, discussions on family issues often need as much time and attention as pressing business ones and can require a third-party moderator to facilitate. Mutual success has to be built on a mutual foundation, and that means coming to a consensus on your family’s shared vision, values and purpose—who you are and what your business stands for.



When you and your family are deciding the future of your business, don’t forget the following:

Give everyone a voice  

Natural hierarchies tend to emerge in families, especially in a business setting, and these are often based on age and experience. But now that the next generation is being primed to take over, it’s more important than ever for the current generation to listen seriously to the goals and aspirations of their successors.

Look at the big picture  

As the Baby Boomers prepare to retire, it’s tempting to focus on the short-term and medium-term future. If you’re a business owner handing over the reins to your successor, you’re probably more concerned with what’s happening next month than in the next five or ten years. But it’s your long-term strategic plans that will really help to anchor your family business and provide the clarity and assurance the next generation needs.

Think about your legacy

It’s great if a family business can transition seamlessly from the current gen to the next gen, but if only 5% of them are surviving to a fourth generation, it’s a clear sign that leaders aren’t thinking far enough ahead. When you’re planning, don’t stop at your successors. To the best of your ability, you should build a framework for how business continuity can be passed on for generations to come.

Supporting the next generation

In Canada, 63% of family businesses have their next gens learning on the job. 48% of family businesses in Canada plan to pass on management and/or ownership to the next generation, but 27% of those have not involved the next generation in preparations for these changes.

If you’re a member of the current generation, you can help the next generation prepare for leadership by involving them in leadership decision-making and letting them manage lower-stakes projects where they can prove themselves and learn from their mistakes. It also helps to have properly demarcated roles, clarity around strategy and well-defined lines of reporting.

The most important task is to create a sense of family unity and a culture of trust and respect. Next Gens need to know that you and your colleagues are priming them to succeed. In Canada, 88% of next generation business leaders say they’re looking forward to leaving their unique stamp.


If you’re inheriting your family company, prepare for the responsibility

Stepping into a leadership role is an exciting milestone. But even if the company was built or bought by your predecessors, you still have to earn your place at the top. Here are a few tips as you gear up for your new role.

Spend some time honing your business skills away from the family company so that you can add new value when you come back. Your claim to leadership will be validated if you take the time to build your credibility and learn new skills.

Understand that the current generation won’t appreciate your ideas if you come across as presumptuous or ungrateful. Make sure you respect the knowledge and experience of the current leaders, and communicate with them openly and receptively. You have a lot to learn from them, but they have a lot to learn from you, too.

If you have a business idea that you want to put into practice, you better demonstrate that it’s worth it. Before you try to launch a new initiative, model it with a pilot project and case study, or prepare a solid business pitch backed by market research. Evidence is everything.

Contact us

Sabrina Fitzgerald

Sabrina Fitzgerald

National Leader for Private Clients, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 613 898 2113

Miriam Pozza

Miriam Pozza

Partner, Deals, Transaction Services Global and Canada Deals, ESG Leader, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 514 205 5286

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