It is very difficult to generalise and say that dynastic succession is bad for family firms. In the end, firms that are well-governed and professionally managed, irrespective of being family-managed or not, are the ones that are sustainable.

It is easier for the incumbent family business leader to appoint someone from the family as his successor, as the family member is believed to be entrenched in the same values and hopefully have the same vision for the company that the incumbent leader does. While values and culture are important, they alone cannot create and maximise shareholders’ wealth. Passion, qualification and capability to handle the business are important.

The scion should be professionally qualified and be able to retain the “founder’s mentality” or entrepreneurial spirit that had helped build the business in the first place. The successor should also be capable and mature enough to handle a leadership position, understand the importance of good governance, and navigate the firm to greater heights. If the family scion lacks these traits, it is better to look outside for better candidates to lead the company.

There are two options — choosing someone who has grown up in the ranks in the company, shares the vision of the founder and understands the culture of the company, and second, someone from outside the company who has proved his mettle elsewhere. The problem in the first case is that the chosen successor has always worked under the shadow of the family business leader and may not be able to handle the various ups and downs if the family business leader is not available to guide, or is there as a shadow. The problem in the second case may be lack of shared vision and disruptions that may not receive the approval of the family, even if they are good for the firm in the long run.

Hence, the job of finding a non-family CEO is not easy. But it must be done. The earlier the search for a successor begins, the better it is for the family and the firm. There should be a clear induction and detachment process developed and implemented efficiently. The family business leader should be prepared to truly retire once the transition happens. Interference and encroaching upon the decisions of the CEO later on would lead to a lot of confusion and creation of “no-man’s land”, that is, areas where no one takes a decision as the roles are not clear.

The debate is really about competence versus entitlement. Entitlement leads to destruction whereas competence enables the successor, family or non-family, to become the steward of the company, working towards the benefits of all stakeholders and embracing the objectives of the firm. Therefore, dynastic succession is not necessarily bad as long as it is accompanied with merit.

Source: Bang, N.P., Deccan Chronicle, October 04, 2017; http://www.deccanchronicle.com/discourse/041017/focus-on-competence-not-dynastic-succession.html