From Owning to Exiting – The Risks of Transition Must Be Carefully Managed within Family-Owned Business, says SDL

DENVER – FEBRUARY 24, 2009 – It is increasingly common to now see a shared leadership structure at the top of many organizations within private industry. This management and succession planning trend is never more important—or more complex—than within a family-owned business.

While not broadly recognized, a large percentage of U.S. businesses are family-owned. As these businesses mature and grow larger, they become more complex. Owners often find themselves involving multiple family members who must work together in some capacity.

In an update to its popular white paper, “Shared Leadership In Family-Owned Businesses,”, Strategic Designs for Learning (SDL) explores the three fundamental forms of in-family business management—controlling owner business, sibling partnership and cousin consortium.

“Over the last decade the trend in family business is towards shared leadership, where businesses transition control of the company to the next generation via a leadership group model,” said Renée Montoya Lado, SDL president. “While in many companies team management has become increasingly the norm, desiring equality and creating an environment that supports shared decision-making are entirely different things.”

The trends in implementing team leadership include various structures—Office of the Chairman, Office of the President or an Executive Leadership Team. While all these deal with overall strategic direction and policy, there exists little available guidance on how to structure such groups. This can actually benefit companies, which are then free to build leadership teams to meet specific business needs and that best deal with the complexity that often typifies family-owned businesses.

Some common considerations of family-owned business when creating a shared leadership team include the size of the company, the organization’s culture and values, the complexity of the business and the quality of relationships among family members.

Additional business concerns influencing family-owned businesses towards shared leadership include:

    • the need to provide accountability against a new strategic plan;
    • preparing for succession or retirement of key positions;
    • increasing organizational focus and accelerating decision-making;
    • managing organizational realignment (i.e. downsizing, restructuring or acquisition);
    • realigning corporate focus on global brands and multinational implementations.

More information on shared leadership among family-owned businesses is detailed in “Shared Leadership In Family-Owned Businesses,” available free of charge at

About SDL

Strategic Designs For Learning (SDL) assists organizations in assessing, aligning and developing talent. Specific capabilities include leadership development, executive coaching, team development, and succession - with particular expertise in working with family-owned businesses. SDL provides a unique integration of leadership assessment, organizational development, coaching expertise, and business knowledge to effectively bridge the gap between business strategy and organizational effectiveness. More information is available at

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Gail DeLano
Fisher Vista/HRmarketer

Renée Montoya Lado