Succession Planning a Challenge, but Key for Family-Owned Businesses,
says SDL

DENVER – AUGUST 26, 2008 – Planning for new leadership in family-owned businesses often involves complex business and relationship issues. Yet effectively planning for succession is a key business issue in any family organization, says Strategic Designs for Learning.

It’s also timely, given the recent tragic death of Bachman Inc.’s chief executive officer during the Beijing Olympics. Family organizations can present myriad challenges in leadership transitions, even without such abrupt and traumatic events.

“When a sudden change in leadership happens, it can surface all the poor planning – or lack or planning – within an organization,” said Renée Montoya Lado, president of Strategic Designs for Learning (SDL), a Denver leadership consulting firm with expertise in family-owned business. “In family organizations, poor preparation for leadership transitions can surface confusion, resentment, even result in a coup among family factions and the board. The resulting long-term effects on the business can be profound.”

Family businesses have traditionally passed leadership from one controlling leader to another – father to son or daughter, for instance. Yet with multiple children able to take charge, or in succeeding generations with consortiums of cousins, management and the boards of family organizations must carefully navigate succession.

Shared leadership is a growing trend in private industry, including many family-owned businesses. Referred to as Office of the President, Office of the Chairman and Executive Leadership Teams, the arrangements can do much to control infighting about succession. In addition, they leverage diverse skill sets among family members, providing potential competitive advantages to these organizations.

A key to effective succession planning is for businesses to think carefully about family members who are capable of and desire leadership involvement, and provide effective professional development plans. Providing proper leadership and personality assessments for present and latent managers – such as effective individual contributors – can smooth organizational leadership transitions, even amidst unexpected events.

The company’s recent white paper, “Shared Leadership In Family-Owned Businesses,” examines emerging management structures and succession issues, and is 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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Media Contact: Renée Montoya Lado