Time For Letting Go

Sitting at my desk considering what to write for this newsletter I thumbed through the folder of clippings and notes I collect just for this purpose.

I came upon an op-ed piece that’s close to home for me in more ways than one. It was published in the August 5, 2012 edition of the Scranton Sunday Times; written by its publisher, Scott Lynett. I grew up in Scranton and went to school with the Lynetts. And while I’ve lived most of my life elsewhere, a strong family connection to Scranton continues.

What’s the second way this article’s close to home? It’s there in its title: Letting go vital to passing on bright torch. For me, as a professional family-business consultant, this op-ed piece presents a lexicon on how best to pass the business on to the next generation.

The Scranton Times is a family business that was founded in 1895 by Scott Lynett’s great-grandfather. The piece he wrote tells the story of the day his father followed his brothers into semi-retirement, stepping down from leadership and into part-time positions in the firm.

That day was fifteen years in the planning.

Most family-business leaders simply cannot let go, a factor that often leads to the demise of the business within three generations. The Scranton Times family is exceptional. Fifteen years in advance of their retirement, Scott’s father and his brothers hired a family-business consulting firm that specialized in intergenerational transition. They provided guidance for the road ahead.

Over the years many challenges were uncovered, many family meetings held; many difficult conversations. There were issues of management, ownership and governance structure to deal with. Rules and requirements for employment of future generations in the family business were collectively agreed to.

When the day came for Scott’s father to retire, the family was ready. They were all ready, and so was the business. And Scott’s generation is already deep in discussions about how to bring the fifth generation into the family business.

What was it that led Scott’s father and uncles to retire, and let go? In Scott’s words: “Ironically…dedication to the future of the business.”

Successful succession takes planning… optimally many years of planning. It takes that dedication to the future that Scott Lynett, The Scranton Times’ fourth-generation publisher, wrote about in his op-ed for circulation in his family’s own multigenerational publication.