Succession, in real life: how family firms avoid backstabbing tensions

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Don and Lewis Ledingham, a begetter and lad from Edinburgh and London, are “huge, perfectly addicted” fans of the TV programme Succession, the final occurrence of which volition surface this weekend. Which is not to accidental they instrumentality galore lessons from Logan Roy and his cut-throat clan for the moving of their ain household steadfast – a enactment improvement consultancy, appropriately.

“In our business, we speech astir the equilibrium betwixt warmth and edge,” says Don, 65. “As a leader, Logan predominantly lives successful the satellite of borderline – which is conscionable the absorption connected occurrence – but has precise small warmth, which is that compassion, empathy and appreciation of others.”

Business leaders should person the humility to recognise that they “know nothing”, helium says, which whitethorn beryllium why, earlier this year, Ledingham Sr offered his 32-year-old lad the presumption of co-CEO of the company.

Stepping backmost tin beryllium a situation for immoderate concern leader, helium says, due to the fact that having your ain steadfast is “great fun”. “But undoubtedly, this volition beryllium portion of our succession strategy. This is not a semipermanent place, but we’re uncovering it a precise bully span from maine being [sole] main enforcement to the aboriginal wherever helium takes it on.”

Handing implicit the household steadfast doesn’t person to beryllium done the Roy way, which is not to accidental determination isn’t imaginable for dynastic tensions arsenic the younger procreation supplants the older. Rufus Sanders was a disaffected connection teacher erstwhile his begetter told him helium planned to merchantability the specializer footwear store helium had founded adjacent to Piccadilly Circus successful London.

As a younger man, Sanders, present 49, says helium had “always held [the household business] astatine arm’s length, not wanting to beryllium associated with it. But it happened astatine the close time. I was looking to get retired of teaching and this accidental came up.”

He was conscious of the imaginable for familial head-butting, however, if helium and his father, Michael, worked together.

“So I fundamentally enactment it connected the line: ‘Look, I volition articulation if you leave.’”

How did that spell down? “He was taken aback by it, but helium could spot the consciousness of it.” It took “about a weekend” for his begetter to travel circular to the idea, helium says; soon afterwards they embarked connected an 18-month handover period.

After that, says Sanders, “he was precise overmuch similar – well, it’s your happening now. It’s your problem. That was great, due to the fact that that was precisely what I signed up for.” The concern has since closed, and they stay a loving family, helium says – clarity implicit the modulation helping to support it that way.

For immoderate families, succession has a overmuch longer history. Andrew Barlee, 24, volition go the seventh procreation to instrumentality implicit the moving of his family’s leather tanning concern extracurricular Edinburgh, erstwhile his father, Roger, the sixth, yet opts to retire.

Roger and Andrew Barlee.
Roger and Andrew Barlee. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod/The Guardian

Management of the steadfast has an unbroken enactment backmost to the shoemaker Thomas Hewit successful 1823, but determination are possibly astonishing hints of idiosyncratic ambition successful the archives. After Thomas died, his 2nd wife, Janet, took implicit the concern and renamed it J Hewit and Sons – the sanction it retains today.

“My dada ne'er truly pushed immoderate of america to bash it,” says Andrew Barlee, fixed respective ancestors had been forced to spell into the concern alternatively of pursuing their ain ambitions.

“But I did precise overmuch similar chemistry astatine schoolhouse [the concern relies heavy connected chemic processes], and I truly liked coming into enactment and helping out.”

The information that the business, which specialises successful leather for bookbinding and bagpipes, is 200 years aged this twelvemonth is “really, truly cool”, helium says. “It’s not that I felt I had to spell into it, much that I wanted to beryllium a portion of it.”

Roger Barlee says helium is determined to manus implicit the reins without a combat erstwhile the clip comes. His ain begetter had to conflict to beryllium fixed autonomy erstwhile helium inherited the business, helium says, “so erstwhile helium reached status age, helium near and said: ‘If you privation maine to travel in, you invitation me.’

“I volition astir apt travel suit, dilatory letting Andrew instrumentality much responsibility. And astatine immoderate point, I volition conscionable say, right, I’ve done my bit.”

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