takesover asboss, accountant or marketer. bers of any upcoming generation to seek work
Instead, Aronoff suggests that those affected, the experience away from the family. The minimum
upcoming generation, be responsible for making experience expected is around three to five years
those decisions. Anyone ready to commit to the with at least two promotions to the individual’s
business should be able to identify their own credit. Outside experience gives family members a
strengths and areas of interest. In addition to their way to bring fresh ideas to the business, to make a
roles, the succeeding generation should determine few mistakes and to learn that work really means
what their compensation will be, who will be on the working hard.
board of directors and the direction of the business.
Making a path
Non-family employees for the next generation
While taking care of family members, it’s Once a family business achieves open commu-important not to overlook the concerns of non- nication, and assigns and holds all employees to the
family employees. To create a level playing field for same standards, it’s time to look to the future. All
family and non-family employees, Lea recom- businesses face succession planning—who will be in
mends creating across-the-board policies for charge when the current boss steps down. But in a
employment, promotion and compensation. He family setting, succession planning often boils down
says those policies send out the message that the to parents assuming the oldest child will step up
business is “managed with fairness and evenhand- when the time is right. And the younger generation
edness, and nobody, regardless of their last name, assumes their elders will, indeed, one day give up
will get away with murder.” control. Creating a succession plan eliminates any
Longtime non-family employees also need proof assumptions about who will take over the business
that the upcoming generation has the skills, not just and when that right time is, experts advise.
thelineage,tokeepthecompanyrunning.Businesses, Although no one embraces discussing the
says Fleming, have long “institutional memories.” inevitable, experts agree that the best time to put a
Non-related employees who watch a succeeding generation grow up tend to hold on to the idea that the
Through a variety of publica-
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Publishers helps business-
owning families develop
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30- or 40-somethings in charge are still kids. Gibson Funeral Homes
One way to shake that image is requiring mem- Kansas City, MO • 1-877-353-1700 • www.heartlandcremation.com
Member at Independence, MO
JUST AS IMPORTANT as planning for succession is
the division of labor among family members.
“Most families don’t survive the transition into
the next generation, because they often share the
same job titles or responsibilities in the family
business,” says Andrew Loos, president of Gibson
Funeral Homes, a 75-year-old family business in
Kansas City, Missouri.
Loos, the son-in-law of James Gibson, patriarch
and CEO of the company, says that when family
members are competing for the same job within the
company, the business loses its identity and vision. It
also becomes harder to draw the next generation
into the business, because they see only a limited
opportunity to match their strengths or interests.
“The challenge is to stimulate the next generation by properly dividing the current generation,”
STEVE PUPPE PHOTOGRAPHY
Gibson employs seven family members, who
operate seven funeral establishments, one cemetery, one cremation facility and Generations, a floral-design and event-planning division. Loos created new divisions of the company and, based on their
strengths, matched specific family members to each division.
Loos’ wife, Elizabeth, is director of Generations. His father is the manager of the cremation facility;
his mother is a floral and jewelry designer for Generations. A Gibson nephew takes care of public and
community relations, and a first cousin is in charge of applying the urban operational models to their
rural funeral homes. All this leaves James Gibson free to work on the business rather than in the business.
Loos says that when each member of the family is incubating his or her own division, it
breeds positive competition. “We flourish because we found new opportunities for our family
members. Whoever becomes a part of our family business will have a unique set of challenges
and opportunities, rather than an uninspired way of life.”—T. Foster Jones
By defining and dividing
the roles of each family
member, Gibson Funeral
Homes has continued to
thrive. Back row: nephew
Eric Woodward; Elizabeth,
Andrew and Dick Loos.
Seated: James Gibson,
Anna Beth Gibson
Not pictured: Lesley Loos