Our Succession Plan is Deeply Flawed

Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.

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Dear Bev,

This might sound like a very cliché problem, but unfortunately we are living it. Our firm’s founder and current CEO, let’s call him “Joe,” is a great guy. He is smart, motivated, fabulous with clients and has a strong investment background – the total package. At the end of the last year, in preparation for 2020, he informed us all that he is looking forward to retirement (he is 56 years old) and wants to start transitioning. He introduced us to his son, “Todd,” (yes, “introduced,” – we had not met this young man before) who just finished his graduate degree. Apparently his son is the heir apparent and Joe is taking a huge step back while we are all expected to inculcate Todd. Todd is not at all his father. He is arrogant, does not listen, seems disinterested in the investment side of our business and has already alienated one client by asking inappropriate questions.

I say this is cliché because it is the typical “parent with the blind eye” to their child. We’ve only known Todd for a few weeks and we can’t see working for him. Joe is such a nice man none of us want to confront him about Todd. Do we leave? None of us have ownership in the firm so there isn’t a financial hit except we’d have to find new jobs. Some of us have been here for over 10 years and we are loyal to the clients and to Joe. But the writing seems to be on the wall.

Have you ever seen this situation where the child steps up and is different once they are involved in the business? Do we go to Joe and let him know now we aren’t going to stay if Todd stays? Three of us are on the edge and don’t know what we should do to protect our careers. If you tell us we all should leave, it would have an immediate negative impact on the firm. We are the knowledge base and the go-to people.