Taking over the family business is about much more than stepping into the role of the boss. To successfully succeed your predecessor requires a solid understanding of the business, the systems and structures and the management and staff. According to business advisor Anna Manning, succession planning can take years to implement as it requires mentorship, training and exposure to different aspects of the business.

Gain the right expertise and experience
Don’t rely solely on your surname, says Manning. “It’s advisable to obtain a suitable tertiary education and complete necessary courses to gain expertise and know-how in your field. Most entrepreneurs who take over family businesses usually gain experience elsewhere before entering a succession plan – it’s a good way to gain invaluable hands-on experience,” she says.

The next step is to gain credibility with your management team. Manning advises spending time working in different roles and departments of the company to ensure that you really understand what happens on the ground, as well as on the management side of the company. Ensure that the communication lines are open, as you will need the support of your team to succeed.

It’s also important to communicate with your predecessor to determine where the company is headed and what is expected of you. Predecessors may struggle with relinquishing their power, so efficient communication is key to determine what your role and responsibilities would be, as well as the logistics involving the future ownership of the company.

Once you take over, establish which systems work best and make changes if necessary, says Manning. “Don’t shy away from making your mark, but don’t try to reinvent the wheel. While you may have innovative ideas, changing too much may affect the brand or company negatively. Surround yourself with competent people that you can use as a support system and enlist the help of financial and legal professionals where necessary.” Lastly, communicate with your predecessor, but don’t regard them as your crutch. “Take ownership of your decisions and don’t let family issues affect the business,” says Manning.