grandma team

Why do successors need their own circle of experts.?

As a successor, I can continue to work with my grandmother’s circle of friends one-to-one, I thought as the newly appointed managing director. I fell flat on my face with that assumption.

Your companions, my companions?

In entrepreneurial families, conversations often revolve around their own company. From an early age, I was aware of how our company was doing – and which people my grandmother valued most from her close circle of friends. I had the feeling that I had known the lawyers, bankers, consultants, and important business partners for years from table talks in the family circle and from brief encounters when I visited my grandmother at work. So I instinctively trusted them.

With this blue-eyed basic trust, I took over as my successor. I thought, ‘If these people worked well with my grandma, then they will also be able to work well with me. After all, I’m the granddaughter, and it’s about the family business.” I quickly realized that not all the experts on Grandma’s team were enthusiastic about working with me.

Trust doesn’t fall from the sky

What I hadn’t considered at the time: Grandma’s circle of confidants had worked with her for 40 years, in some cases. Together they averted crises and celebrated successes. For these people, my grandmother was the company itself. My grandma, not me. My grandmother built up trust in these people over decades. Trust does not fall from the sky and usually cannot be transferred to other people.

So I had to listen to sentences like: “Mr. xx, I am committed to your grandmother – but not to you.” From that moment on I understood: The senior’s team is not necessarily the successor’s team. My grandmother’s team wasn’t automatically my team just because we were related. I couldn’t inherit my team. I had to put it together myself and build a relationship of trust over the years of working together.

It is completely legitimate if people from the previous team are not interested in a good connection to the successor. In my case, not everyone was interested in working with such a young and inexperienced manager. It doesn’t always fit humanly – or for whatever reason. At first, I felt offended, angry, and disappointed. And I faced a new problem: How should I fill this gap in my team that such a person left?

Looking for people who are interested!

At that time I only had a very manageable network. Today I am well-networked, friends with many entrepreneurs, and have strong management teams, good auditors, tax consultants, and bankers at my side. The nice thing about working with good people is: They are well-networked and also like to share their network.

From my own experience I can say: As a successor, you have to build up your own circle of confidants. It can include people from the previous team. But you also have to accept that not everyone on your team wants to play. The realization that “some people just don’t feel like you” is sometimes hard to digest. But it helps to face the truth and go your separate ways. Find people who are interested! If people who are passionate about their topic are happy to support you, you have gathered the right people around you.

what is your experience?

How did the people from the previous team react to you? Did everyone treat you warmly as a “Junior”? Or have some distanced themselves from you? And how did you deal with it? I look forward to stories, experiences, and suggestions!


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