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Entrepreneur Insights: 6 tips for taking over the family business

Entrepreneur Insights: 6 tips for taking over the family business

Posted on: May 27, 2014
Author: ATB Business & Agriculture

Sisters Brittney and Breanne Ramsay open up about the challenges of taking over the family business, Britt Land Services.

In many families, the best conversations happen in the kitchen. In the Ramsay family, sisters Brittney and Breanne bond in the boardroom.

It didn't start out that way. Brittney, the older sister and self-described free spirit, always knew she wanted to be involved in their dad's land services company, Britt Land. Breanne wasn't so sure—getting an art history degree on the west coast.

But when their dad, Ray, was diagnosed with Parkinson's and made the decision to retire, Brittney transitioned to the role of president, and Breanne later joined as manager of corporate and business development.

As both sisters will tell you, taking over a family business isn't easy. Here are a few tips they've learned about successful succession planning:

  1. Make sure you have a passion for the business. For real.

    "I always knew throughout my life that I probably wanted to get involved with Britt Land—I felt a strong connection," Brittney recalls. "After university and after learning what I wanted to know, I knew I could bring value to the company."
  2. Be your own (wo)man.

    "The first couple of years were hard—it was hard coming in and being your father's daughter working here," Brittney explains. "But after a couple of years, I got in a groove and I was really good at what I did and I loved it. I loved being here and I loved the opportunity to do my own thing and really make an impact at this company."

    "It is interesting being a female-run company in a male-dominated industry. In the beginning, I was concerned about it, but I realized there's nothing I can do. I can't change my age and I can't change to be male… (But) our team here is super supportive of it and really proud, and our clients and the external stakeholders we deal with have been great."
  3. Learn as much as you can before you take over—and continue learning while you're in the driver's seat.

    "I was really lucky when I started out and we did everything together. He really showed me the ropes," Brittney says. "Our father was a great mentor and we could always call on him or lean on him when we needed anything."
  4. Hire great people to help you along the way.

    "Surround yourself with amazing people—people who want to work just as hard as you do," Brittney says. "Dayna is our vice president and she's my partner in the company. She's been with us 15 years and she's awesome. She makes coming to work really enjoyable."
  5. Grow with the company—and make it yours.

    "My greatest business triumph I think is seeing this company grow and feeling comfortable in my skin and my role here," Brittney says. "I come to work and I feel really proud of what we've accomplished."
  6. Accept that there will be family disagreements—but don't let that impact the business.

    "We haven't had very many hiccups working together as sisters," Breanne adds. "We respect each other and understand that our roles at work and our relationship outside of work are different."

Hear more from Brittney and Breanne, along with other entrepreneurs in our We Grow Alberta video series.

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