The sale of a family business is an extraordinary experience that can also have significant repercussions. Often, the business has been the focal point of the family’s identity and community – both for better and for worse – for decades, if not for generations.

After a sale, the family has to redefine their community and the new identity as wealthy or even very wealthy. In addition to the joy of the new financial situation and the exceptional achievement, the sale of the family business can present a number of challenges:

Emptiness: “I’m not as happy as I thought I would be”

The sales process in itself is extremely demanding and can result in a sense of loss, perhaps even grief, having to part with a business and a work life that have taken up a significant part of the family’s life. Perhaps you are also conclusively letting go of the hope that the next generation will take the baton, which can also feel like a loss. On top of that, you have to say goodbye to trusted employees, buildings, and an everyday life in which you have felt indispensable. And it can all, in some cases, overshadow the joy of the financial gain.

Restlessness: “The world is my oyster, but I don’t know what I want to do”

With absolute economic freedom also comes the pressure to decide what to do with it. Travel the world? Invest in companies? Start a fund? At this very early stage, it takes great insight and patience to slow down and come to terms with the new identity before making life-changing decisions. The wealth can easily be placed conservatively, while you decide, in peace and quiet, what to do in this next chapter.

Family turmoil: “I don’t know how to include my children in the wealth without them becoming spoiled and unmotivated”

With a solicitor and an accountant, significant decisions have to be made regarding the distribution of funds to children, parents, siblings, and others. You risk suddenly having to decide who is the “real” family. Should bonus children also be taken into consideration? What about in-laws or a possible ex-wife or ex-husband? In addition, decisions must be made about how the children should be educated to be wealthy and from what age. It can, at times, feel like a heavy burden, rather than an incredible gain, to suddenly become wealthy.

Strategy and Structure are Your Best Tools

Active family ownership aims to strengthen, structure, and develop family ownership while creating meaning and purpose for the individual. This strengthens both the family that owns a business and the family that has marital wealth. In the following, we describe some of the main elements of successful active family ownership.

Strategic Foundation

A solid strategy foundation for family ownership creates clarity and shows the direction of the family’s choices – both to each other and to the world. After the sale of a business, deciding on what the family’s mission and vision should be is a good next step for the family. Should the wealth grow so the next generations always will receive more than the previous ones? Should the family community develop in a certain direction? Is philanthropy on the agenda? Or investments in start-ups?

The mission and vision are the foundation on which the family builds their future activities. At the same time, it’s a help to the next generations, so they have an idea of how the founder wanted the wealth to contribute. And, the family can identify a number of values, which will be the GPS the family members and employees follow. Once the right values for the family are chosen, the values can send a clear message to the bank, solicitor, family office, and advisors about what the family wants to do with their wealth.

Governance: Right Time and Place

The establishment of a strong structure and relevant meeting forums is a great help for the family who is about to be wealthy. By establishing owners councils, family councils, and an investment committee, with annual wheels, you prevent business discussions at the dinner table and dinner-table talk at the business.

When the family knows that the important conversations are to be had, possibly with a facilitator, at family meetings, they can save their notes, so the Sunday dinner and Easter lunch don’t always end up being occasions to make important strategic decisions or vent disagreements. An established structure around the family with the right forums, decision-making bodies, and advisors creates calm.

The Family Office Gives Space

Depending on the size of the wealth and the family’s business, the establishment of a family office can be the right thing to give space and freedom to the family. The family office may consist of one or more employees handling day-to-day wealth care, operations and investments in real estate, and economic transactions and payments.

The family office can also act as a buffer for people seeking grants or investments, so the owners themselves won’t be overwhelmed by inquiries. The family office’s first employee is typically the family’s trusted bank liaison, accountant, or solicitor, who can quickly assist in getting to grips with the new role as wealthy.


Feel free to contact us for a casual conversation about the strategic management of family ownership.