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“A generation plants trees; another takes the shadow. "
(Chinese proverb)

We cannot help but mention what has been handed down to us by the history of the last 2000 years regarding the family succession; an "atavistic problem" - as we shall see - and which was often resolved in a violent way, but also with ingenious and interesting solutions, developed over time, precisely to stem the insane bloody drifts due to the thirst for power of the "successors".
This is certainly a very delicate moment in family and business life; and it was, in the past, in the case of empires or nation-states (but still today it is found in Third World dictatorships), where the interests at stake and the appetite of leadership for the young rampant are often enormous, as it is great the "bad gestures" of those who should have conducted the passage wisely and wisely, from the height of age and experience, but has created dynamics that are often unpleasant and not very controllable, with sometimes dramatic results for all the players in the field.
At the same time, it must be said that it is impossible for the participants involved to create a lived experience of the family succession over time, precisely because this "event" happens only once in a lifetime.
We will then retrace some solutions adopted in the last 2000 years up to the present day, with an illuminating journey through time, also sounding an alarm bell so that entrepreneurs, not being immortal (although sometimes hoping for it ...), can reason in time, in interest of the company and the family, on how to best manage the most delicate moment of company life (and one's own).
As we will see through this quick overview, the family succession, in any era, at any latitude and at any level, is an extremely complex alchemy that always needs a careful balance between tradition and innovation, wisdom and courage, imagination and concreteness.
And those who are about to do it must always remember that the experiment, each time different and unrepeatable, must be conducted for the good of the family and the company, even if the two things do not always seem to coincide. Among the natural heirs, there is not always the right person, at that moment, to take up the baton, as well as, paradoxically, often for the good of the company and the family patrimony the person to whom to pass the reins must be sought outside, both of the family and of the company, for the good of both.
Finally, even once all the ingredients have been calculated and weighed, all the necessary choices have been made and the only possible solution is finally taken, we must never forget that, then and always, a pinch of luck is also needed, because the unexpected, under any shape, it is always around the corner. Like the storm that sinks the Invincible Armada which has already arrived off the English coast; the rain of Waterloo stopping Napoleon's artillery in the mud; or even the grape that suffocates and kills Sophocles' genius. Because history, every story, never follows an already written or predictable script.

  1. Cronus and Saturn - Fathers who take out their children, children who take out their fathers
  2. Odin, or the missed passage - Fathers who trust no one, and everything always and only depends on them
  3. Julius Caesar and Brutus (101-44 BC ) - Fathers who, up to the last, do not really want to see
  4. The Norman adventurers (910-1066) - When the home business is tight: expansion from Hastings to Sicily, via Reykjavik and Kiev
  5. Harald Bluetooth and his son (911-986) - The king who managed to talk to everyone, but not the family
  6. The good Gherardo and his two sons (1240-1324) -  Dante Alighieri, hasty judgments and a counterproductive haste
  7. The thrones of England and France (1649-1789) - Headhunters versus head-cutters
  8. The closed farm of Andreas Hofer (1767-1810) - An ancient system, which avoids discussions and above all damage
  9. Forward Savoy, but one at a time (1900-1946) - When a system that is too rigid does not allow for adjustments
  10. Dynasty, three episodes at the White House (1961-2016) - The same and opposite family sagas of the Kennedys, Clinton and Bush

Text by Marco Perale, extracted from the book "How to manage the family succession in Italian SMEs", by Gian Andrea Oberegelsbacher & Leading Network, published by WKI (Ipsoa) 2017


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