Succession planning best practices for family-owned businesses 

The phrase “succession planning” may call to mind the power struggles of the dysfunctional Roy family on the hit television series, Succession. However, if anything, the Roy siblings’ backstabbing plans to become the heirs of their family-owned business create a road map to show how not to treat succession planning.

Kendall, Roman, and Shiv Roy are prime examples of what occurs when succession planning isn’t in place.

Detailed plans for succession can help a company of any size ensure a smooth transition of leadership, should the need arise. Succession planning, when implemented by a fantastic HR team, can be integral in any organization, but is especially so in family-owned businesses.

What are the best practices to follow when it comes to succession planning for family-owned businesses? How can your company embrace this need?

What is succession planning?

Succession planning doesn’t only pertain to positions like CEO or company president — all critical company positions should have a succession plan. Your Human Resources department or outsourced HR consultant team can help identify the most vital positions in your company.

Then, with executive input, create an actionable plan for position and power transfer.
By accounting for your short and long-term goals, you can invest in employee development with future succession in mind. Intentionally plan for specific employees, or externally acquired talent, to transition into new positions in anticipation of future openings.

Both formal and informal succession plans may work if they’re thoroughly detailed and planned. These plans help should unforeseeable circumstances occur, too. Sudden position vacancies can send organizations into chaos without plans in place.

Two people succession planning in a family owned business

Image from Canva

Why is succession planning in family-owned businesses important?

Succession planning in family-owned businesses can help ensure that skills and experience have higher value than nepotism. Often, succession in family operations is just assumed rather than communicated.

The assumed heir to running a family business may not be interested in the position, or other family members may anticipate absorbing roles and find themselves passed over when the need arises. Succession may not occur for decades, but it’s an inevitability.

Succession planning benefits

35% of Fortune 500 companies are family-owned: Succession planning matters whether your family-owned business is a small, mid-sized, or large company. Whether the company changes ownership, or new people move into positions of power, succession planning can alleviate a lot of stress and chaos.

Some of the ways this strategy can help family-owned businesses include:

  • Valuing credible ownership and company control over nepotism.
  • Protection from employee lawsuits over company control.
  • Communication with executives and the company board of directors to ensure any transition of power goes smoothly.
  • Seamless power transition in case of an emergency.
  • Peace of mind that your accumulated wealth and the future of your company will be protected and not left in the hands of a ne’er-do-well relative.

The timeline of succession planning

Effective succession planning occurs in several, detailed stages. Choosing an heir apparent without analysis or documented forethought can backfire and detrimentally impact your business. A good HR team can help you create an actionable succession plan.

The stages of an effective succession plan include:

  • Audit and analyze the most critical positions in your organization. For example, you may decide that Chief Executive Officer is a position that absolutely needs a succession plan, but may also discover that your IT department head holds equal importance to ensure the company’s successful execution of operations and growth.
  • Document the goals and aspirations of your team and discern which employees’ goals may match your future position-filling needs. For example, you may find that an Executive Assistant shares your vision for the future of your company, and discover that your son, who’s the Vice President of Operations would like to explore other professional sectors.
  • With the help of your HR team, develop training programs that will allow for inhouse promotions.
  • Determine and document the appropriate chain-of-command should an emergency opening arise.
  • Have your HR team create an actionable, multi-stepped plan to allow a named successor to take over a position in the future, or to implement protocol for future succession needs.
  • Stipulate a time window to fill future openings. For example, if your CEO abruptly leaves the company or can no longer fulfill their duties, ensure that a chosen successor will be named within a certain time frame.

Role of HR in succession planning

It’s vital to allow your HR team input into your succession plan. If possible, your HR department (whether inhouse or outsourced) should not have any familial ties to the business. In a family-owned business, this proves especially important as these professionals have the advantage of an “outside the family,” business-centered perspective.

An HR team can take a systematic approach to create and implement your succession plan. During the succession process, they can also act as communication liaisons between executives and employees: This helps prevent office gossip and unease.

Your HR manager or HR consultants can also create employee development training programs that can directly impact succession.

A group of people celebrating about something that is displayed on a laptop screen in a family owned business

Image from Canva

Tips for family-owned business succession planning

Family-owned businesses may bring lengthy, complicated shared history among employees. This can murky the waters of succession planning. Alas, many family-owned businesses don’t make it past the second generation of ownership, and most don’t last longer than 60 years.

Thus, concrete steps to create an actionable plan are important.

Some tips for smooth transitions and seamless succession processes include:

  • Provide equal opportunity for all qualified employees who want to apply to a new position within your business.
  • Recognize that succession is a process rather than a singular event. Some of the most chaotic transitions stem from the fact that they’re abrupt and unforeseen. Have a general yet detailed plan in place to avoid a blindsided position transfer.
  • Give your relatives the opportunity to opt out of the business at any time should they choose another line of work. This keeps the communication channels open and alleviates pressure.
  • Recruit outside talent. Although having a family-owned and operated business has numerous benefits, it may help to have an outsider’s perspective and experience on your team.

How Europe HR Solutions can help

Succession planning best practices for family-owned businesses shouldn’t be an afterthought. Inevitably, a transfer of power will have to occur at some point. You need a passionate HR team to help you put employee development and training programs in place, and to help you create an actionable succession plan.

At Europe HR Solutions, we’ve helped numerous small, mid-sized, and large companies successfully take care of their HR needs. If you’re a U.S. or U.K.-based family-owned business looking to expand your company to Europe, we’ve got you covered. Contact us for your consultation today and check out our blog for insights into HR practices everywhere.

Business owner surrounded by paperwork, indicating the need for HR outsourcing

How outsourcing HR can save money

If you own a small or mid-sized business, you understand how frustrating it can be to spend time and money on tasks that don’t generate revenue. The costs of building an HR department from the ground up can prove astronomical. 

When you’re launching your small business in a foreign country, especially, you’ll need HR solutions before you open your doors for daily operation. Europe HR Solutions can help.


The right outsourced HR team can reduce your ongoing costs in the following ways:

  • Payroll administration:

By outsourcing your HR, you can bring in vetted professionals to set up and administer your payroll system. This team can train you to ensure a seamless transition after their service contract is completed. 

You won’t have to stress over hiring long-term employees to take care of payroll, or training payroll administrators.

  • Benefits implementation:

Your outsourced HR team can help you to select the right benefits software package and enroll the employees of your small business.

  • Human resources management:

Outsourcing your HR can prove to be a game changer for your overall human resources management, too. HR consultants contribute through a wealth of experience in compliance, employee relations, and recruitment.

This saves valuable time for small business owners, mitigates the risk of legal issues and delays in operations, and provides access to the latest industry best practices and trends.

When it makes sense to outsource HR for small businesses  

International companies with fewer than 50 employees are considered small businesses, and rarely expand to Europe with an inhouse HR team already in place.

For US and UK-based small businesses that launch European operations, there’s usually a CFO who oversees broad HR tasks. 

However, the CFO or other executives managing HR for a small business launch in Europe often lacks the country-specific legal and HR expertise necessary to ensure innovative solutions that reflect the country’s best HR practices and legal compliance.

It’s important to consider the following when determining whether or not you should outsource your HR:

  • What specific HR services and support does your business require?
  • Do you have anyone on your team who’s well-versed in country-specific employee regulations and labor laws?
  • Will you need management compliance training and support?
  • Will your current employment handbook, policies, and procedures translate to adhere to the needs of employees in different countries?
  • Do you have a small HR department in place that may need help implementing payroll, benefits, training, and development?
Time is money. Outsourcing HR saves time, letting you focus on what matters.

What to expect with Europe HR Solutions

By outsourcing your HR, you may find it’s easier to take care of your daily operations and to strategize and prepare for the launch of your small business in Europe. Europe HR Solutions has supported countless small, mid, and large-sized businesses in their international HR needs.  

Whether you need our team to manage your HR and implement solutions, or you need us to help guide the HR professionals you have on staff, we can sweat the small stuff to ensure your big picture remains intact. 

You can expect Europe HR Solutions to do the following:

Act as your representatives:

We’ll act as an extension of your small business. This means we will collaborate with you and ensure we’re promoting your vision and standards in any HR matters we handle for you.

Ad hoc requests:

We understand that you may have ad hoc requests. We’re used to fast-paced, high pressure situations, and will ensure your needs are met in a timely manner.

Assist with HR strategies:

We’re committed to providing HR services that help your business grow and succeed. We’ll make certain that the innovative solutions we offer adhere to your overall business and HR strategies.

Create and implement policies and procedures:

We’ll strategize with you to create and implement your company’s policies and procedures and ensure details are in place that will help your employees thrive and create a positive work environment.

Handle employee contract needs:

We’ll help to create and manage your employee hiring processes (including talent acquisition, interviews, and onboarding checklists), employee complaint procedures, performance reviews, and off-boarding processes.

Legal compliance:

Europe HR Solutions will use our thorough knowledge of the various nuances in employment regulations and labor laws to keep your operations, policies, and procedures within legal compliance. This will help reduce your liability risk should issues with employees arise.

Manage employee and management training and development: 

We can cover government-mandated and specific position training programs to support your employees to work with excellence and grow in their positions. This includes compliance training for managers.


We can utilize the latest in talent acquisition trends and industry best practices to make sure you attract the talent you deserve to fill your staffing needs. We want to help you to build the best team possible to create a positive work culture and  a productive team.

The cost of outsourced HR services for small businesses

When to outsource your small business’s HR could be determined by your available budget. The cost of outsourcing your HR may be an upfront expense, but in the long run, it can save you significant money and protect your revenue.

The services offered by Europe HR Solutions can vary in cost, and are dependent on the extent of service you require. We can determine the cost based on the scope of the project.

For example, you may need us to manage a specific, well-defined project that allows us to estimate the cost involved. However, you may require our services on a daily basis, for an extended period of time, or find you need support in an immediate HR emergency. This may mean we will need a retainer payment or charge for an hourly rate.

How to determine your HR outsourcing needs

Before you decide to outsource your HR, it’s vital to determine what type of services you require. It can be overwhelming to discern your needs, but reflecting on and strategizing about specifics can be beneficial.

Answering the following questions may help you to understand what services you require:

  • Do you need an outsourced HR professional who takes the time to know and understand your business, staff, and culture?
  • Do you need HR professionals who are available on a daily basis?
  • Are you in dire need of help with critical talent acquisition?
  • Do you require flexibility and a large scope of HR tasks?
  • Are your needs limited to legal compliance and knowledge?
  • Do you need help developing your workplace culture?
  • Do you need to overcome language barriers?
  • What are your long-term HR needs?

Other benefits of outsourcing your HR

Once you’ve determined when to outsource HR for your small business, you may find that it allows you to streamline your operations and focus on your overall business strategy.

This strategic move reduces your administrative burdens of managing payroll, benefits, and other HR tasks in-house. The cost-effectiveness of outsourcing becomes evident as it eliminates the need for investing in HR infrastructure and ongoing training. 

This newfound flexibility can enable your small business to adapt quickly to market changes and allocate resources more efficiently. Ultimately, an outsourced HR team becomes a strategic partner, and empowers you to prioritize your employees, enhance organizational efficiency, and thrive in the competitive European business landscape.

Contact Europe HR Solutions

Europe HR Solutions understands how crucial HR is to the foundation of any successful business. We can consult with you to determine when it’s best to outsource HR for your small business, and customize innovative solutions with you. 

Your HR needs remain our greatest priority, and we want to support you in ways that promote legal compliance and allow you to see your small business dreams come to fruition. 

Connect with Europe HR Solutions today for a free consultation and be sure to check out our blog for the latest HR insights, tips, and trends. The road to success for your small business is just an HR step away.

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    Inez Vermeulen

    Inez Vermeulen

    Inez Vermeulen is the Founder and CEO of Europe HR Solutions, with over 25 years of successful corporate and entrepreneurial experience in various global industries. She has helped grow and expand the European divisions of global companies such as Coca-Cola Company, Regus, DHL, American Medical Systems, etc. Inez has received several company awards for her entrepreneurial spirit and success.

    She owns a Bachelor’s degree in French, History and Latin, several HR global expert certifications, a Master’s degree in Metaphysical Sciences, ICF Coach Certification and has completed her Doctorate on Transformational Leadership. Inez is fluent in Dutch, English, French, Italian and German. She works in partnership with an extensive international network of independent & professional companies and resides in Belgium near Brussels with her husband Jan.