With the holiday season in full swing, we’d be remised not to mention one of the most famous family businesses: Santa Claus, Inc. The North Pole and Santa’s Workshop have been a well-oiled, family business for centuries with Santa and Mrs. Claus at the helm.
While the couple is not traditionally shown with children, there are a few stories depicting their families. For example, James Patterson’s, Noel, (2004) told the story of their daughter, Chrissie. When Santa was overwhelmed with market and corporate challenges, Chrissie took the reins to save the family business (and Christmas).
More recently, Disney Plus’s, Noelle (2019) was about two Claus children, Nick and Noelle Kringle.
While Nick was the poised successor, he ultimately headed south, leaving Noelle to do the job.
As with any family business, Santa Claus Inc., could benefit from intentional succession planning to preserve the legacy and advance the family business. As the Director of Family Business Alliance, here are some tips I might share with Santa to help guide him to sleigh succession and keep the family business thriving for many Christmases to come.
Focus on Legacy and Values.
The Clauses dedicated their lives to making the world a better place. One gift at a time, the family worked to instill the importance of compassion, kindness, and generosity. Deliberate on the values, traditions, and core operating principles of your business. Develop a mission and values statement that clearly communicates the purpose of the business – to the family, its employees, and community.
Frequent Family Conversations are Key.
Establish family meetings to initiate open and honest conversations about the future of the business. Encourage family members to express their interests, aspirations, concerns, and willingness to participate in business. Transparency and honesty can help rising generations feel bought in.
While tradition is the heart of Christmas, integrating innovations such as data analytics or artificial intelligence could help automate the naughty and nice list and streamline the delivery process. Embracing innovative concepts can future proof the family business for centuries to come.
Identify and Nurture Potential Successors.
Consider those who not only exhibit a deep understanding of the business, but who share the passion for the business and its legacy. Exposure to the elves and workshop, the list checking process, and the global logistics of Christmas are all key elements of the business that should be shared and mentored.
Define Roles and Responsibilities.
Succession is a process of gradually transferring responsibilities to ensure a seamless transition. Assess the skills and roles best suited for each family member just as you would in hiring each elf. What additional professional development opportunities are available to help build confidence and expand upon these skills? Learning to manage everything from operations, culture, and innovation is critical. As the next generation steps up, outline how the current generation can begin to release the reigns.
Succeed at Succession this Season
Santa Claus, Inc. has successfully delivered delight to children and families for centuries. Each year, the extensive operation requires planning, deliberation, and adaptation. Family business succession planning can feel just as daunting as traveling around the world in one night. Succession planning is not a sprint; it’s a thoughtful marathon and a process. With the right preparation and tools, it is possible.
In collaboration with Family Business Consulting Group, Family Business Alliance has designed Succeeding at Succession to provide specialized knowledge in navigating succession complexities and valuable insights from other family businesses. This program is designed to help initiate a plan that aligns with best practices while respecting the unique needs and individuality of each family.