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Small Business
Passing on a family firm
June 30, 2000: 4:26 p.m. ET

Prepare yourself and train your child before handing over the company reins
By Jane Applegate
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NEW YORK (CNNfn) - Dear Jane: We own a small, successful restaurant. After 20 years, I've decided to step aside and give our son a chance to run it. He attended culinary school in San Francisco and Milan, Italy. In order to enjoy our retirement, my wife must quit doing all the office work. She wants to sell the business, but I want to keep for our son, since it's in good financial condition.

Transferring ownership of a small, family business is very tough. It's painful for the parents to let go, but if your son is trained, capable and interested in taking over, I say give him a chance.

I can understand why your wife is having a tough time letting go of her "baby." She probably worries that no one else can keep the books or order supplies as well as she did. So your son will have to convince her that whoever he hires to manage the office will be competent and work hard to do a good job.

I would suggest letting your wife train the new back office person so she will be involved in the transition. If she knows that a good person is in place, she may be more willing to step aside and enjoy her retirement.

Make sure you stay around for at least a month or so to answer all his questions and provide moral support during the transition. Once he's in charge, though, let go and don't interfere with his decisions. Plan a long vacation out of state so you won't be tempted to hang around the restaurant.

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