Family Business

Planning for succession and transitions as a business family


5 min




Watch the Woodmans, a third generation business family in the food industry operating Woodman's of Essex based in Massachusetts, USA, with employees in the 5th generation share their experience of transitioning the business from one generation to the next, and related ownership decisions. In a family business, it is important to create a succession plan in order to be able to cope with unforeseen events. A clear succession plan will make the transition from one generation to the next easier in any given situation.


« Back to Catalogue


Maureen Woodman
We have never talked in my time, my 32 years here of selling the business but we’ve had times where we’ve had to change things to save the business because of death and estate taxes and the way things happened, poor planning on our part.

Stephen Woodman
When my dad passed away 20 odd years ago it was a lot of turmoil because my father really never did have that succession plan and so we were scrambling at the time trying to keep it together and going.

Maureen Woodman
We sat at the dining room table as a family with my mother in law in this incredible grief we didn’t know what we were going to do because he was technically the whole show. Even though he was schooling these kids getting them ready they still reported back to ... View More dad every day what were the sales what was going on. We got this responsibility we got all these people we didn’t really know how we were going to go on.

Stephen Woodman
The person that emerged to keep the family together on the third generation, my generation it was my brother Larry and he came up and got us together and organized us and kept us together kept the business going. I’m not sure if he really wanted it he was the older brother actually my sisters at the time weren’t looking to take on that leadership or whatever there was thought that maybe a brother in law may step in there and so forth but it ended up being my brother Larry I think that was the right choice.

Maureen Woodman
Larry hired himself a business coach we started to educate ourselves and from there this generation this third generation has grown tremendously with a lot of family business counselling and estate planning of how to save the business with your by sell agreement going forward with wills and trusts having your estate in tact. Larry passed away in 2009 so right now my husband and his brother have the leadership along with the sisters have the ownership but they have sat as a group of 5 and decided that it’s important to them that this business goes on. So that’s where we are today.

Stephen Woodman
The situation that you have to go through to develop a succession pan there numerous there all kinds of things to consider you just can’t say here it’s yours and go with it there is planning because there are tax problems there are retirement. There has to be enough money to plan and do things that will help that and keep that going.

Maureen Woodman
Right the succession truly sits with the five children that are left. My mother in law has been completely bought out of the business that happened a year ago in May. She had 51% of the ownership and she finally let go but I think she did the wise thing by holding on all those years, looking back at it now I think that’s what kept us together because she really owned it you couldn’t really do anything without her permission and so we built a succession plan we bought my mother in law out the five children have the ownership right now and upon the time of their death the money goes back into the business it does not spread the original by sell the wife could either get the money the spouse the in law or the stocks could go to the children that was the original that’s been changed now. But we do have an addendum in there if you want to buy into the business at any time you can buy yourself into the business. Anyone with the bloodline can buy the business. So when we go to the next who ever it is we’ve chosen not to just give it to them I hope it’s the wise decision but I don’t know but we did it and it was extremely difficult it was emotionally driven quietly but we did it.