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Lessons from Allied's succession experience

The Canadian Coast Guard ship "Tanu" in Allied Shipbuilders' floating drydock.

COURTESY OF ALLIED SHIPBUILDERS

After 64 years of McLaren family ownership, Vancouver-based Allied Shipbuilders Ltd. changed hands when two of the brothers, Malcolm and Jim, sold out their majority ownership to Chuck Ko, the company's vice-president of operations. Here are succession-planning lessons that other family-owned firms can take away from the experience.

Plan ahead

The McLarens had their decision to sell their company in the works for seven years, and worked on the deal for close to two years. "People should be starting on it 10 years ahead," says Vancouver-based executive coach and organizational consultant Ian Macnaughton.

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Be transparent

The McLarens and Mr. Ko have worked to be open about information with the company's 120 employees. Malcolm McLaren, the former president, is still in the office regularly tying up loose ends, and he and Mr. Ko interact with staff members freely.

Make changes gradually

Together the McLarens and Mr. Ko spent several years planning the transition to ensure the stability of the firm, and have emphasized that future changes related to the new ownership will happen slowly over time.

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