All in the Family: 4 things to think about before taking over the brokerage


The brokerage has been in your family since 1920. You’re the fourth generation to take the reigns and secretly, you’re terrified. You can’t look anxious in front of your staff and you can’t show fear in front of your spouse and children. You keep repeating the mantra, “this brokerage is not going down.” Well, not on your watch anyway. You hope.


The main reason why businesses like small to mid-sized brokerages fail is poor planning. Here is a list of things to think about before you add the keys to the brokerage onto your key chain.

1. What will YOUR brokerage look like?

Even though commercial insurance is not sexy at the best of times, you should be stoked about building on your family legacy, right?

But, taking on a family business is much more than a career choice. Being a business owner means paying taxes, contributing to the economy and providing jobs in the community. It’s a huge responsibility. You need to do it on your terms and with your vision, not your parents or grandparents.

I encourage you to write an opus—your concept of what the brokerage looks like under your leadership. Writing an opus, even if it's 20 pages of brain farts, will clarify your thoughts and help you decide if this this the right choice for you, your family and your community.

2. “We don’t discuss business at the table.”

There’s a scene in the film, The Godfather where Sonny and Carlo are talking business during a family meal. Connie says, “Papa never talked business at the table, and in front of the kids.” Connie is right.

Cherished family memories are made during festive occasions like weddings, graduations, seasonal holidays and vacation time. It’s natural that your parents and grandparents want to know how things are going and if they can help. But when family gatherings are fraught with non-stop discussions about business, that can foster resentment and cause a huge shift in family dynamics.

Balancing work-and-family-life is a tightrope walk for any brokerage principal and taking over a legacy business ramps-up that challenge even more. Make sure business-talk rules are set before family events and are adhered to.

3. “We don’t discuss business at the table,” doesn’t mean don’t discuss business ever.

When taking over a family brokerage, you have the luxury of not being a startup looking for capital. You're also inheriting what is known. You can easily find out what happened last month, last year or a decade ago.

So, don't be afraid to talk about the business, ask tough questions and make decisions when the time is right.

4. “My way or the highway,” is not a road to go down (yet).

You're not only inheriting a brokerage, you're also inheriting a group of people and perhaps an entire community who know you as "Little Jimmy" or "Baby Carol." Trust me, they're not going to take kindly to a, "things are getting sloppy around here,” speech on your first day.

Take it slow, be flexible and remember it wasn’t you that built the brokerage from the ground up—the foundation is already there, and that’s a tremendous gift.

That doesn't mean you'll never be able to make the brokerage your own, but in time and with a lot of solid advice from your predecessors, you'll leave a legacy for the next generation and generations to come.

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Topics: Commercial_lines, E & O, data, succession planning