Here at CMG, we understand the importance of planning ahead and helping Canada’s business families prepare for their future, transition their family capital to the next generation (and beyond), and protect their legacy.
It’s why we were keenly interested in the myriad of protocols that were set in motion in England over the past couple of months, following the death of Queen Elizabeth II. The multiple components of the well-orchestrated plan, which we’ve since learned was code-named Operation London Bridge, were identified, documented, tested, and rehearsed for decades in preparation for the ‘next-in-line.’ This guaranteed a seamless transition of royal and operational duties to the new sovereign, King Charles III.
As quoted in The New York Times, “From the moment the queen became monarch, Whitehall started the planning process about what would happen when she died,” said Philip Murphy, a professor of British and Commonwealth history at the University of London. It turns out that this level of planning and precision was discussed in regular meetings between various stakeholders – including government and palace officials, the police and army, and broadcasters – two to three times a year for the past 20 years.
Now that’s what we call preparing in advance for what is known that will happen with certainty.
Though it’s not necessary to plan with this level of precision, the ‘Operation London Bridge’ protocols are similar to the work CMG does with business families, specifically a process we call The 100 Day Plan. Both plans help families be better prepared, and address any potential concerns following the death of a founder or principal. In turn, this helps to keep operations (and the business) moving forward, especially during a time of emotional upheaval.
Here are four specific components of the 100 Day Plan and how they can help smooth the transition from one generation to the next:
- First, build a communication roadmap. In our experience, it’s crucial to coordinate and lay out a well-structured process to share details of the plan with advisors and executors – ahead of when it needs to be executed. This can help the founders or principals identify any holes in the plan and also prepare the successors for what’s to come and what they’ll be required to do. When Queen Elizabeth II died, Operation London Bridge immediately went into action, including Prince Charles instantly becoming King, the lowering of flags, detailed plans for mourning and the funeral arrangements, to how the news was announced to the world. All of this was completed flawlessly – because it had been planned.
- Next, clearly define key roles. It’s vital for executors (and trustees) to clearly understand their individual roles, including the responsibilities and standards that need to be performed – well ahead of the death of the founder or principal. This helps to establish a strong team structure for executors and their advisors to collaborate in key decision-making and communication. Both King Charles III and his heir, Prince William, have been prioritizing the Queen’s diary over their own (for years) and they have been activated as Counsellors of State. This has helped them understand the role they play (at an early stage) as heirs to the British throne. They are ready because they have been prepared.
- Test-drive the plan ahead of time. Does it actually work? To ensure it does, it’s important to complete a series of dry runs (over the years), assuming the founder (or principals) have passed, and the estate protocols have gone into action. This can help eliminate any potential speed bumps in the process. For the British monarch, Operation London Bridge has been rehearsed by the palace, the news media, the local authorities, and the Queen herself, multiple times throughout her 70-year reign – helping the transition of power to Prince Charles.
- Finally, keep the conversation going. Revisit the plan often and set up meetings with all parties involved, including executors and advisors. It’s likely the plan will be revised and updated over time as circumstances and information change, and new ways of executing the plan emerge. This will help to alleviate the pressures of adjusting the plan in the aftermath of the founder’s or principal’s death. The initial Operation London Bridge plans were first outlined in the 1960s. Since then, there have been more than 2,000 meetings discussing updates to the plan!
In some cases, there is no planning done or an individual may die intestate. We’ve seen reports of this happening to a variety of celebrities in recent years (including Prince and others). The result is that the surviving families are uncertain of the estate plan (who gets what, and even who the executors are). This leads to court battles and drama among the family – at the precise time that nobody wants it. A process like the 100 Day Plan can prevent this.
“Planning for your own mortality can be an uncomfortable topic for a lot of people,” says Quillan Quarrington, Principal at CMG. “Unfortunately, it’s not an ‘if’ event that you’re planning for, it’s definitely a ‘when.’ The planning you do isn’t really for you. It’s for your kids, your family, and your friends – the ones who are left to deal with life after you’re gone. Most families, even extremely wealthy ones, don’t need the same level of precise planning as was done for the Queen. But even a little planning and forethought can make a major impact and help make a huge difference for the surviving family.”
Wealthy business families typically have complex estates that require additional actions and expertise to safeguard a smooth transition. It’s why planning for the end way back at the beginning is so important. It helps to ensure that everything runs as expected and that everyone involved knows their roles. That way, the future generation can preserve what the founders (or principals) built and developed over the years.
And that’s exactly what has played out in the British monarchy over the past couple of months. It may seem sudden, but it was planned (in precise detail) for a long, long time.
Christina Outridge is a Marketing and Communication Specialist at Creaghan McConnell Group.