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HBO’s ‘Succession’ Provides Succession Planning Insights And Lessons For Business Leaders
Edward Segal, Crisis Management Expert Edward Segal, Crisis Management Expert
Washington, DC
Saturday, December 4, 2021


Crisis management expert and author Edward Segal said today that, "For some business owners, HBO's Succession is an example of art imitating life. Others may see it as a docudrama about their family business."

Writing on forbes.com where he is a Leadership Strategy Senior Contributor, Segal observed that, "The popular TV show—which ends its third season on December 12—is about the dysfunctional Roy family and the Waystar Royco conglomerate they own. In addition to being entertaining, Succession provides insights and lessons for millions of business owners—including many Fortune 500 companies that are family-owned or controlled—about the importance of preparing and implementing succession plans."

Segal noted that, "The drama, intrigue and machinations of the Roy family demonstrates in stark terms all the things that can go wrong when there is no succession plan. It can be like being in a boat without power, sails or a rudder, and being at the mercy of events and powerful personalities.

"The failure to have and implement a succession plan can create a crisis situation that simmers for years, then explodes without warning into a full-blown disaster, scandal or other corporate emergency", Segal said.

He noted that, "The behind-the scenes machinations of the Roy family members likely hit a responsive chord with many real business owners," citing the fact that:

  • 87% of businesses in the U.S. are family-owned and 35% of Fortune 500 companies are family-owned or controlled, according to Family Enterprise USA
  • Only 34% of surveyed companies had a "robust, documented and communicated succession plan in place," according to PWC's 2021 Family Business Survey

In a recent Town & Country article, contributing digital editor Sam Dangermond speculated about which real-life families may have inspired Succession's creator. Possible candidates include the:

  • Murdocks
  • Sulzbergers
  • Redstones
  • Hearsts
  • Maxwells
  • Carnegies

In addition to having a plan for the orderly transition of leadership at a company, Segal advised that organizations should also prepare, test and update on a regular basis crisis management and communication plans. 

"In today's world, it is not a matter of if a business will have a crisis, but when, how, and where that crisis will take place," Segal predicted. 

"Companies that do not already have a crisis plan in place will waste valuable time in a real crisis trying to figure out what to do, how to do it, when to do it, and what to say about the situation.  That is a critical period of time that would be better spent dealing with the crisis itself," he counseled. 



Edward Segal is a crisis management expert, consultant and author of the award-winning Crisis Ahead: 101 Ways to Prepare For and Bounce Back from Disasters, Scandals and Other Emergencies (Nicholas Brealey). He is a Leadership Strategy Senior Contributor for Forbes.com where he covers crisis-related news, topics and issues. Read his recent articles at https://www.forbes.com/sites/edwardsegal/?sh=3c1da3e568c5.

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