As a family business owner, you can get excited about the idea of having your children come work with you in the business. At the same time, it’s imperative that you and the next generation have a bit of a reality check about employment in the family business.
Having worked with multi-generational family businesses all over the country, I’ve seen all too often children coming into the business without having the proper mindset needed to be successful in family business.
As a business owner and a parent, it’s your responsibility to have the courage and character to deliver these important messages to the next generation. Trust me, it’s better to have these tough conversations now than to deal with the consequences of a bad family business experience that damage family relationships for years to come.
Here’s what the next generation should be told:
1. Don’t join the business unless you are prepared and have the skills
Businesses are becoming more competitive every day. It’s important for the business and the employee to have the necessary education and skills to be successful. If they are going to make a career in the family business it’s important that they get the right education and have the right skill set to succeed.
We encourage and help clients create employment policies for the Next Generation that clearly layout the kinds of education and work experience that are needed to succeed in the family business.
2. Don’t join the business unless you’re passionate about it
Too often family members go into the family business because it’s what others in the family have done. It’s so important to have a genuine passion for what you’re doing. I’ve seen people put on a brave face and say they want to be there, but that makes for a long and unfulfilling career. It’s important to find a genuine passion within the family business. It will make all the difference in the world for your day-to-day energy and overall job satisfaction.
3. Be prepared to work harder than everybody else
One of my favorite mementos from our family business is the handwritten note from my grandfather to my father in the 1960’s that stated, “must stick to business more than ordinary employees.” As a family member, it’s important to set the pace and set the example and that translates to working harder than everybody else.
4. Be prepared to be held to a different standard
As a family member be prepared to live under a microscope — it’s just part of what comes with the territory. People will watch your every move and probably critique most of your actions. Get used to it, don’t worry about it, and don’t expect it to go away.
5. Be prepared to not always like your boss
If you’re going to be working in the family business, there’s a good chance you could be working closely with your mother or father. There’s also a good chance you might not always like the way they do things. That’s the way it is even in non-family businesses — sometimes you don’t like your boss, just be prepared for it.
6. Be prepared to not take it personally
When you’re not appreciating the critique and feedback you’re getting from your boss, don’t take it personally, it’s just business. Yeah it’s going to be difficult to not take it personally, but it’s a muscle you have to get really good at building when you work in the family business.
7. Be prepared to leave if it doesn’t work out
Sometimes when you go into the family business you’re not thinking about a plan B. You should have a plan B. Nothing’s worse than the feeling of not having choices. If you do decide to go into the family business you and the family should both agree that if it’s not working out, the door is open to explore other opportunities.
8. Be prepared to love your family no matter what happens
Last but not least if it doesn’t work out for you and the family business make a commitment to be prepared to still love your family. The last thing you want is to have a bad experience in the family business and have that lead to family estrangement. Again, think of it as if you’re going to work for any other business — you know that it might not work out and you still want to have a family!
Many successful multi-generational family businesses have annual summer business meetings with all family stakeholders. Family meetings are a great venue to discuss these concepts and prepare the next generation to make a good decision about joining the business and if so, entering it with the right mindset to have a positive experience.
LANDMINE DETECTION MAP
Are you battling next-generation issues, in-law drama, sibling rivalries or even health-related problems due to stress in your family business? The Landmine Detection Kit will help you identify underlying issues that eventually could create catastrophic damage to your family business.