Successful and sustainable family businesses realize the need to get out in front of this issue. The best time to talk about this is years before it can even become an issue. Unfortunately, too many families delay having this conversation until it’s too late.
The family shouldn’t take for granted that just because the next generation was raised within the larger family that everyone possesses the same skills, work ethic and ambition as the founder of the business. In fact, for many families, the younger generations were raised with greater affluence and therefore didn’t necessarily need to be highly driven to make ends meet.
Many employers, not just family businesses, are struggling to find young, hard-working, ambitious professionals that are willing to “put in their dues” as they advance in their careers. I have personally witnessed many of the younger generation who don’t seem interested or willing to start at the bottom and work their way up.
I’ve also come across many young high school and college students who are willing and ready to work hard to make their mark in a profession.
The problem is, most families, have both varieties of young people. Some of them are highly focused and ambitious and others aren’t. It’s the families challenge to set the right expectations for the next generation as it relates to employment in the family business. Ultimately the family wants to instill work ethic in every family member, not just those wanting to come into the family business.
The most successful families we’ve worked with start having these conversations amongst the siblings before their children reach high school and college-age. Families talk about the need for high school employment outside of the family business as well as educational requirements and achievement prior to joining the family business.
The goal of these conversations isn’t to make certain family members feel inadequate or undesirable for the family business. The goal of these conversations is to help family members talk about the skills, attitudes and work ethic that leads to success inside or outside of the family business.
Every family I’ve worked with wants nothing more than their sons and daughters to be very successful and happy in their adult lives. Having the conversations about work ethic, education and other important family values is something every family owes itself to talk about.
Being the father of two twentysomethings, I know firsthand how difficult it can be to try to have these conversations with kids in their late teens. The sooner the family can start talking about it as a collective community the sooner they’ll be challenging and supporting their next generation to be strong, contributing members of society. If some of those members decide to join the family business the family business will be better for it.