From Jeff in Seattle
I’m worried about the next generation coming into our family business. They are all a bunch of nice kids but I’m not sure some of them have what it takes to be successful in our business. I’m worried we are headed for difficulties as a family when these issues arise.
Great question Jeff, and a very common challenge many family businesses face. I believe one of the keys to minimizing this dilemma is to get started early. I am encouraging families to have some form of family business meeting in the summer to begin to indoctrinate the extended family into these types of conversations.
Depending on the ages of the children, families can design different kinds of activities for their meetings that can involve things like:
- the history of the family business
- the values of the family business
- how those values are expressed in behaviors
- what kinds of expectations are there for family members who want to come in the business
When a family can start to work together in a non-threatening way it gives the leaders a chance to start to shape the thinking and expectations about future employment. At those early ages you can begin to set the tone of accountability, responsibility, and outside work experience as critical elements for future success of the family business.
Too often families are nervous about it, so they don’t discuss it. Then, when family a member decides to leave college early and show up at the business’s doorstep, it is a much more difficult and contentious situation to deal with. You want to get started on it early.
The bottom line is the family business needs to set a realistic and strong expectation for minimum levels of performance and success before allowing family members to join the business. I strongly recommend that every family has an outside employment policy (Next Gen’s go get work experience elsewhere), and many times that policy should bring this issue to a head during its discussion.
Start early, warm up to the topic and get people thinking about it before they are college age.