Managing the Family Business Generation Shift

Then you have the question of succession in a family business: Is your child the right person to lead the company?

You grow up poor and work your way up from nothing. You have children and of course, you want them to have a better life than you did, so from your years of sweat and toil you provide a clean, spacious house, holidays, nice new clothes, good healthy food, everything they need for their education …what parent wouldn’t?

And then you expect your children to share your mindset. But this is a mindset you can only develop by working your way up from nothing. And you can’t blame your children for the comfortable upbringing that you provided for them!

It’s even harder when you’re dealing with a family business: Of course, you dream about your children taking over the company you built and growing it to the next level. You have the deep satisfaction of seeing your life’s work providing for your children combined with the pride of seeing your children achieve even more than you did.

Making that a reality, however, is not always as easy as the dream suggests: either for the parent or the child. There are, certainly, advantages: the chance to jump straight into a job and learn the ropes quickly; for the parent, a fortune saved on sponsored work placements and internships, and the privilege of having your children in your lives rather than leaving for a far-off city or another country.

But there are big downsides too: Not having to fight for a job can also mean children not appreciating the opportunity to better themselves. Then you have the question of succession in a family business: Is your child the right person to lead the company? Which of your children should take the reigns?
How do you manage succession without arguments and rifts?
Inducting the next generation into business is both the greatest privilege and the greatest challenge.

As a parent and a boss you want your children to be willing to step up but also show you – and the job – respect. You want them to lead without feeling entitled. You want to protect your children (and your company!) but you want your children to experiment and explore the business world.

Ultimately, you can teach your children how to bat but you can’t bat for them. At some point, you have to learn as a parent to sit back and provide encouragement from the stand. My son Roland and I have pulled it off because we really respect each other and we’ve learned to give each other space while remaining close as father and son.

This post was previously published on Joseph Felfoldi and is republished here with a Creative Commons license.

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