I recently facilitated a meeting of five business owners, all of whom lead a business with other family members involved. They were gathered to share best (and worst) practices based on their own experiences. The discussion focused on bringing the next generation into the business, and preparing them to take the helm. Here are the most significant truths that emerged:
- The next-generation family member should start out “mopping the floors”. They need to earn the respect of other employees.
- Establish the discipline from Day One of differentiating between “talking business” as employer-employee, and “talking personal” as mother-son.
- A young family member in their teens entering the business, even on a part time basis, creates special challenges. Their lack of real-world work experience makes it harder for them to understand the necessary separation between family and business relationships.
- They need exposure, over time, to all areas of the business. Ascertain whether the organization can compensate for their weaknesses and allow them to play to their strengths if and when they assume the leadership position. Be willing to accept the fact that they may not be cut out to eventually run the business.
- You must manage your expectations, which may be distorted because you are personally close to the family member. Allow them to surprise or disappoint you, and make necessary adjustments to your expectations and plans as they do.
- Differentiate between compensation and business ownership. Compensate based on contribution to business results. Allocate ownership based on any family considerations you deem to be fair.
Running a business is challenging. Leading a family business adds another layer of complexity which only family business owners can fully appreciate.