Thinking About Turning Over the Family Business

father grooming son for family business After years of building a successful business, many owners want to keep it in the family. That brings up the difficult issue of succession. Perhaps your children and grandchildren have grown up with the business. And as they’ve gained abilities, they’ve become valuable members of the family firm. While your children may be highly skilled in their particular specialty, do they have what it takes to lead your team to excellence in your industry?

The qualities of a leader are many. And to some extent the type of leadership style that works in one setting may not work in another. What is common to all successful leaders however, is the ability to communicate with his or her subordinates, colleagues and superiors. The confident leader communicates this confidence and encourages the best from others.

Leaders of family firms who want the best for their families and their business confront the problem of cultivating leadership openly and honestly. They insist on training the next generation in the development of problem solving skills, communication skills, confrontation skills as well as the skills of the specific product manufactured. They also need what I call “the resilience factor“, which embraces the qualities of flexibility, a win-win philosophy, quality over quantity, toughness, and foresight.

There are a variety of strategies for ensuring that the second generation in family firms is prepared. The strategy that fits for you depends upon the business, the parent’s skills and personality and the skills and personalities of the children.

The child needs an environment where they must prove themselves capable of leadership in the family business. For some this means leaving the business for awhile and working elsewhere. For others, it means getting an education before returning to the family business. Another child may benefit by working their way up from the “mailroom” with no preferential treatment from the parents. Finally, some children will be better family members and more capable adults if they never return to the family business.

There are two goals in family firms. One is to develop a thriving business. The second is to develop healthy independent adults who can contribute to society.

Keep in mind that the business can be successful without the child and the child can be successful without the business. That is, set your sights on accomplishing both goals independent of each other, and you may be surprised how they come together in the long run.

Often it helps to get an objective view of your family and business. A psychologist is skilled at helping you sort out your choices and get clear on your objectives when making big decisions in life. If you’re ready to gain that kind of clarity in your own life, make an appointment with my Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA office.

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