Identify individual passions. One of the biggest concerns for the younger generation when considering entering their family business is whether or not their individual talents and passions will have the appropriate outlet.
A smart family business leader bears this in mind, finding ways within the business to allow younger family members to run with their strengths. In so doing individual assets become company assets while at the same time the emotional well-being and commercial value of younger family members is secured.
Investing in the family’s future
Prioritise training and education. Family companies generally place greater emphasis on long-term goals and longevity than do non-family companies. In keeping with such perspective, almost all family business leaders recognize the importance of training the younger generations in industry and leadership skills. Most will also acknowledge that this training should be on-going.
What sometimes falls by the way side is the importance of continually developing the skills of the older generation. Family business owners and CEOs, remember that in everything you are always setting an example, so when you show an interest in your own up-skilling you are sending a message to the younger generations about the importance of remaining current and relevant. Such example-setting benefits them as business partners as well as individuals.
Fostering family success
Encourage change and innovation. Instilling a sense of heritage is important to morale and vision. However, if there is an excessive emphasis on the past, successive generations may feel too tied to the old ways, and their thinking could end up crippled in terms of finding new ways to move the company forward.
They need to know and feel that change is okay, oftentimes even good and necessary. The structures and policies that make one generation succeed in an industry may not carry over into the next. Family business leaders therefore need to create a culture of adaptability, where change is embraced as necessary and important to the future success of the company.
Be a strong but fair decision-maker. Leaders of family businesses sometimes have to make hard business decisions, whether in responding to a crisis or making a tough call in some other area. Leaders can struggle with this, worrying if the ramifications of a tough business call will negatively impact one or more of their very close personal relationships.
Investing in the business’ future
For the business to do well the leader needs to be up to this task, but to make the family work the leader also needs to not be a cut-throat. It’s finding the balance – and the person who can best execute this balance – that will help you invest in both your family’s and your business’s future. When decisions are felt by all to have been arrived at fairly, then personal relationships are less likely to suffer. Transparency helps here.
Engender a culture of listening. In all relationships – whether personal or professional – people want the chance to voice their views and concerns, and they want to feel that they have been heard. Sometimes in family business those in the younger generations can feel that they are overlooked, and their opinions and ideas are not valued.
Leadership skills for long-term success
The good business leader understands that he or she doesn’t necessarily have to agree with and accept everything that’s said or suggested, but that younger staff should be afforded the dignity and consideration of being heard.
Having open channels of communication helps to ensure good working and personal relationships, as everyone feels they are a valued part of the team. It will also enhance the decision-making processes within the business, as there will be more pooling of insights and ideas.
Share decision-making power. Sometimes the leaders in family business can hold on tightly to all control and decision-making powers until their exit from the company, or their death. This is far from ideal. Younger members of the firm need to gain the confidence and experience that comes from executing a degree of decision-making power over time.
This is best learned in increments, while still enjoying the security of older-generation guidance and fall-back. By holding on to all control, older generation leaders do not fully prepare the next generation as leaders and confidently capable successors. Take the analogy of the father teaching his child to ride a bike: you don’t put the child on the bike and tell them to go ahead on their own.
Family business leaders and the younger generation
Rather, to start with, you keep your hand on the saddle to help guide the bike, while the child learns to steer and peddle. In this way when you finally let go the child has the confidence and skill to ride on his or her own.
Transfer vision and values. Family business leaders want younger firm members to succeed as people as well as business successors. Your values and vision will permeate the manner in which you conduct yourself and do business. Make sure you are transferring these concepts and ideals (while actions speak loudly, also discuss them), as this will ensure the enduring quality of your company as well as the integrity and import of their lives in general.
Family firms generally outperform their competitors, their solidarity offering a powerful advantage. In order to keep that solidarity, family business owners and CEOs need to be mindful of how their business actions impact the work and personal mentalities and realities of younger generation family members.