Perspectives from ISB

PwC Family Business Survey Being the ‘boss’s child’ throws up some unique challenges for the next generation of family business leaders.  There are a number of ‘gaps’ that the next generation face: the generation gap between their experience and expectations, and those of their parents’; the credibility gap, which they have to surmount if they’re to establish themselves; and the communications gap, which can arise both within the firm, and within the family.  Some of the tips to plan for succession are:

Get outside experience first: Getting outside experience first means you can make a more informed decision before joining and then come to the family firm with valuable skills.

‘Try before you buy’: Find ways to ‘connect without committing’ – in other words, get some experience of what it’s like to work there, the culture, and the sort of role you might aspire to eventually

Don’t put pressure on yourself: Don’t let the family name create unrealistic expectations (either yours or anyone else’s).

Insist on a proper appraisal: I’ve seen many family bosses who give their children mainly negative criticism – either out of fear of favouritism, or because they assume they already know the positive things, when in fact they’ve never actually articulated them.

Handle change with care: Family firms pride themselves on their quick decision-making, but there will be personal factors in play if you want to change something your parents spent their lives building.

Communicate, communicate, communicate: The challenges of balancing the personal and the professional make it even more important to be able to talk openly and honestly about business issues.

Make sure succession is a process, not an event: Succession needs to be planned a long time ahead. That gives you, your family and the rest of the business time to adjust and prepare for the transition.

Enjoy it!: You can be part of something you really care about, become a guardian of it, and perhaps, one day pass it on to your own kids. It doesn’t get much better than that.