Perspectives from ISB

Most of the corporate chieftains have children all ready and qualified – in legal terms at least – to join the labour force. The question is whether these offsprings should join the family business and succeed it, or work outside the family business for a few years.

In the few years outside of the family business, the offsprings are expected to learn the rough and tough ways of managing a business and eke out a decent living before coming into the family business.

This group of people wanting to succeed the family business are called the Next Gen. Do not mistake them for the “generation next”, who are often referred to as the millennials, however.

Also, do not mistake the Next Gen for children suffering from what is termed the “rich kid-itis” syndrome. It is the worst nightmare of any parent, no matter how much wealth they have accumulated.

Children suffering from the symptoms of “rich kid-itis” are those who are showered with so much money that they don’t know how to earn it. They run a five-figure tab during a night out, pop expensive champagne, drive flashy cars and go on holidays almost all-year round.

The Next Gen are those who are better groomed, care a lot more for money than the “rich kid-itis”, have gone to the best schools that money can buy, and gotten the right exposure by working in the best places a young person would die for.

The biggest challenge for the Next Gen who want to take over from their parents is doing it better than them. They have to navigate the ship when the tide turns. They have to look at how to grow the business – in the best and worst of times.

So, how do parents nurture the Next Gen to succeed their business? The owner of a chain of hypermarkets says its policy is for the children to work outside the family business for at least three years.

Another businessman says he encouraged his son to join him right after college because he felt that there was no better teacher than himself to guide his son on the travails of the business world.

There is no right or wrong in both paths when the business is running well. However, when the business runs into a rough patch, the external experience tends to help turn it around.

To a large extent, working outside the family business helps build character and a network of business contacts that are so vital when times are tough. The work experience gained outside will someday come in handy to save the family business.

For the Next Gen, it is best to have a stint outside the family conglomerate before joining the business to fix its problems and make it even better.

Source: Shanmugam, M., April 14, 2018;

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