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Mind Your Own Business! Part 2: Preparing the Next Generation

In my previous blog post, Mind Your Own Business, Part 1: Managing Privacy within a Family Business, I introduced readers to Peterson Manufacturing, a second generation family business who ran up against some difficulties protecting their privacy in a small community. This post continues the same theme with a more focused look at the next generation. Children who grow up in small towns often feel claustrophobic and struggle to develop their own identities. For the children of high-profile family firms like Peterson Manufacturing, the pressures can be far more oppressive.

Key 1

To prepare the next generation—regardless of the firm’s size or location—is to practice good parenting. Good parenting develops a child’s self-esteem and accountability. A child who is well-parented recognizes their own strengths and weaknesses, possess the courage to pursue their dreams, and understands that actions have consequences. Teaching accountability is vital. In community-dominant family firms, parents are easily tempted to use family wealth as a means to influence or “buy” their children out of trouble—whether to “protect the family name” or to shield the children from pain. This breeds a culture of entitlement that can cripple the individual, the family and the business.

Key 2

Choose an appropriate time to have a sit-down discussion with the next generation. Begin a conversation with them about the history of the business, the family’s roles and responsibilities within the community, and the children’s budding skills and career interests. Parents may find it helpful to role-play with the children, posing as community members with questions and comments about the family and the business.

Key 3

Wise family-business leaders create policies that work on two levels:

  1. Manage the next generation’s expectations about the firm
  2. Outline clear employment policies governing family members.

Family members who live up to performance standards can ensure their own success and enhance the success of the corporation.

Key 4

For those who hope to instill in the next generation a desire to work in a small-town family business, remember this: a desire to be a part of the family business depends on:

  1. Living in close proximity to the family and business will be positive in one’s life
  2. The family business is an exciting opportunity for the individual
  3. The business is well-regarded in the community
  4. The small-town environment can enhance the business’ growth

A family business that operates as a big fish in small pond will face a unique array of advantages and challenges. Those that succeed do so by developing family and business governance systems. They create statements and policies regarding the family’s values, mission and vision, and the firm’s employment policies and codes of conduct. They manage how business information is communicated, they support family unity by monitoring the family’s profile, and they prepare the next generation for future leadership.

How have you prepared the NxG? Or, as a NxG member of a family business, do you feel like you were provided with the right education surrounding protecting the family’s–and your own–privacy? What would you recommend to others?

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