When you look to the next generation entering the family business, consider who has the right heart as well who has the hard-nose for business. You may find the heart is far more critical than the hard-nose.
How do you weigh up the value of the contribution that each family member can make to the business?
Every individual is different and will have different talents to contribute to a family business, but there can be a tendency to undervalue, and overvalue, certain traits.
Take the role of CEO. Often there is competition between family members for this position. It is seen as the most crucial role in the business and one which carries with it, recognition and authority. And I have heard elder family members discussing which of the children will be the hard-nosed businessperson who will able to take the business forward, for without them the business cannot succeed in the next generation.
This approach to identifying one role as more important, carrying more authority than another can quickly seed conflict. A better approach can be to view all positions as ones of responsibility and not authority. Seeing these roles as ones of responsibility, with the Board holding authority, can remove conflict and build stability within a family business.
But there is another aspect that is vital. Have you heard the expression ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’? It seeks to convey the message that strategy is not necessarily the single most important element to business success; there are ‘soft’ aspects that can be just if not more important to success.
This is particularly so in family businesses — it is not just the business that is important but also the family and the influence that the relationships within the family will have on the business.
Toxic relationships in a family quickly flow through into a business and will destroy that business.
In family businesses, every family member will be able to make a contribution. Some will bring business skills, and others may bring a heart for the family. Do not overvalue and undervalue one or the other.
You can always employ the necessary business skills, but you can’t hire the heart that will hold your family together. For a family business to prosper, it requires not only business skills and acumen but a united family where genuine care also thrives.
I do not often hear family elders discussing who in the family has the heart for the family that will allow the business to succeed in the next generation; and seeing this role as being equally if not more important than that of the CEO.