Why Should I Work Harder?

Dr Richard Shrapnel PhD
2 min readMar 7, 2022
A series for those journeying through family business succession.

How ‘hard’ should you work in a family business as a member of the next generation? The answer is usually, ‘As hard as I need you to’ — if you ask the incumbent leaders. But normally the question is not even considered and that’s where the problems start.

Business is not easy and incumbent leaders carry a lot of responsibility for the continuing success of the business, which is not shared. The reality is these burdens can’t be shared anyway — it’s simply the nature of leadership. When you are leading a business, the work day/week is 24/7. Again, it’s the nature of the role but that does not mean that everyone else around you has to keep pace or work harder than you. It’s not unusual to hear current leadership complain that ‘the next generation is not pulling their weight’ and ‘are not working hard enough’. Often this is code for ‘they are not doing what l want them to’, ‘they are asking too many questions’ or ‘they are just not visible in the office/factory for the number of hours I expect them to be’. On the latter point of a family member’s visible hours, the ‘vanity metric’ of how many hours someone is in the office/factory does not in any way reflect someone’s productivity or contribution. This is especially so in today’s connected world where business can and is conducted from anywhere at anytime.

For me, how ‘hard’ someone works comes down to their commitment to growing the business and their willingness to put in that extra mile to make it a success.

This is not normally an issue of ‘hours invested’ with the next generation, but rather an issue of the incumbent leadership team allowing them to take ‘ownership’ of a project and deliver it the way they would like to.

If you believe the next generation is not pulling their weight, then before criticising them pause and look at your leadership style. Are you allowing them to step up and take responsibility (their way) or are you just demanding that they do everything your way? If it’s the latter, then you are probably just blocking them from contributing and you will find they are more frustrated than you.

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