Your move – winning the family business generation game

Apprehensive, scared and excited are just some of the words to describe those about to take over the reins of the family business – of which there are around 4.5 million in the UK.   

While seeking the same key business performance and profitability goals as every other company in today’s tough climate, family businesses face additional challenges and we’ve previous looked at issues including setting up a family charter and the key challenges of succession planning to ensure the next generation is up to the job.  

Today’s blog focuses on the challenges facing the next generation about to step up to the plate which Peter Begalla, an expert in next-generation leadership development, shares with Carmen Lence  a business and career coach.

Peter’s take on the next generation, leadership and making things happen for themselves poses some key challenges for those preparing to, or contemplating handing over the reins.

What, in your experience, is the main problem that next generation members of family businesses face?

It tends to be credibility: within the family, within the enterprise, as well as marketability of their skills in either the family enterprise setting or out in the real world. So the idea is that because they have a family business they may not be as they have to be in their own right. They have to be recognized as credible and marketable themselves separate from their family so that their own identity can be established.

What would be your advice to those next generation members living in “golden cages,” meaning, working in the family business with a good job title, good salary but no real responsibility, accountability and lacking preparation to take over the leadership of the company. Living in fear about what is going to happen in the future when their parents are not around anymore.

First is to “know thyself”; know exactly what your skills are. Know what you have to bring to better the situation. That way you know where to start and you shop on your technical skills or on your soft skills. For example, if you’ve got an accounting issue, or if you’ve got a marketing issue or a financial issue, you can always ask for help. Although the responsibility in that situation is ultimately yours, know how much guidance you need in order to make the right decision, know your capacity, know your abilities and your strengths and weaknesses so that you can call for help when you do have to make the decision (because again, you’ve got the title, you’ve got the responsibility) but you have guidance.

The other thing we stress with the program is that getting unbiased feedback is advice that often leads to a profound change in the individual. The feedback is such that it just kind of says “hey this is what I see” kind of holding up a mirror “this is what I see you doing”; it allows the student to make some choices about a different behavior versus “hey, you know what you should do?” which nobody really likes. If somebody who is in a position of responsibility within an organization doesn’t have feedback then they are kind of looking in a vacuum.

In your experience, what are the main traits of successful next generation?

They tend to want truth and honesty. They tend to want everything to be exactly as it is and for everybody to know it and what’s going on. So there’s this level of transparency that I think is required personally as well as about the organization, and about the older generation and the next generation. And again, it is to “know thyself.” What your strengths and weakness are and to be ok with that to say, this is what I bring to the table, this is what I don’t bring to the table, and how are we going to make this work.

Any tips or words of advice for next generation members of family businesses?

No matter what you do, start now. Start thinking about who you are, what you are about, what you bring to the table, and how that’s viewed by your family. Also, how it’s viewed by non-family members within the business. Start the dialogue A) with yourself then B) with your family about what you bring to the table and what you want to do next. How you can contribute to the business.

If you are in this situation about to take over the family firm, share with us your key challenges and tell us what you are going to do to make things happen for you? 

If you’re seeking support on gaining a competitive advantage and boosting your business performance then contact me on richard.bosworth@whatifspecialist.com, go to @richardwhatif on Twitter Link, Richard Bosworth on LinkedIn or www.whatifforums.com

 

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