2.27.2012

The Generational Divide: Running A Family Business

Many businesses don’t live far beyond the original founder. The owner is either unable to find someone to pass it on to (ie, a third party to whom it is sold or a family member- most likely children) or when they do pass it on, those who inherit the business are unable to sustain it.
What does it take to ensure the longevity of a family business?

The key I believe, primarily lies in having the passion for it. Just like with any other pursuit you undertake be it a job, a hobby or an entrepreneurial venture you start on your own, you need interest and drive to make the hard work you’ll put in worthwhile.  A trend I’ve noticed for many second generation business owners, who have inherited businesses from their parents (which later fail), is that they have no interest in the business that they’re running. They take over because that’s what is expected of them- and nothing more. Continuing a business your family has worked hard to build is admirable, but it does the business, the customers and ultimately you a disservice, if your drive is absent.

In addition to having passion another important skill is learning to bridge the gap between the old and the new. If your parent’s business is in good health, chances are their old school ways must be doing some good. Sit down and speak with them about what motivated them to start the business in the first place and the kinds of challenges they’ve worked through. Figure out what they’re doing, what their strategy is and the results this translates into. On the flip side, figure out what isn’t working or what could be done more efficiently. This is where you can contribute to the business and work towards its future development.
Are you running a family business? What led you to get involved and what kinds of challenges have you faced so far? Alternatively, if you’ve opted out of taking part in a family business or taken part in the dissolution of one, what has your experience been like? Share your thoughts!

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