Out now the February Issue of The Sticks digital magazine

Page 18

Family Fortunes The Pleasures and Perils of Passing The Baton Family relationships are a minefield for many, littered with loyalties and expectations, assumptions, betrayal and disappointment. Now compound the challenges by imagining working with your parents, children or your spouse and you have a recipe for some interesting life experiences. How can you turn this potential for pitfalls into something akin to pride and joy? As someone who has worked with my parents, my children and my husband, (not all at the same time) and who has a keen ear for the experiences of others who run family businesses, here’s some points to consider. The most difficult thing many find is open and empathetic communication. Inadvertently copying the parent and child styles of dialogue can create an imbalance. Once suitable for directing the lives of your children, it becomes an issue when that ‘commanding’ manner lingers into adulthood. Parents think they know best. And perhaps they do, but like any workplace relationship, you have to respect the other person’s choice to make decisions and act independently. If you are lucky they will consult but they will soon stop if they get told what to do. Better if they learn from an open conversation about the pros and cons of decisions they need to make. Trying to create opportunities to ask the other generation for their input and opinions on non-critical matters helps them learn about considering different viewpoints and the more experience party can use these discussions to share vital experience they have gained. A sole trader who has grown their business from scratch, into one which supports two or more members of the family and perhaps some non-family staff is likely to be used to doing things their way, unquestioned. This can raise significant issues when the next generation want to make their stamp on a business. The inevitable feelings of redundancy from the original kingpin will surface as they see their ‘baby’ (in this case the business!) taken away from them. A careful and sensitive approach from the emerging offspring is necessary to mitigate this issue. Involve the original founder with some strategic areas you know are of personal interest to them and try to incorporate their input to make them feel valued and respected. Handing over the business should ideally be done over a two or three year period. It’s taken the original boss years to get their experience and insight and it’s unreasonable to expect the next generation to know everything overnight. Patience and respect need to be continually revisited. Working out a plan together for sharing the knowledge on the key roles and responsibilities is critical to sustained and consistent success. Some of it can be gained from the parent and other areas would be best found outside the business to give the new director external perspective and most importantly, new ideas with which to take the business forward. 18