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The indifference of next generation members could be viewed as both surprising and somewhat disappointing when considering the skill set and talent of these young people and the potential that they have to offer to the business.
Yet they often don’t see eye-to-eye with the Founder and as such pursue other routes, and interests separate to the business.
I am by no means suggesting that this is wrong, but seek to present practical steps by which this pool of talent can contribute to the success, growth and continuation of their own family business.
All too often the first generation of family business leaders seek to have clones of themselves run the business, or have the desire to ‘clone’ the next generation to be just like them. While the next generations most definitely have a lot to learn from their predecessors, they bring different skills and knowledge that are key to run businesses.
In an era where next generation members work for purpose, and seek their own happiness, it should not be taken for granted that they will get involved in the family business either now or later.
So the key question is: How to engage next generation family members to take some interest in the family business and maybe even get involved?
While there are the traditional and conventional education and academic routes, that may be pursued, there are many effective practical steps that can encourage to engage the next generation of family members and bring them closer to the family business cause. Below I have listed some successful strategies that I have witnessed many family businesses in the Gulf and Levant regions successfully execute and implement.
*Train the next generation from a young age: Make internships available to the younger members of the family at every opportunity. Be it between summer camps, during the winter holidays, or even a gap year. Let their first work experience be in the company, whether on the shop floor, in the offices or factories. I recently came across a young lady on the cusp of assuming the ownership and management of her dad’s construction and contracting empire, who started working part-time in the company reception whilst still at school. I believe this is one of the best ways in which you can instill in the next generation the value of hard work.
*Introduce the next generation to key employees: It is important to bring your family and employees together and as such ensure their ‘socialization’ with one another. Invite your key managers and most enthusiastic employees to family gatherings and allocate time for dedicated sessions to the family where the managers describe and explain what they do, why they do it and what they like about doing it to your youngest generation. It can be important to acquaint the family with key employees and vice versa allowing them to put faces to names, and understand key functions and responsibilities. This helps in demystifying the business and the enterprise.
*Introduce the next generation to key clients and stakeholders: In the same spirit as the above, introducing your top clients to the next generation helps demystify the business. It is beneficial to invite them to meet the next generation and allow them to present their experience of working with the family business while providing feedback on the services, products, and the collaboration with the business. Demonstrate how your business brings change to other organizations and enhances people’s lives. As my colleague Alexandra Sharpe mentions in blog “Benefits of storytelling”, storytelling has the potential to be surprisingly impactful and engaging.
*Promote your CSR activity: Millennials and today’s younger generations can be more concerned with ethics and social responsibility than previous generations. Demonstrate your charitable and philanthropic undertakings, and let them be part of it and contribute to the positive impact of your business on society.
In a nutshell, it is important to open up the business and invite the family to become acquainted with it. Bring the business to life, give it a personality and demonstrate that it embodies more than an annual dividend.
Above all else, exhibit the love and passion that feeds the business and, the rest will speak for itself.
by: Rosine Makhlouf, Senior Manager, Deloitte Private, Middle East
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