When they feel they are ready, getting an opportunity to do more can sometimes be frustrating for the children of family business owners. In her family business newsletter, Daughters in Charge, Amy Katz, Ph.D., a family business consultant, recently published a letter from a daughter in this predicament.
I worked for my parents over summers in high school, got a college degree with a business major and then an MBA, learned from some great internships, and returned to my family's business 10 years ago. But I'm still stuck in the same job. I know I'm ready for more, but my dad just won't let go. And in our business, if he doesn't let go, we will really struggle when he eventually retires. I don't know how to convince him that I want more to do. By the way, my siblings don't work in the business and don't want to. I'm it.
Some nextgens are unwilling to step up, and some founders and CEO's are unwilling to let go. The process of sharing and eventually shifting responsibilities from one generation to another is a major transition, as you well know.
I recently read a blog post by Meghan Juday that directly addresses this issue. Meghan grew up in a large and successful family business and is now an advisor to family businesses .
In her article, Meghan talks about the importance of encouraging leaders and family council members to take the time to engage the next generation in planning for the future. That way, next generation members become involved in creating their own future. They provide useful information about changing trends in their own generation that can help prepare the business to adapt to changing times. Meghan describes a process that can help to set the stage for the next generation to "step up" and the current leaders to "step down."
It sounds like you're from a small business, Libby, so your approach may be a little different, but Meghan's ideas about strategic planning still apply. Think about the future of the business, market trends, and the roles that are likely to be important over time. As an example, many daughters are introducing social media strategies-something many family businesses probably have never had to think about before. I'm not suggesting you take on that role, but I am suggesting that you engage your dad in a series of conversations about the future of the business.
There's a lot to talk about. What new technology may be needed? What products or services may become obsolete and what unmet needs can your business uncover and focus on? In other words, use your knowledge and experience and "talk business." That kind of dialogue can open the door to discussions about the way the business is structured-staffing, roles, etc.
After a series of conversations about the business, you may both learn a lot and jointly discover some new opportunities for you. Talk about what you can do and how you can learn from him.
For now, just focus on the year ahead and not the rest of your career-or his, for that matter. You may be surprised at what your dad will let you take on when he sees how concerned you are about the business' future-he may even be relieved!
Amy J. Katz is president of Daughters in Charge and has consulted to family businesses for fifteen years. She has a true appreciation for the special challenges and opportunities that working in a family business can provide. After Amy began facilitating a mastermind group of talented women who work in their family business, she found her passion: to help daughters and other women working in their family business lead with confidence and clarity. Amy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.