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The Parent Trap

Three siblings are executives in a family business and between them have ten children ranging in age from mid-teens to nearly thirty. Committed to long-term family ownership and leadership, the entire family has regular family meetings. Different branches of the family and different members of the younger generation have widely different commitments to attending those meetings. Their involvement--or lack thereof--may evoke troubling reactions from family members

  • As Managers I’m concerned about so many owners n the next generation with differing levels of commitment to the family business.
  • Their abilities and motivations are so varied. I fear conflicts with my siblings over who can enter the business and who gets promoted.
  • Rather than risk conflict of the threat of unqualified family members in the business, perhaps we should sell while we can get a good price

As Parents

  • The kids don’t appreciate what we’ve worked for. They know nothing yet they are quick to critize.
  • The kids are young and don't realize how important these meetings are to their development.
  • I love my family and will do whatever is necessary to help them fulfill the dream of our business.

The older generation needs clearly to articulate its expectations for participation in family meetings. All parents should give their children the same message about the importance of being involved.

At the same time, different children will have varying levels of commitment, interest and ability related to the business--and each will have their own conflicting demands in their lives.

Remember that maturity comes slowly and priorities change as young people grow up. Some families develop flexible policies on family meeting involvement. Lack of interest on the part of young people’s attitudes and involvement generally should not be taken personally nor as a reflection of their long-term potential and after all, family business policies and decisions really are about the long-term. Adolescents are typically primarily involved in themselves and their own agendas rather than ready to focus on the family and its business.

 

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