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Helping Family Businesses
Prosper Across Generations®

Values Dilemmas (Part II)

Last month we proposed that successor generations may have some predictable differences with their parents on certain values. We discussed a conflict between "hard work" and "balanced life."

At least two other values often present similar dilemmas.

First Generation

  • The company has always been very "generous" to others: our employees, our community, and our suppliers= and customers' causes.
  • I'm excited that our family business gives us a real chance for powerful "family unity." It's imperative that everyone continue as part of the ownership team.

Second Generation

  • Yes, but all the giving has had a business purpose, too. We think it's important to be "charitable" for idealistic, selfless reasons.
  • That's a promising vision. But isn't "personal freedom" more important? Is it healthy for people to feel obliged to participate in whatever we do?

Acknowledging and accepting these dilemmas in a family is important. Inevitably, some differences emerge between generations.

But the differences don't have to be cast in terms of black and white or right and wrong. Each viewpoint contains elements of truth. What we propose is that the family study these topics eagerly and philosophically.

The "hard work/balanced life" dilemma can be resolved by recognition that a balanced life leads to higher productivity and performance. Studying "independence" and "conformity" as well as "self-interest" and "altruism" can also present fascinating opportunities to explore and grow together as a family.

Like so many aspects of the family business world, acknowledging, discussing, and understanding differences make family members and the business stronger and more resilient. Differences can then be welcomed as stimulating, rather than rejected as sources of conflict.

 

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