Tips for Bringing Your Children Into The Family Business
The printing industry is filled with entrepreneurs who started a business to fulfill their vision. And guess what, those entrepreneurs had families. Those families are often engaged in the business. At times it could be brothers or sisters, and ultimately leads to adding the sons, daughters, nieces, and nephews.
Over the years though, I’ve been fortunate enough to work with several businesses as they transition younger family members not only into the business, but into leadership roles within the organization. I’d like to highlight a few things that I’ve seen work well when adding children to the family business.
These are not easy decisions
One thing that always remains clear — the owners of the business always want the best for their children, and what is best for the business. Many will struggle in deciding whether or not entering the business is the right choice for their offspring. Secondly they consider whether or not they should start their career at the family business, or go work somewhere else first to develop their work habits and create their own identities. After which, they can return to the family business with a clearer sense of their skills and ability to contribute to the organization.
Need to work twice as hard
Children of owners are often put on a pedestal. The other employees watch what they do, what time they come in in the morning, what time they leave and whether or not they are viewed as earning their keep. These young folks need to work twice as hard just to keep up, because of their last name. And most have done so.
The children of owners need to have decided that they really want to be there. If not, it won’t work out very well. They have the opportunity to carry on the family entrepreneurial spirit and grit necessary to truly make things happen. Not on day one, but over time.
Create a clear path
Just by having the same last name, doesn’t mean they will know everything they need to know about the business. For the best of situations, have a clear path that exposes the family member to different elements of the business, over a period of time.
There is nothing like providing hands-on experience within the various departments in your organization. It all begins with your commitment. Determine a reasonable scope and timeline that fits within the structure of your business to create your program. Think of it as a management training program. What are the things they need to learn in your business in order to not only lead themselves, but to lead others?
These future leaders don’t need to become the very best sales or customer service rep, or digital press or bindery operator, that’s not the point. The goal is exposure and understanding. They should have the opportunity to experience firsthand what it’s like working in as many departments as possible. They will learn to understand the current workflow, the equipment and technology and the people. They will ultimately have a much better understanding of what is working well, where the obstacles are, and how things could be improved.
Engage non-family members
Did I mention that owners of the business always want the best for their children? Well, that’s true. And most do a very good job of delineating the business from the family. However, one best practice is to have a non-family member become that person’s mentor, or coach. As a parent, you can always step in and override anything, but the key thing is to remember that this is a business.
If you’ve done something like this in your business, or if you’ve participated in such a program, I’d appreciate your comments as to how it worked for you. What did you like about it, and what you would do different in the future?
Mike Philie leverages his 28 years of direct industry experience in sales, sales management and executive leadership to share what’s working for companies today and how to safely transform your business. Since 2007, he has been providing consulting services to privately held printing and mailing companies across North America.
Mike provides strategy and insight to owners and CEOs in the graphic communications industry by providing direct and realistic assessments, not being afraid to voice the unpopular opinion, and helping leaders navigate change through a common sense and practical approach.