Passing the Torch

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Passing the Torch

Working and/or having a job is an essential part of life. Working and/or having a job with family members is not essential and can be the best, or worst, thing to ever happen to you. Trust me, I know firsthand as someone who has grown up knowing nothing else. Both my grandfathers worked in the business, my father is CEO and my 2 brothers and 3 cousins currently work in the business as well. Not to mention the many employees who have been with the company longer than I can remember and are as close as family. I also see this every day in the field. Franchisees typically co-own, manage or are employed by families I visit. This can create challenges for anyone, especially other family members and employees. In my experience, it has been nothing but a blessing. I don’t have it all figured out by any means and I am still learning as more family comes into the fold. But, here are some points that have helped me and could really help you in passing your businesses to the next generation.

Treat business like business and family like family

A conversation that you had at a family dinner shouldn’t influence how you manage your business. You have to separate the two and always do what is best for the business. Don’t remind a family member of a time they embarrassed themselves while in front of employees. Don’t openly talk about family matters in your business. It will create a circle that employees will feel they can never join.

Age is just a number.

One thing my dad has said for years is, it doesn’t matter your age, we are going to hire leaders who are best for the business even if that is someone not in the family. You have to be okay with your little brother or sister being better at something than you, even if that means they are leading the company and you are not. It doesn’t matter if you were the oldest and experienced everything first, if it’s not the best decision for the business, then it’s not the right move. This is coming from an older brother with extremely talented younger brothers and cousins. I still have to work at this and continue to improve.

Have clear lines and roles.

There needs to be a clear organizational chart and role for each family member and employee. Just because a family member says something to an employee, it doesn’t mean the employee needs to drop what they are doing to help because they are “the family of the owners.” In many cases, family members report to non-family members (and in most cases, that is the best rule as there should never even be a perception of bias). Family members need to also accept these roles and be open about it with each other.

Know who is in charge and let everyone know.

Split responsibility rarely works. And, another way to look at it, split accountability never works. If there is a decision to be made in a business, there needs to be one person that has the final say. If you don’t do this you will end up with what I call “Dad and Mom Syndrome”. This essentially means your employees will go to whoever they think will have the better response or have a response changed from something the other person said. There needs to be a boss and there needs to be someone in charge.

Let it go!

No argument about sports, the mean thing you said when you were 5, or the fact that your youngest brother got a full TV hookup and the older brother never had cable (I’m not still bitter). But in all honesty, let it go. It’s not worth it. The little things that your family does that annoy you – they just aren’t a big deal. It’s not worth losing a relationship or a business. It’s not worth losing the opportunity to build a successful business. And, it certainly is not worth losing money over it!

Family business is tough, a recent study said that only 3% of family businesses make it to the third generation. The main reason for that is the previous generation didn’t prepare, train, and work with their family to ensure success. I would count myself as one of the lucky ones. My grandfather worked with my dad and my dad has been working with all of us our whole lives! If done right, there is no greater joy than building a business with your family. Never give up and always push further!

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