Ask Yourself the Tough Questions

Sons and daughters of business owners be prepared. Some of you are future leaders and, if you eventually would like to be the leader of your family's business, there are some tough questions you must ask yourself now. First, do you like what your business does? If you cannot answer this question with a resounding and definitive yes then you are working in the wrong business. If you don’t like what the business does, you cannot either commit the necessary energy and enthusiasm to make your work interesting nor will you have the motivation to develop future leadership skills that the business will need. If you do not like what the business does, your future business success and happiness lies elsewhere — pursue it.

The second question you must ask is whether you can make a real, substantial contribution to the future success of your family's business. Having a liking for the business is necessary but its future success also will depend on your abilities to make substantive contributions over an extended period of time as an employee. manager and leader. Honestly assess your strengths and weaknesses now so you can develop your strengths, broaden your knowledge of the business' operations, and shore up your weaknesses. Be candid with yourself. Utilize the advice and counsel of your parents, the incumbenl executives in the business, and the key advisors to your family's business. If they share your commitment to the continued success of the business, which I am sure they do, they will be happy to help you construct a personal development plan that will prepare you for a future leadership role. Seek out a senior manager who can coach you through a leadership development plan tailored to meet your specific needs. Remember, you eventually must be more knowledgeable and have a broader range of experiences than the current leader of the business has because the business will be different and more complex in the future.

The third question to ask yourself relates to your own needs. How will a career in the family business help you fulfill your personal goals? Pursuing your dreams and goals will play a large role in your life, therefore, this is a question that you must re-visit throughout your career as circumstances and your personal needs change. If, for example, you merely feel "obligated" to work in the family business, the pain of your suppressed hopes and ambitions will destroy not only your personal happiness but also your ability to provide leadership to the business when you are at its helm.

If you plan to fulfill your personal goals within the family business, it is important that you work hard at ensuring that your involvement in it is both meaningful and challenging for you. Having the opportunity and the ability , to continually learn, to grow, to contribute to the success of the business and to develop one's talents and skills in a meaningful and challenging way is one of the most rewarding experiences for family members who work in the enterprise owned by their family.

The fourth and final question for today is: How well can you work with other family members?, Don’t underestimate the importance of healthy family interactions. Good, trusting, cooperative, collaborative and supportive relations among owners are the backbone of successful family businesses. Conflicts, of course. will inevitably arise among family members over time because each will see things differently, but when those conflicts occur in healthy families they are acknowledged, understood, discussed and resolved. Family owned businesses cannot grow if family problems are overlooked or minimized. Differences and problems cannot be solved if they are ignored. There is no substitute for good relationship skills in families; you must be a good problem solver in order to be an effective leader. Healthy interactions among family members are a key ingredient for the durable success of family owned enterprises.

If you want to be a future leader in your family's business, conduct a personal audit that focuses on the above questions. Share your responses to these questions with your parents and siblings; ask them for advice and guidance. Their involvement with you in a continuing self-assessment process will help you enhance the skills you already possess and develop the personal characteristics that will enable you to lead the business well in the future.

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