Biz Tips : F A M I L Y

One common question that been asked to me regards family run business is that ” how to make our kids involve in our business?”

Do you own a business? Do you have kids? Do you want them involved in your business? Do you want them to run it one day? Oh, and by the way, do you get a day older every day?

Hence my son Ahshik also started to run his business and also involved in my business people start asking abangabu questions.

The question was whether I did that on purpose, or what did I do to make that happen.

Ironically, given that I’m a planner by profession, this was not the result of long-term planning, at least not exactly.

And also it is this year that i started  to recognize that exit strategy or succession could be relevant. I’ve loved the business for so long that it had become second nature.  The thought of retirement was horrible, but I didn’t realize that I didn’t have to retire, just change jobs.

As it turned out, what did happen was the gradual recognition that I could change my job and put somebody else in charge, without retiring. I blog now, and speak and write and teach, while Ahshik learns and been marketing my company .  I have a team that work in my business. I work more hours than ever, but it’s a different job now and I love it. Nobody reports to me. What a great change. What a relief.

F: Find a Exit Way .You will exit eventually. Deal with it.
This is life, not just business. Even if you think you’ll never sell your company or go public, you’re not going to run it forever. So think about exit strategy, whether you like it or not.

A: Allow your spouse be in business with you .
This is a moot point of course if you’re both doing the same thing, but when it’s just one of the two parents doing the business, it’s still much better if two parents deal with children’s involvement, deciding how and when. In our case it was my business for the first decade but became our business as it grew. Even in the old days, though, when it was just my business, my wife was always in favor of the kids understanding where the money came from. And of course we recognize that you don’t always have the luxury of two parents of the same mind. It’s a luxury, not a necessity.

M: Mold them: Don’t plan your children into your business. It won’t work.
They’re supposed to do what they want, remember, not what you want? Or are we still in the 19th century (and it didn’t work that well then either)?

Trivia contest: name a major movie in which a central character was supposed to go into his or her parents’ business but didn’t. Answer: lots of right answers. It’s an archetype. It goes back to Abraham trashing his father’s store in the bible. Jesus was nicer about it, but he didn’t end up a carpenter. In Godfather, Don Corleone wanted Michael to be a senator, not the next don, but Michael made that decision, not his father. And for a more recent example, take Hiro in Heroes.

You have to hope they want to get involved, and maybe they will. Freedom to choose is essential. Working in the business has to be their choice, not yours.

I: Instill and Emphasize good education, and let them study what they want.
You want your children studying what interests them, not what interests you or what you think is good for the business.

I’m talking higher education here, of course, not Mrs. Azman reading class in the fourth grade. Let them study what they want and let those chips fall where they may. You don’t get good education by forcing it, and good education is way more important than the right subject. I hope you think that’s obvious.

Despite owning my own business , I encouraged my kids to major in things other than business. They should get an education first, learn business later. It’s a trade, not a discipline.

L: Let them try things. Make it an attractive option.
We like these people we raised, we’re happy to have them involved. Whenever we could we tried to make the workplace a pleasant place to be. This of course means everybody, in our case of a 40-employee company that includes the 37 who aren’t our grownup children.

People don’t always find their best place right away. Don’t push them into corners, let them experiment. Let them work with who they want, on what they want, and eventually they’ll end up in a good place.

Ultimately what’s at stake here, if things work out right, is you can end up with well educated hard working people who know where the business came from, and why, and want to take it to the best place for its future. That’s really a good thing.

Y: Your stories ,share what you do. Talk about it. Open up. .
My kids had to spend occasional weekend mornings follow me for talks and trainings. It didn’t hurt them to know where the money (what there was of it in the beginning) came from. My wife and I shared the work. We walked together to the post office when I was starting my business, checking for new customers. The kids came too. None of that hurt.
It’s scary to give advice about things like this to anybody, so I do so reluctantly. I hope I’m not one of those people who gets lucky and then takes credit for it.

The tips here come from experience. They are not from academic study. When I was in school we weren’t talking about family businesses.

Looking back on this, and reviewing my tips, I can see of course that not everything here applies to everybody. Also, that I’ve probably left some key elements out, although not on purpose.

Furthermore, I’m embarrassed to seem to be recommending against planning. But in this very special case, planning is too much in danger of becoming pushing, as in pushing your children, forcing your dreams down their throats. So you can’t really plan on this, you have to just work on making the conditions right, and make it happen.


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