The unique feeling of being born into a family business-it’s hard to describe if you’ve never lived it

 I was in an initial meeting with a client last week when he began to share with me all the feelings and emotions wrapped around being born into a family business.  Before he got too far into the story I stopped him and said, “believe me– I know what you’re talking about.  I was born into a 50-year-old family business which eventually grew to the ripe old age of ninety!”

It’s hard to describe that feeling if you’ve never experienced it.  In most families, the family business becomes almost like the number one son or daughter the family is so proud of.  Everything and everybody else can feel a little bit jealous and envious of how much attention the family business gets.  The business becomes a center point of discussion at holidays, family events and the evening dinner table.  It takes on a life of its own.

As a youngster growing up, you inevitably begin to either dream of the day you’ll join the family business or you have a growing feeling of disdain for all the attention and focus it gets in your family. Both of those paths are loaded with land mines!

One of the things we work on in our family business coaching is to help families distinguish between three systems.  The family system, the management system, and the ownership system.  The problem is with most families, all of those systems get confused and lumped into one.

Healthy families know how to distinguish between the different systems.  They pay close attention to maintaining separate identities within each of the systems.  It’s important for a family to know who they are as a family without the identity of the family business.  One of the most common challenges I see is younger generations having a difficult time establishing their own identity, value system, and leadership voice having grown up inside the family business.

In my family, like many family businesses, the founder or current leader of the business casts a big shadow.  That shadow or legacy can be a source of pride or a source of anxiety for the up and comers in the business.  We work with the emerging leaders and give them tools to be able to sort out and develop their own unique talents and skills that can build on or complement the skills of their predecessors.

When young business people can begin to create their own distinct and healthy identities, both within the family business and within their own nuclear family, they are well on their way to being happier, productive business people.

Being born into a family business is a unique feeling.  It’s something that I can now be so proud of, but at earlier points in my life caused a certain amount of uncertainty and frustration.  I was fortunate enough to have many life experiences, and a strong and supportive family that allowed me to create an identity outside of the family business.

Be aware of how your family business might be impacting your family system.  Find resources and tools to allow your family to have open and productive dialogue to create strength and health within three systems.

  • Posted by Coach Pete
  • Thursday, September 23rd, 2010
  • Comments Off on The unique feeling of being born into a family business-it’s hard to describe if you’ve never lived it