Successful businesses can be inherited.  Each generation can build on the previous generation’s success.  You only have to look at the Forbes family to see that is true.  However, the ability to crate and perpetuate success is not necessarily part of the genetic code.  It is not in the DNA.  It isn’t!  It is more environment and upbringing than intelligence.  It isn’t personalities and traits, although they can be strong contributors to the story.  It may not be a matter of education, although that can make a significant impact.  Just as experience can factor into the equation – experience in the family and in the family business makes a difference.

A SOB Story

Undoubtedly now is a good time to point out the SOB and DOB is the son of the boss and the daughter of the b
oss, not the other terms you may have been thinking.  Perhaps, those other terms may also be contenders in your mind for these same individuals and for the “boss”.  The relational terms and the descriptive terms may be inseparable in your mind on a daily basis, and that is unfortunate for everyone in the organization on many levels and at every level.Telephone call

Contrary to what anyone may say or what some would believe, the relationship will inevitably get in the way of communication – unless the relationship is well-managed and separated from the role within the organization the son or daughter has versus being the SOB or DOB.  Information and feedback on performance and just about anything else in the organization is going to be constantly filtered – consciously or unconsciously – when the organization knows that the family relationship will always triumph over the non-family relationships.  After all while this is currently the SOB or DOB, one of these days the title will most likely be “BOSS” – if everyone survives that long.

Oh, and one other thing.  The organization may genuinely like “the kid” and remember when “the kid” use to come in after school…and cut “the kid” some slack…but it is just as likely to take the view that you can “tell the kid anything because he/she doesn’t know any better”…”just let the kid think he/she is in charge and do what you want”…

Gaming the “Kid”

The flip side is the organization that will never tell the boss or “the kid” the truth, because if they do it will come back to bite them.  One group of executives at a family owned business likened working with a son and daughter team to being in high school where the unpopular kids were in charge and trying to be in the “popular” crowd.  The management team could manipulate what direction projects and resources went by playing on those feelings of being part of the “popular” crowd the team or not.  When two factions would emerge on the leadership team as to what direction a project would go, then the games would begin and the “winner” was the one that could play the best game of “popular”.

Unfortunately, the “winner” was never going to be the company or the family members leading the organization.  The non-family executive team members new they were just that non-family with no stake in ownership and no long term stake in the company, so the game was to move up to the degree possible to below the family positions, build the resume and move on!

Generation Next – Preparing for Leadership

For organizations where the next generation who are not yet fully equipped to ascend to the leadership and management roles they will inherit, the unfortunate objective of many of the teams that surround them is to prevent them from becoming fully capable and knowledgeable.  Because that means, those around them will become less powerful and more accountable. Unfortunately, this seems to be an all too easy task in “family” organizations, because family trusts “family” first and long term trusted employees that have been with the company forever become like family.  They can become like dysfunctional family very quickly and compulsively.

From observations and from discussions and interviews with family owned and “controlled” companies, private and public, there are two levels of the company.   One level interacts with the family and one level acts around and about the family – orbiting and interfacing with non-family members in a company that provides information and support “as if” they believe they are part of the family.  The underlying activity and conversations acknowledge that if you aren’t truly part of the family then you aren’t family.  But, you carve out territory and “loyalty” by making sure you are more “loyal” than anyone else.  You make alliances to ensure that anyone that could upset the status quo and actually equip the next generation to succeed and take the leadership roles are kept outside.

Ties that Enrich

Family ties are important and should be honored, respected, and recognized.  Family ties are important relationships and can play critical roles in enhancing business effectiveness in highly functioning organizations, with well-developed business systems, and when the family members are well-equipped and capable individuals who fit the roles they are filling in the business organization.  When the family relationship places a family member in a role for which they are ill-suited, ill-prepared, and ill-equipped, everyone in the family and the organization will ultimately suffer the consequences.  And there are all kinds of acronyms and four letter words that could be used to describe the results.

Copyright ©2007 Lea A. Strickland, F.O.C.U.S. Resource, Inc.

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