By Dan Beenken
It’s a common refrain that Millennials need constant feedback and praise. I’m not here to discuss the validity of this statement or debate whether that is good or bad. Rather, I’d like to just say that I think everyone enjoys feedback—and obviously the positive kind. We all want to hear that what we are doing is making a difference, having an impact, and, most of all, that we and our efforts are appreciated.
I can’t think of anyone that doesn’t like to hear gratitude for their efforts. With that as a baseline assumption, my experience working with business families has shown that this simple act is often severely lacking for many families—especially family businesses.
So many families fail at succession not because of a weak business model but because of weak communication. Everything is built on the straw house of assumptions, and eventually the wind (or a son-in-law) comes in and blows that apart.
The best way to develop that communication path between generations is to start with gratitude. The first step is to simply tell the older generation how much you appreciate their efforts to build what you are going to take over one day. And the best part is that it's FREE! No consultant is necessary. Acknowledge their hard work, sacrifice, great decision making, etc. Even if your relationship is strained and it's hard to see the good, remember why you want to lead your family's business and that the current, or legacy, generation helped build it.
On the flip side of that coin is the outgoing generation’s need to reciprocate gratitude... even if you don’t want to. The next generation probably feels some level of obligation (however small or unintended) to keep things going and many times they have already contributed quite a bit to the firm. They’d like to know you appreciate it.
Succession planning can be incredibly complex and often a roller coaster of a ride. Start from a happy place. Be kind. You’ll be shocked at how much further it gets you.
Join us Friday, Jan. 21, 2022, for "Succession: Handing Over the Keys to the Future Of Your Family Business," the third installment of the 2021-22 Virtual Breakfast Series. From 8 to 10 a.m. CST, panelists Mark Stutsman (COO and third generation owner of Eldon C. Stutsman, Inc.) and Steve Coleman (partner at Platinum Group) will speak about their experiences with succession planning. There will be an opportunity for questions. The event will take place via Zoom, and you will receive a link upon registering for the event.