It’s never too early to introduce your children to the family business. Exposing your kids at an early age is an important step in helping them learn to think about the issues and challenges involved in owning and running a business.
One of my greatest joys was watching my own children go through this experience. I was amazed at how interested and involved they became in our family business and how much they understood, even at a young age. They asked smart questions about the industry and cared deeply about what was happening in the present as well as the future of the business.
Many family business owners allow the next generation to start helping out during their teen years. Although your kids may not be able to take on an official working role in the business, I think it’s ideal to start getting them thinking about the business at around age 12.
One way to accomplish this is to hold a formal family business meeting once a year that includes younger family members. Depending on the children’s ages, their involvement in these meetings may be limited to simply observing them. As they gain experience, you may want to give them a chance to provide input or take responsibility for creating the meeting agenda. This can help instill trust and increase the likelihood that your kids will make insightful contributions to the discussions.
The basic meeting agenda should include:
Company Legacy and History: Include stories to help kids see the value and impact the business has on clients, your industry and/or the community. Switch up the stories each year to create a well-rounded view of your business legacy over time.
Mission and Values: Instill these business “rules to live by” from the start.
Market/Industry Projections: Discuss current trends and issues that may impact the future of the industry. Examine how these projections could affect your business and how you are addressing them.
Major Clients: Educate your children about key client relationships and the ways your business supports them.
Current Challenges: Don’t shy away from having an open conversation about the biggest issues facing your business today.
Balance Sheet Review: You don’t necessarily need to use actual business figures. Choose numbers that are proportionate and easy for your kids to understand.
Encourage the younger generation to think for themselves and ask questions. You may be surprised at their ability to raise issues that will make you see things a little differently. Even if your children decide not to join the family business, you will have given them an education that will be invaluable, no matter what their chosen career.