"Father knows best" doesn't always work when it comes to mentoring the heir apparent to a family business. Sometimes the parent-child relationship is too close, too stormy or too subjective for a learning environment to flourish. Still, the successor has to learn the business. One alternative to parent-as-tutor is the use of nonfamily managers to act as mentors to the up-and-coming leader or leaders. Nonfamily managers offer a distinct advantage in that they can be objective and more businesslike in preparing the junior generation for succession.
"If a family business decides to use nonfamily managers as mentors, they have to develop a well-defined, well-structured mentoring plan," says Ed Hoover, co-founder and president of LSi Resource for Family Business Management, an Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois, family-business consulting firm. Otherwise, the whole process becomes enmeshed in personalities or entangled by family feuds.