Freedom Of Choice

The Early Years

  • Don't talk about a child's involvement in the family business early in his or her life. What's important to both the children and the business is that children do what they enjoy and are good at when they grow up. "That's one reason I urge parents to hold family meetings when the children are young. It gives them a regular opportunity to talk about their children's interests," says David Niemeyer, a family therapist and director of Rutgers University Family Business Forum in Piscataway, New Jersey.

In addition to talking about the kids' strengths, talents and interests, family council meetings can also be an opportunity for children to complain about the family business and express resentment that the business drains their parents of time and energy. "When that happens, parents have an opportunity to explain why they are so involved in the business and frame the explanation in terms kids understand," Niemeyer says. "Suppose your son is into hockey. Ask why he's willing to get up early to go to practice. He'll probably answer `Because I love the sport.' At that point, you can explain that's how you feel about the family business."

  • Encourage your kids to drop in. Ivan Gural's grandchildren, Alex, 8, and Eve, 7, often stop in at Gural Associates' office in Haverford, Pennsylvania, after school. For Alex and Eve, the family's Thomas Register of American Manufacturers franchise, which sells the largest industrial buying guide in the United States, is a nice place to help out with chores for pocket money, do their homework, or be with their parents and grandparents. They feel welcome to take part in the business . . . without any pressure.

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This article was originally published in the June 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Freedom Of Choice.

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