Freedom Of Choice

The Teen Years

  • Present the business in a fair light. If you spend 90 percent of your dinner conversations railing at your sister's incompetence, your brother's greediness or your frustration at your father's unwillingness to try new ideas, how can your children get the idea that the family business is a fun place to work? Instead, weave your stories with two threads: the challenges and the satisfactions of working with your family.
  • Focus on building value into the company. There's no way of knowing at this point whether your children will want to join the family business, nor should they be forced into making any decisions. By continuing to run a successful business, you take the pressure off them and assure yourself that you have a company you can pass on to future generations or sell profitably if your children back away.
  • Share your enthusiasm about the business. A boring company is unlikely to be a desirable career choice for a teen who's thinking about what he or she would like to do in life. "My negative feelings for the family's retail business were certainly fed by my parents' aphorism on it as a future career: `There's always the family business,' " says Ira Bryck, director of the University of Massachusetts Family Business Center in Amherst. "The message was powerful: This isn't anyone's first choice, but if you can't get anything else, it's here."
  • Let grandparents make the pitch. Whereas parental advice is viewed skeptically at best during adolescence, grandparents are often viewed as sages. So it's no surprise that when Robin Strauss Rashbaum and Debra Strauss heard their grandmother go on and on about how wonderful family businesses were, they were influenced. This may not have been the deciding factor in their decisions to join the business, but it was certainly part of it.

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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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