Stay In Touch

The Honor System

Looking to the business's elders for advice or historical perspective often creates an emeritus status for them. "I ask them for their advice not only because I want to keep them involved," says Pflueger, "but also because they have some terrific ideas."

Often, a retired leader will be willing to take on a project that others don't have time for. It may be compiling a family business history, setting up a family foundation, or canvassing similar businesses around the country to find out how they're handling a problem. Whatever the project, it takes on greater significance simply because an erstwhile leader is spearheading it.

Too often, recognition rituals of the past are forgotten. "But they're terribly important," says Hubler, who urges family businesses to honor senior members in traditional ways. "Especially as people get older, they need to know they're appreciated by the younger generation. Holding a reception in their honor or hanging their portraits in the office's vestibule or conference room confirms the importance of their contributions to employees and customers."

And make no mistake about the effect that respect and honor for elders has on your employees. "It adds to the esprit de corps within a company," says Hubler. "And when employees feel good about their company, their enthusiasm is communicated to customers, and customers have a higher degree of satisfaction with the product the company provides."

It's important to keep in mind, however, that respect for elders doesn't mean younger generations shouldn't make changes. Those executives in their 30s, 40s and 50s will be leading their family businesses into the new millennium--and, says Hubler, they need to use their gifts, talents and insights just as their elders did in their leadership days.

Contact Sources

Anthony's Fish Grotto, (619) 291-7254,

Elaine Construction Co., (617) 332-8400,

Hubler Family Business Consultants, (612) 375-0640,

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This article was originally published in the September 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Stay In Touch.

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