Are Your Kids Wrecking Your Business?

A Call For Help

Craig and her sons appealed to the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE), which provides management and professional advice to small companies. Their advisor, Gene Ronshangin, analyzed the situation and told them they had tremendous business potential that they'd squander if they didn't get back to work and begin talking to each other.

"He helped us put the business back into the business and take family out of it," Craig says. "Interestingly, once he did that, the family issues began to take care of themselves."

That scenario isn't unusual, says Fredda Herz Brown, founder of Metropolitan Group, a family business consulting firm in Leonia, New Jersey. "If there's turmoil when a kid comes into the business, it would be easy to confuse that with an emotional problem in the family. But that's not always the case," she explains.

More often, the upheaval has to do with unmet expectations on the part of both generations, says Sam Lane, founder of LBF & Associates, a family business consulting firm in Fort Worth, Texas. These expectations can include everything from how much vacation the young adult can expect to have in a year to far more complicated issues, such as what kind of mastery the person will need to exhibit before moving up the ladder to a higher position.

"Both generations may think they've talked about what's expected because they've touched on the subject in snippets of conversation," Lane says. "But that's not the same thing as sitting down, having lengthy and thoughtful discussions, coming to an agreement on expectations, and getting those expectations on paper."

Even if a parent and child do all that, however, issues may still arise after the young adult goes to work in the family business. It may be that the parent has misjudged the son or daughter's abilities and assigned the child a position that's over his or her head. On the other hand, it could be that the child was shocked and upset by the parent's authoritarian rule in the office or is angry that the parent isn't listening to his or her suggestions. Any of these situations can lead to a bad start that can damage both family and business relationships.

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This article was originally published in the September 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Bad Blood.

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