Get All Access for $5/mo

6 Tips for Closing the Generation Gap Small business experts, Adam and Matthew Toren answer readers' top questions about entrepreneurship.

Q: My family-owned business struggles to get ahead. It's tough for my brother and I to convince my father and grandfather that the economy is different than it was "back in the day." I know I don't know everything, but the ignorance between generations needs to stop. How can we improve our communication?

-- Aaron Ausen
Dalmaray, a Janesville, Wisc., pre-cast concrete products maker

A: Interactions among the generations in family-owned businesses can be particularly challenging because you have both business and family issues to address. It is often hard for the people who remember you as children and teens to understand that you are now competent to contribute to the organization.

Transferring control among generations, which is also called succession planning, needs to be structured and scheduled. Here are six tips to help you:

1. Use outside authorities to make your points. Bring articles, blogs and even experts you know and trust into the discussion to support your concerns. Your father and grandfather may be more willing to pay attention to them and it also helps you and your brother to be perceived as a resource for information.

2. Present written proposals. Often, verbal discussions can lead to arguing and the point you wanted to make may be lost. By putting together a short written proposal on one idea, supported by facts, you make it harder to ignore your concerns. You also give your father and grandfather time to really consider what you have to say.

3. Negotiate for partial control. Are there product lines, branches of the business, or areas of responsibility where you and your brother think you can make a real difference? Ask for full authority over those areas. If you demonstrate that you can make a substantial positive difference with them, your father and grandfather are likely to pay more attention to your suggestions for other areas of the business.

4. Do your homework on family business interactions. Many family businesses fall apart during the transition from one generation to the next. Support your arguments with facts and true stories of the risks -- and what can be done to reduce them.

5. Enlist the support of other family members. Are there any other members of the family -- particularly in their generations -- that agree with you? Do some of these people have a vested interest in the success of the business? Ask them to contribute their insights to the discussion. That way, it's not just you and your brother against your father and grandfather.

6. Focus on the elephant in the room. The real bottom line in this situation is the transfer of power. You and your brother are ready to step up and make a difference in your family's business but your father and grandfather aren't ready to let go of the reins. Unfortunately with the changes in the marketplace, the old assumption that the most senior people have the most knowledge doesn't hold anymore. You know this, but they don't.

By the time they are willing to transfer power, you may not have as strong a business as you do now. You and your brother need to talk to your father and grandfather about how and when the power shift will happen, with a realistic schedule. You may want to hold off this discussion until you have proven yourselves using some of the tactics suggested above.

Ask the Expert: 6 Tips for Closing the Generation Gap

Submit your questions in the comments section below and the questions with the most "likes" from
other readers will be answered. On Twitter, use the hashtag #YEask. In July, the Torens will answer the
question that's most favored by YoungEntrepreneur.com readers each week for a month. Please include
your first and last name, your location (city and state) and the name of your business in your comment.

Adam Toren, and Matthew Toren are serial entrepreneurs, mentors, investors and founders of YoungEntrepreneur.com and Blogtrepreneur.com along with several other internet properties. They are authors of the award winning books, Kidpreneurs and Small Business, BIG Vision: Lessons on How to Dominate Your Market from Self-Made Entrepreneurs Who Did it Right. Their latest project, a free classified ads network called iSell.com.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Editor's Pick

Side Hustle

Top Secrets to Starting a 6-Figure Etsy Side Hustle That Earns Passive Income, According to 3 People Who Did It

Etsy remains a popular ecommerce platfrom for sellers — and can be incredibly lucrative for those who know how to use it.

Business Ideas

63 Small Business Ideas to Start in 2024

We put together a list of the best, most profitable small business ideas for entrepreneurs to pursue in 2024.

Business News

Amazon Is Thinking About Charging Extra for AI Alexa

"Hey Alexa, how much are you going to cost?"

Business News

SoftBank CEO Says AI 10x Smarter Than Humans Could Be Here in a Matter of Years

SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son spoke to shareholders during the company's general meeting on Friday.

Leadership

3 Steps to Overcoming Organizational Fear of Change

It's a leader's job to ensure everyone in the company can own their expertise without fear — even when left to their own devices.

Thought Leaders

10 Simple, Productive Activities You Can Do When You Aren't Motivated to Work

Quick note: This article is birthed out of the urge to do something productive when I am not in a working mood. It can also inspire you on simple yet productive things to do when you're not motivated to work.