Taking Over Dad's Business When a woman inherits her father's business, does she face unique challenges?

By Aliza P. Sherman

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Do women who take over ownership of businesses previously ownedand run by their fathers face unique issues? "I was inleadership positions long before becoming CEO, so the employeesweren't affected adversely by the change," says DanaChryst, 46, CEO and owner of The Jay Group, a Ronks, Pennsylvania-basedmarketing and fulfillment services company with revenue exceeding$30 million. "When I became CEO, it simply sent a message thatwe are growing and will continue to create career opportunities forour employees."

After graduating from college, Chryst officially joined thecompany as an employee in 1981, first as an account executive andlater in other capacities, including client services, before movinginto management. She became president in 1991 and CEO in 2002, whenshe also purchased controlling interest of the company.

Taking over her father's job wasn't difficult. "Wehad distinctly different management styles but exactly the sameprinciples," says Chryst. "The business was fortunate tohave my dad at a time when it needed the entrepreneurial spirit andintensity he brought. The company now needs my collaborative,team-building style at a time of tremendous growth andcomplexity."

For Julie Smolyansky, 30, president and CEO of Lifeway Foods Inc., apublicly traded manufacturer of cultured dairy, natural and organicprobiotic foods such as kefir, the transition wasn't as easy.In 2002, she took over the Morton Grove, Illinois-based companyfounded by her father after he died suddenly of a heart attack atage 55.

"I stood at [my father's] funeral and heard people say,'There's no way this company will survive with a27-year-old girl in charge,'" recalls Smolyansky."But I had an intense passion to succeed." Working18-hour days became the norm for her, but they had an impact on herpersonal life.

Admits Smolyansky, "When I turned 29, I said to myself,'There's more to life than the company. If I'm notworking 18 hours a day, we'll survive and succeed.'"She adds, "It's a sign of a good leader not to doeverything herself."

During Smolyansky's first weeks of taking over the company,one of her father's close advisors told her he didn't feelshe was up to the challenge. He said it was OK that she was theinterim CEO, but in the long run, she would need a little"gray hair" on the board. "I told him I didn'tagree and I'd handle things a little differently," saysSmolyansky, who stopped consulting with the individual. "Wewere under the gun, and I didn't have time to monkey aroundwith people who didn't believe in me. I wasn't going tospend my energy being diplomatic and political."

Under Smolyansky's leadership, Lifeway Foods' revenuehas grown to nearly $20 million, and she hasn't had to take anymore drastic measures. "A business is almost like a family,sometimes a dysfunctional family," says Smolyansky."Males tend to react more intensely and are quick to takeaction in these situations, where I've been more focused onproblem-solving and improving communications."

Chryst believes personality type and leadership style, notgender, determine how business owners operate. "Leaders mustrecognize [that] their businesses will call for a different mix oftalents," says Chryst. "They should play to theirstrengths and surround themselves with those who are strong inother areas."

Aliza PilarSherman is an author, freelance writer and speaker specializingin women's issues.

Aliza Sherman is a web pioneer, e-entrepreneur and author of eight books, including

PowerTools for Women in Business.

Her work can be found at mediaegg.com.

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