Listen to Denise Paré-Julien, Family Business Consultant, as she discusses how life cycles have changed and what this may mean for the interaction between the current and rising generations. Proper communication and planning between multiple generations is essential for long-term success of a family business.
What’s interesting about looking at life cycles is not only to know where people are in their life cycles but also to put it into a generational context. So, I’ve often heard father’s saying “Well, he doesn’t spend 70 hours in the business like I used to.” And you have to ask them, “well, can they? Does his wife work? Does someone have to go pick up the kids? Is it really because he doesn’t want to be in the business or is it because he has other responsibilities? ” So, it’s interesting to open up those conversations and put things back into perspective. And the reverse is also true, we need to have conversations with the rising generation and have them put their parents back in the historical context. Yes, they are thinking this way, but this is how they were brought up, these are the values they were taught and the 10 year shift is a perfect example.
Many years ago I was working with a family where the father was in his mid-60s and his daughters were in their mid-30s. And the two daughters were waiting impatiently for their father to leave the business and to hand over leadership to them, and it was so obvious to me that that wasn’t going to happen. And then I realized, this is where the 10 year shift comes in. We need to help them, and accompany them, at understanding, how do we work together in a multi-generational setting for decades? How do we share power and authority? Now, some entrepreneurs are willing to leave because they have passions outside of their business or they have other interests and want to start a new business but some entrepreneurs, be it women or men, want to stay because this is their life. So, how do they actually live with multiple generations? And I think that’s our responsibility and we need to discover new ways of doing this.
The key learning here is to remember that, yes, we have the life cycles but we also have the different generations and when speaking or dealing with a family member, try to remember, what was his history? What were the events that marked that person’s life? Why is he who he is today? We’re all really a sum of a lot of experiences and events.