The NxtGen: Inheriting the Family Business and Continuing a Legacy
Though it may seem like big corporations are reigning over the United States, 80 to 90% of businesses in the private sector are family-owned. Yes, you read that right. The little pizzeria in your town that’s been standing for over three decades, the hardware store your grandpa used to buy his car tools from, even the independent movie house that you used to go to as a little kid with your childhood friends — many of businesses like these are family treasures; a legacy that has been passed down generation after generation.
Unfortunately, according to studies, this “tradition” is slowly dying out. Most family businesses barely survive after the first generation, less than half of that number are businesses passed down to the second generation, and a little over 10% are handed over successfully to the third. Beyond that, it has to be a business that has steadily gained customers or expanded exponentially through the years while being run by the same family.
Of legacies and boundaries
While these are hard odds to beat, don’t let your portfolio get in a twist just yet. Family-owned businesses have indeed saturated the economy so much that not many of them last very long. However, continuing the legacy of a family business is a different story. Sure, it may be easier to simply hand over the reins of your grandma’s long-standing pastry shop to a much more experienced person with managerial skills, but the story behind the recipes, the location, the aspirations of why the business was built — these are all treasures that were handed down to you.
This is not to romanticize the notion of business, not at all, but to instead humanize it. Businesses are built by people for people. That is something many of us seem to forget in the steady streams of bills and mortgages and income tax returns. So what can you do to protect your family business’ legacy? There isn’t a universal way to do this as every family business is different, even if they run in the same circles and industry.
Not to mention, the way your mother ran your shop may be different from how you imagine you want to run it. Whether you’re a rookie in entrepreneurship or born with the knowledge of how to work with a spreadsheet, it is important to know where you stand when it comes to not only running a business but everything that comes along with it. Below are some friendly reminders that may help you out in whatever step you’re supposed to take next, one step closer to continuing your family business’ legacy.
Think outside the box and don’t settle for the status quo
In an era where consumer trends shift faster than you can tweet the latest viral hashtag, it is important to keep up. Many businesses, family or otherwise, crumble because they are not prepared to catch up with the changing tides of time. Especially now that technology is at the forefront of everything — you need to evolve and so does your family’s business. Without compromising your branding, try to get creative and come up with ideas that will cater to people of all ages. Besides, upgrading technology-wise might also help you cut costs in the long run.
Focus on growth
The “why” always matters — whether in business or any other aspect of life. Doing something with a purpose gives you determination, patience, and the will to push through. Whether it’s aiming to provide stable jobs or wanting to give the best service in the industry, growth happens when you open yourself up to every possibility out there. Growing doesn’t simply mean expanding; it also sometimes means restructuring, rebuilding, and sometimes going back to ground zero. All in the hopes of creating something better. To help, almost all businesses have missions and visions. You don’t necessarily need to have one but it may help you keep focused on your goals and the why part of doing family business in the first place.
Know your boundaries
As a person leading a family business, you should be running the business and not let the business run you. This is just another clever way of saying take a break when you need it. The best way to do this is to surround yourself with people who are, on the one hand, dedicated and trustworthy with their jobs, but on the other hand, are not afraid to let you know when they need to rest. Health is wealth isn’t just another cliche saying — it’s true and you best remember it. Keeping a healthy mind and body will ensure your business will stay alive as long as you do.
Continue building a legacy for future generations
Taking over a family business is hard for everyone, no matter how easy you think the next person has it more than you. There are challenges upon challenges upon challenges that may take years for you to figure out. While you’re finding your footing, don’t forget the reason why you’re doing this is in the first place — continuing a legacy that was started years prior to your leadership. Do everything in your power to keep building this legacy: keep pushing forward, don’t forget your values both in business and as a person, and above all, take care of yourself and your people.