Inheriting the
family business

6 min Reading | Alfonso Seijo
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It is not unusual to hear so many CEOs or business owners say, “my son will inherit the empire” “John Jr. will take charge of the business.”

This sounds ideal, poetic even “logical”; but it is an idea that is simply rooted in the entrepreneur’s desire for this to happen. It is natural right? Johny Jr. was born with an advantage and because of that small fact based on a biological context, (having been born in the family) that empowered him from the moment of his conception to be “the chosen one”.

Man, the boy just had to be born! Let us think about this for a moment: does the fact of somebody having reached the world under the circumstances mentioned, qualify him to take the reins of a company that took years to build? Are those years of hard work, study, analysis, and creation going to be given to the heir in question?

It seems the “natural” decision but the only natural thing in this context was the birth of John Jr. All the creation mentioned to establish such a company was not definitively a natural act. Who would not want his son to take the reins of the business and then finally retire to rest and travel in peace around the world without worrying that the empire continues to exist and even better: to expand?

However, as in general, there are apparently two opposite poles when thinking or formulating ideas: “what I would like it to be” and “what it should be.” However, in the field of formulating ideas and to have the maximum degree of certainty when formulating them, the following should not be left aside: “what it is”.

These three ideological styles are useful if they apply to the precise idea or phrase. The idea is “do I want my child to continue the family business?” Or is it “do I want the company to flourish, prosper, and keep growing towards infinity? Yes, one could say: “Obviously what I want is for my company to continue to flourish, prosper and grow to infinity under the reins of John Jr.” Of course, the combination of both sentences is ideal (note that it is basically ideal for the father, not for all employees and people who depend on that company, even for everyone who helped build it; it sounds hard but it is so). Of course, there are several cases in which the child could even increase the success and continuity of the company and cases in which it was led to failure in a fraction of the time it took to build it.

What does this depend on? The purpose, competencies, and drive of the individual in charge, not on their consanguineous situation. Let us look at a definition of “family”: set of ascendants, descendants and other people related to each other by blood or legal relationship. It would be ideal for our concern, that the definition will continue like this: “Individuals belonging to the same family are automatically able to direct any family´s projects or business.”

We could get very “scientific” about it: “John Jr. has the genes to be a winner, after all he is my blood.” But everyone is unique and with their set of skills to develop or get better.

You should also consider something that may seem very obvious or that would be taken for granted: “My son wants to be the heir of the money I have or the company” and although an obvious relationship between both things can be seen, reality has taught us that is not always that way. We all appreciate money, but it does not mean that we can give courage and passion to the company that produces it; mainly when it was not a product of our work and effort. You can observe the level of happiness of a teenager who buys his first bicycle after saving for months or having washed the car 50 times, compared to the son who receives a last model car as a gift. More important here; It is likely that the bicycle would be more taking care of than the latest model car that could end up crashed on a party night.

Definitely; one can build a child as one can build and prepare an executive even with the additional advantage of imminent responsibility to be “The son of …” but this takes a whole ideological process, knowledge of the business from its roots, lines of more elementary production and the certainty that it is really what you want to do; because in the end, if the objective and purpose of doing something comes from the person, it is likely that he will be more successful in achieving it, whether he is an astronaut or the new CEO of the family business.

In short, we can reflect between making decisions with the heart or with the head. Love for a child is inevitable but do not confuse it with love for what so much effort took to build.

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