An expert on family firms and their challenges, anthropologist Andrea Simon, Ph.D., principal and founder of Simon Associates Management Consultants (SAMC), was recently cited in the September 8th edition of Newsday.
Chosen as a key expert on family businesses, Dr. Simon was prominently quoted by Newsday, the 6th largest newspaper nationwide, in its recent article, “Preparing to transfer the family business.” Focusing on the Day & Nite/All Service, a family-owned commercial HVAC and refrigeration company based in New Hyde Park, NY, the article examines the often-difficult process of transition from one generation to the next in family firms.
“The tensions of family life and strains of business life combine quite forcefully during a generational transition,” states Dr. Simon in the Newsday article. Companies must “think through how to send the right messages and build trust that the right family members are in the right jobs to ensure future success for the business—and the family,” she advises.
A leading lecturer and blogger in the family firms field, Dr. Simon has observed several recurring trends that family businesses would do well to pay attention to as they contemplate a generational transition:
1. Often, second and third generation young adults are caught between family and themselves. Denis Jaffe, a speaker at the 2012 Family Firm Global Conference in Brussels, Belgium, grew up in a family business run in his home. His advice for parents was to help their children develop their identities early and to encourage them to have a career that may or may not include the family firm. The hardest part is the challenge of being a grown-up child whose parents knew you when you were a toddler. Consequently, some adult children find themselves trying to please their parents instead of doing the best job for the family business.
2. In a similar vein, second generation members can feel trapped, unable to realize what they had really wanted to do with their lives: play in a rock band, become a doctor, work for a Fortune 500 company. Instead, they’re “stuck” doing marketing, sales or running operations for the family business—jobs that look nothing like their dreams.
3. Succession in a family business is not an event but a process. It involves the transfer of management and ownership, and rarely do those happen on the same day. For the senior generation, the challenge is to recognize and accept the fact that the company they built is no longer theirs to own or operate. They need a plan for moving to a new role, often as a member of their board of directors, transitioning from drivers of the current business to advisors for the future business.