When working with family businesses, it's sometimes
surprising to see the gap between the founder and the next
generation, particularly when the next generation do not see the
importance of the business. This week Rosine Makhlouf, a senior
manager with the Deloitte Middle East Family Enterprise Consulting
team in Dubai, considers how to encourage engagement of family
members who don't work in the family business.
The indifference of next generation members could be viewed as
both surprising and somewhat disappointing when considering the
skill set and talent of these young people and the potential that
they have to offer to the business.
Yet they often don't see eye-to-eye with the Founder and as
such pursue other routes, and interests separate to the
I am by no means suggesting that this is wrong, but seek to
present practical steps by which this pool of talent can contribute
to the success, growth and continuation of their own family
All too often the first generation of family business leaders
seek to have clones of themselves run the business, or have the
desire to 'clone' the next generation to be just like them.
While the next generations most definitely have a lot to learn from
their predecessors, they bring different skills and knowledge that
are key to run businesses.
In an era where next generation members work for purpose, and
seek their own happiness, it should not be taken for granted that
they will get involved in the family business either now or
So the key question is: How to engage next generation family
members to take some interest in the family business and maybe even
While there are the traditional and conventional education and
academic routes, that may be pursued, there are many effective
practical steps that can encourage to engage the next generation of
family members and bring them closer to the family business cause.
Below I have listed some successful strategies that I have
witnessed many family businesses in the Gulf and Levant regions
successfully execute and implement.
Train the next generation from a young age: Make internships
available to the younger members of the family at every
opportunity. Be it between summer camps, during the winter
holidays, or even a gap year. Let their first work experience be in
the company, whether on the shop floor, in the offices or
factories. I recently came across a young lady on the cusp of
assuming the ownership and management of her dad's construction
and contracting empire, who started working part-time in the
company reception whilst still at school. I believe this is one of
the best ways in which you can instill in the next generation the
value of hard work.
Introduce the next generation to key employees: It is important
to bring your family and employees together and as such ensure
their 'socialization' with one another. Invite your key
managers and most enthusiastic employees to family gatherings and
allocate time for dedicated sessions to the family where the
managers describe and explain what they do, why they do it and what
they like about doing it to your youngest generation. It can be
important to acquaint the family with key employees and vice versa
allowing them to put faces to names, and understand key functions
and responsibilities. This helps in demystifying the business and
Introduce the next generation to key clients and stakeholders:
In the same spirit as the above, introducing your top clients to
the next generation helps demystify the business. It is beneficial
to invite them to meet the next generation and allow them to
present their experience of working with the family business while
providing feedback on the services, products, and the collaboration
with the business. Demonstrate how your business brings change to
other organizations and enhances people's lives. As my
colleague Alexandra Sharpe mentions in blog "
Benefits of storytelling", storytelling has the potential
to be surprisingly impactful and engaging.
Promote your CSR activity: Millennials and today's younger
generations can be more concerned with ethics and social
responsibility than previous generations. Demonstrate your
charitable and philanthropic undertakings, and let them be part of
it and contribute to the positive impact of your business on
In a nutshell, it is important to open up the business and
invite the family to become acquainted with it. Bring the business
to life, give it a personality and demonstrate that it embodies
more than an annual dividend.
Above all else, exhibit the love and passion that feeds the
business and, the rest will speak for itself.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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