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The opinions on the future of and necessary developments in a family business will vary from family member to family member, and even more so from generation to generation. This is mostly an added value as the constant confrontation of different opinions, can let the best scenarios for the business emerge. However, depending on the quality of communication between family members, confrontations can turn into conflict. In this article, we reflect on the benefits of early communication between generations and the benefits of it for both the business and the family.
Family businesses change from one generation to another. One of the most difficult topics in family businesses is that of emotional resistance against such change. This is the potentially biggest conflict between different generations; the younger generation comes in wanting to implement its own ideas and strategies, whereby the elder generation often moderates these efforts out of caution. The way these different perspectives are handled will depend mainly on the quality of communication between family members. A lack of communication can create frustration and long-lasting irritation between them.
A way to overcome emotional resistance is to ensure the foundations for mutual trust and credibility. For this foundation to develop, the early communication between the elder and younger generation is of major importance. Most articles that address family business communication seem to be reactive and address the issue once misunderstandings have happened and the conflict already exists. They stress actions that can be implemented as interventions.
What families should not underestimate are the things they can do to prevent or soften the impact of disagreements. The fact is, that communication issues can be rooted in early childhood. Therefore, the involvement of the next generation into the business at an early age can be beneficial yet needs to be tackled with care. It starts with parents explaining to their children how the business works and where the decisions they are making today should lead them in future. Keeping youth involved in the family business development fosters a greater understanding for the generation running it and also for the dynamics of the business at different times and stages. In addition, it creates a strong sense of awareness and respect for the achievements of the each family member. Involving the young generation at an early stage can also be highly interesting for the active business people in the family as they get to uncover the youth’s interest and talents. And innovative ideas may well come from family youth.
It can be seen that early communication, can be beneficial both ways: the younger generation understands the family business better and at the same time the older generation might detect the younger’s abilities and talents earlier on. Irrespective of a young family business member later on joining the firm or not, this communication at an early stage can only foster the sense of family and business and create a better understanding and sympathy for all parties involved, overcoming emotional resistance one step at a time.
Tharawat Magazine, Issue 5, 2010