For a family business to survive and thrive, there must, like in any successful business, be a continual flow of talent into the business. Where family members are to integrate into the business, they need to ensure that they are fit for purpose. And to ensure this is so, they need to fit onto a development path, just like any other employee, in any other business.
Good business performance depends on skilled and capable people in the team and this is no less the case for family businesses. Where the future depends on new generations of the family to maintain the health and growth of the business, the challenge is to provide relevant career development that will get them to a place of credibility and experience to lead the business forward.
Many family businesses are astute enough in their existing team to have the vision necessary to embrace the family members as they become ready for the challenge. In those cases, strategic career planning, using both the expertise of existing senior managers (either family or non-family) and the full involvement of the new family member will be crucial to ensure full engagement in the process.
There may be times where a family member becomes impatient for progress. There may be the challenging circumstances where an individual does not seem to be quite the right fit for future hopes. There is a vital need for ensuring that the path to potential is set correctly and that carefully considered, objective decisions are made, or the future of the whole business may be put in jeopardy.
In order to ensure that processes are in place to protect and even enhance a family business in the future when developing individuals, it may be necessary to seek expert career development support. It could be valuable to have a key member of the senior team gain expertise in both how family businesses are best managed or an HR manager trained in how best to ensure that the best decisions for both the individual family member and the business are taken.
As the individual climbs the path, there will be successes as well as challenges for them to face. Here it will be valuable for them to have a mentor to support their growth and nurture them through the tough times.
The mentor could be an existing family member at senior level or it might be of value to utilise non-family members of the team so that a balanced view of the business can be gained, without the skew of rose-tinted glasses that might be less than objective and might be the challenge of a family member is chosen for this role.
Time is of the essence in structuring the development path. Whilst it will be important that an individual coming into the family business receives the minimum of special attention (and indeed it could be argued that everyone with significant development potential receives the same support, for the broader good of the business), planning the future is important from the start of their experience.
This will enable them to understand the bigger picture, whilst learning the business ‘from the bottom up’.
With good timing; demanding experiences and a focus on the future, there will be every opportunity for the business to make the leap from one generation to the next with every possibility for success.