I had an interesting (an unfortunately, not atypical) conversation with a family business owner this weekend. Dad owns a very successful construction company, but is in his 70’s and wants to significantly cut back on how much he’s working (he’s putting in 80+ hours a week). His son (we’ll call him Junior) works in the business, but while Dad bids on and oversees work on big projects, Junior spends most of his time working on much smaller jobs. Dad wants somebody to take over his responsibilities, but Junior’s doesn’t seem to be interested. The problem is that Dad & Junior have never really had an honest conversation about what each of them wants. Junior really isn’t interested in running the whole business; he just wants to do his niche part of it.
The lack of communication isn’t unusual, particularly in a family business. Parents have a tendency to project what they want onto their kids, and kids usually don’t want to let Mom & Dad down. So rather than say, “Hey Dad, that’s not what I want to do with my life”, they either do it anyway and are miserable and perform poorly, or they just don’t communicate and the parents are left in the dark.
The moral of the story: Have the conversation! Ask the question! Don’t assume everybody knows what everybody else thinks & wants. It might be difficult and uncomfortable, but by not having “the talk”, you’re setting yourself up for a lot more misery down the road.
If you own your own business, have you had “the talk” with your kids? Is everyone clear on what everyone else wants?