Preparation VS Separation For The Next Generation

When two or more next-generation members are working in the family enterprise, it is normal for them to be assigned to different functional areas of the business. Here are two commonly held rationales for keeping next- generation members siloed:

First is to place the next-gen member in an area of the company that interests them. The theory being, if they like the work, they are more likely to excel.

The second reason commonly observed in keeping siblings or cousins separated in the workplace: to avoid a horse race with potentially divisive outcomes. Doing so allows each next-generation member to thrive and develop without having a sibling or cousin to compete for attention or the role of president in the company.

Placing next-gens into silos can have adverse effects too. Being left to excel in one area of the business, such as sales, may rob the board of the opportunity to have multiple family candidates to consider when a management transition must occur. An alternative to silo expertise for the next-generation is to create a company culture and strategy where next-gen leaders have an outlined curriculum of company education that exposes them to all areas of the business. This education would expose each member to a broad-based education program wherein each member would learn about the industry, the competitive landscapes, and awareness of industry-wide disrupters as well as the department expertise. An educational program of this nature takes time to develop and adopt inside of the family and business systems.

Meaningful rotations completed with specific ends in mind are recommended to avoid divisiveness.

There is no one, perfect approach. Each has its pros and cons but, one way forward would be for the next-gen candidate(s) to:

  • Experience enough “hits above the water line” to be humbled and to recognize the gravity of making good choices, but not so bad as to sink the ship; and,
  • Behave in ways, both in and outside of work, that reflect servant leadership, respect for EVERY employee and person they meet, and gratitude for the hard work of team members.

The current generation of leaders may find it helpful to outline a project they attempted to develop where it failed and the lessons they learned from failure. The next-gen often only sees the successes their elders have created and know little of the risks and failures their leaders have endured. Elders need to share that the lessons that shaped them are often lessons learned from their failures not their successes.


( All factual and statistical information presented in this blog has been obtained from an extract of an article from the Family Business Consulting Group, Chicago ) Follow us on our Facebook page and Family Business Office website at

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