Two common scenarios I see frequently in my work with successful, enterprising families are members of the rising generation strong-armed into the family business when they are not all that interested, and by contrast, those allowed into the business when they do not contribute or allowed in at higher levels than where they can contribute productively.
What’s often missed is early conversation within the family about the interests and passions of the rising generation, well before any decision is being made about formal involvement or other choices.
Another scenario is when the senior generation has great plans and expectations for a member of the rising generation who in turn pursues something outside the business about which they feel passion and excitement, much to the dismay of the senior generation.
Take, for example, Nello Ferrara of the well-known Chicago-based confectioner Ferrara Candy Company – maker of Red Hots and Lemonheads and other favorites. His family was grooming him to take over the company – and he was in love with ice hockey. This NY Times article tells the story.
Nello did not have natural skill but had grit and determination (popular terms today in parenting and education circles) and was quite creative (and at times “mildly” dishonest) in his efforts to make a pro team. He patched together about eleven years in the minor leagues where pay was poor and Nello was thrilled to be there. He lived a frugal life, saving every penny he could despite his family’s fortune and opportunities available to him there.
In 2012 the company was sold to a private equity firm and currently Nello is beyond his pro hockey years. However, he took his savings and an entrepreneurial spirit and “invested in four restaurants, three rental properties and a gym, all in the Chicago area.” Ironically, the family tradition lives on in an entrepreneurial sense though not in the original family business.
Nello may be better off. He followed his hockey dream and had some success, and also depended on his own wits, hard work and savings to make his way. These experiences of self-reliance are invaluable to developing self-worth; too much family support can be a hindrance. When working with my family clients I always educate about the importance of encouraging the rising generation to seek opportunities to challenge themselves outside of the family and its resources. This is not to say that a child in a wealthy family must not make any use of the family resources or risk a lack of character and self-worth.
Rather, it is important that the family focuses on ensuring opportunities for the children to work hard and prove themselves independent of the family and its resources – regardless of whether or not they join the family enterprise. In some cases, even when the family insists on handing over the hard-won business successes of previous generations, the next generation refuses in order to engage life on their own and find out what they are capable of.
This is exactly what Nello did. Read for yourself.