On April 29th, I’ll be presenting at the Prairie Family Business Association’s 29th Annual Conference. I presented in 2015 and love the state of South Dakota and wish I could be there in person this year. The conference is a hybrid and I’ll be virtual. The good news is, wherever you may be located, you can join this great conference with excellent content and more than 400 attendees.
I’ll be speaking about raising children in the context of a family business (FB) – a topic I’m passionate about. Here are a few key points I’ll be making:
Develop a mindset around parenting in the family business context – It is so important for business families to develop intentionality around raising kids in a business family. Parents should regularly think through parenting choices and how they can support or detract from developing the mindset of the next generation, in areas such as contributing and teamwork as opposed to entitlement and personal gain.
Expose them to the business in fun ways – Maybe the kids will enter the FB (if that is a choice) and maybe they won’t. Either way, giving them fun experiences in the business when young can help to develop pride in the legacy and in family members who helped build it. Young kids enjoy seeing relatives at work together and love to contribute by doing things like straightening up, pressing buttons on any kind of machine and even sweeping or cleaning (yes, young kids love to clean, I’ve seen this many times. Teens, however, are another story …)
Tell stories of the ups and downs of the FB – Let children know who started the business and how they did it. There are always successes and challenges, and children should know that both exist because it helps them have realistic expectations about starting and growing a business.
Be clear about family values and walk-the-walk! – Family values are a hallmark of what makes FBs great. It can’t be said enough: be open about the values of the family and be sure to live them in ways that are clear and visible to the rising generation every day. This creates a strong family culture and business culture.
Make life fun and challenging – As a business grows it brings financial success. As children are born into the family, they do not know how much hard work went into creating the lifestyle that comes with it. Life can become easy for new generations as the financial success increases. It is a parent’s job to make sure life is not too easy; kids grow and develop grit and perseverance from doing difficult things, succeeding sometimes and failing as well. Learning to fail and fight back is key for developing character. Teaching kids to have fun in the process – priceless.
Push kids to try different and difficult things – Again, maybe the kids will enter the business (if that is a choice) and maybe they won’t. If they do, it is important they have a passion for the FB and real value to bring to it. By exposing kids to the business and many other life experiences, parents and kids alike will have a better idea about what the child loves to do and is good at. Parents need to make sure that children attempt diverse and difficult endeavors – this will serve them well wherever they end up.
Insist they earn things and contribute – Find ways for even very young kids to earn money and ask them to contribute towards things they want to buy or do. This will teach the invaluable lesson of working for things they desire and pride in getting them by earning money themselves. Balance this with the contributing side of the equation so children learn being part of a family comes with responsibility and that they are valued teammates – pulling weeds, shoveling snow, filling the dishwasher and chopping firewood (or helping stack it after someone older chops it if they are too young).
Actively find ways to hold them accountable – Have high expectations and let them know when they fall short – this will help them develop high expectations of their own.
I’ll go more in-depth when I present these ideas for the Prairie Family Business Association in a couple of weeks. Consider joining us live in South Dakota (if you are up for the trip and some beautiful scenery) or by video.