Last year I went to a Paul Cézanne exhibit in Philadelphia and was surprised to learn that this famous artist struggled to pursue his passion against his father’s wishes. His father, a successful banker, insisted that Paul attend law school rather than pursue painting. Paul did attend law school for a couple of years before abandoning that path and defiantly moving to Paris causing a rift between father and son. Eventually, Paul’s father came to realize the importance of his son’s desire for painting (not to menton his talent for it) – the two reconciled and Paul received a generous inheritance allowing him to purue his craft without financial worries.

In my work with enterprsing families I encounter various versions of this all the time. Often the founder will strongly “encourage” a child to choose a career in the business without an open discussion about the child’s interests or aptitude. Altertnately, some parents assume none of the kids are interested or able and this is not always accurate. Both family and enterprise are at risk when there is a lack of communication about the next generation’s involvement.

What is the lesson Learned?
Enterprising Families: Take the time to learn about the next generation’s desires and dreams for their lives whether or not they include the family business. If the founder’s dream is not the child’s, rarely can it be successfully forced on the next generation. When dreams do coincide, open, honest communication is necessary to manage expectations and develop the next generation.

Advisors to Enterprising Families:
As a trusted advisor, you are probably already having discussions about your clients’ children. Ask about their thoughts on the involvement of children, e.g., have they had family discussions about working in or out of the business? Do they have a policy for how family members get hired, or how they attain management or ownership?
An entrepreneur’s child may not be a budding Paul Cézanne, but he or she may have interests and aspirations that might surprise – and even excite – the parent if only the two of them make the time to talk about them.