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Freedom and choice: the next generation
What do we value most in life? The freedom to choose.
Naturally, our children value this as well. So why do we sometimes impose tasks and responsibilities onto them that we assume they want, assume they are skilled to do and potentially trap them into a life without choice?
I call this pigeonholing.
To “pigeonhole” someone or something means to decide that they belong to a particular class or category, often without considering all their qualities or characteristics.
If you are currently or have been in business and have been successful, you will know how to assess skills in talent. But can objectively assess your children’s talent? Or have you fallen into the trap of viewing everything through rose-coloured glasses? Parents often hope their children will love the business and have as much passion for it as they do, hope that they have the skills necessary to progress or to just continue with what they have built.
When you seek to involve your children in your business, are you presenting it to them as an obligation or an opportunity, and can you accept that they may not want it? If you have pressured them into it, and presented it as an obligation, do you really want to guilt trip your children into a life they don’t want to live, without freedom, being pigeonholed by their parents? Have you let your children explore and experience real life enough so that they find their own dreams and aspirations?
The first-generation (G1) wealth creators have had the freedom to pursue their own dreams, make their own mistakes, and build their own wealth. I mean, why would you want anything less for your children? Of course, you will be nodding and presenting all the right answers to these questions, and often, we make excuses as to why we choose the wrong answers. If we get lucky, sometimes our children grow to love what we have chosen or offered to them, but often, they simply end up resenting the obligation and us in equal measure.
My experience is that parents often see an interest or potential from a family member, and this is taken as their desire to be immersed in the business. You need to check in regularly and ensure that this wasn’t just their opportunity to explore and enable them to make a choice. Again, the choice may have been, “This isn’t for me!”
If the family has more than one child, choosing only one to operate in the family business can cause resentment and jealousy from the other siblings. The other children in the family see one person getting preferable treatment and feel disgruntled and dissatisfied with their place within the family, even though they may be grateful it’s not them. You may also have the rejected family members joining forces to disrupt the family situation. Family members should be treated equally, and everyone should have an opportunity to work together for the good of the family or, at the very least, be open and have a conversation to ensure everyone is on the same page and happy for the chosen dynamic to continue or start.
Then there is the question of payment. Are you paying a wage for a service, or do you want to pay your family members a set amount each week/month? Trust setups within a family allow you to make beneficiary payments at a level you choose. Current accounts against a trust are the best way to keep track of how much one family member has received vs. the others. If you have family members working inside the business, you should choose the best practice for business, and pay market rates for experience and expertise.
Lastly, what is the purpose or outcome that you want for your children? We all learn from experiences, and if we don’t allow them to have those experiences, we can’t expect them to react or be the person we want them to be. I’m also a strong believer in telling your family story. What experiences did you have? How did you end up where you are? Can your children learn from these and not make the same mistakes, or use your stories to improve their decision-making and ultimately help make the family more successful? Your story is valuable to your family, and your audience is already engaged, especially if you start from a young age, but if you haven’t, then just remember that you are never too old to start.