One of the most common challenges of family business is to create a succession planning process that enables siblings to compete for positions based upon business acumen and business results.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve arrived in a family business and find the oldest sibling sitting at the head of the table just because they’ve been the first in line due to birth order.
Don’t get me wrong – in some cases it just so happens that the oldest sibling is and continues to be the strongest best equipped leader in the family and in those situations that’s great. But more often, the oldest sibling is not demonstrating the greatest leadership and business acumen and in some sort of weird subconscious way tries to hold on to the head position based upon early childhood pecking order.
Adult sibling rivalry and unhealthy family business competition can be really detrimental to the long-term success of the family business.
Here’s my message to big brother/ big sister:
You’re still our big brother/big sister. We still love you. We still know you were the top of the totem pole in our childhood years but would you please realize that stepping aside and letting some of us take a leadership role will be the best thing for the long-term success and financial health of our family business?
Here’s my message to younger brothers and younger sisters:
Be respectful of your oldest sibling. Be respectable as you begin to build your leadership identity and earn a higher place on the totem pole of family business. Try to imagine what it’s like to see your younger sibling surpass you in business success and results. Be humble. Find ways to work with your oldest sibling in a respectful, collaborative and supportive manner.
Develop a management style that’s inclusive and makes everyone’s individual success an important part of the team’s success.
As a younger brother myself it was tempting as my business success grew and my position in the family business surpassed my older brother to want to puff my chest out and say something totally immature, like “ha ha – you now work for me” – but I resisted that temptation. I was able to separate the business from our personal lives and the success of the family business was reliant on healthy egos and good cooperation.
Part of the family’s next-generation planning needs to take into consideration the inherent nature of adult sibling rivalry and build systems that reward business performance and business results including the design of the family business compensation system.
Family members should be paid upon the results they produce – not the birth order – and not everyone gets paid the same. Check out one of my favorite Coach Pete videos that deals with the subject of equal pay.
So big brother and big sister, please don’t confuse your birth order with your business order. Continue to focus on your business skills, your leadership skills and developing a healthy followership based upon being a good business person, not just the oldest sibling.
Learn to separate personal family roles and business roles and you will “play your potential!”