I recently attended a meeting with a few daughters who work in their family’s business, along with some of their family members. We were seated at a table together, and just before the program began, a tall, distinguished looking man sat down with us. I had no idea who he was, but suddenly one of the daughters got up and hugged the man, and her aunt greeted him warmly as well. Just as I was wondering who he was and what prompted the hug, the daughter announced, with a degree of affection and pride: “He’s our lawyer”!
I was impressed by the easy and comfortable way that the lawyer and the daughter at my table talked with each other. He is truly a “trusted advisor”, and it was obvious that he is invested in the family’s business and in each family member as well. And it was also obvious that he respects the women who are preparing to become the leaders and owners in the next generation.
During the past few weeks I’ve had the pleasure of talking with several professionals who advise family businesses. Their expertise ranges from guiding families on financial investments to helping family members cope with the difficult challenge of drug addiction. I’ve been struck by their commitment to the families they serve and the respect they have for them.
But there’s also a consistent concern that these advisors are raising with me: they are observing that the next generation, are simply not prepared to manage the legal, financial, and emotional challenges that come with running a family business. No matter how long they have worked in the business, and how familiar they are with the products or services their business provides, they may not have the slightest idea about the rules, laws, and regulations that they will need to understand when they take over. This is especially true for daughters, whose parents may not have expected them to be interested in the business, or who have returned to the business after developing their careers in other organizations.
So, in this tax season, consider getting to know the daughters who are working in the family businesses you advise. You probably know their parents-but you may not know them. Ask to meet them, get to know their talents and skills, and suggest articles or resources that will help them prepare for the new decisions and choices they will face one day, preferably, with your guidance.
You can be a terrific source of support for the daughters in line for leadership in the next generation.