A number of years ago I was approached by a high profile businessman, ex-Dragons Den, to join a founding team to launch a new company in Mayfair in the heart of London.
Three months after the start-up began operating, my son, Josh, graduated from Brunel University. He had worked with me during the summer vacations when I was at my previous company and had done very well. So once he graduated, I assumed he would want to continue with me and offered him temporary work with a view to going permanent in the future. He duly joined the new company and did a great job for us.
However, after about six weeks, I could see that Josh was not enjoying the job as much as I’d hoped he would. We sat down and talked about it for a while, father to son, before he told me what he really thought. I still remember the words: “Dad this is just not for me”.
This reminded me of a meeting I had a few years before when I met with a mother and her son who had asked if they could see me. They sat in my office and told me their story. The son had only just qualified from university when his father was taken ill. The family, of course, felt that he was the one to take on the business and, at the time, he couldn’t refuse. He made a great success of it for over 15 years and was earning a lot of money.
I always ask every business owner why do they want to sell. Especially as this guy was only in his mid to late thirties. His reply shocked, and also made me feel a little sad for him. He replied “I have been in this business for over 15 years and I never ever wanted to, and still don’t want to run this business. Now is the time for me to do what I want to do.” I remember thinking at the time, I would never want to be in that position.
So I definitely would not want to place one of my children in the same situation. My reply to Josh, therefore, was pretty instant and with my blessing: “Son if this not for you, then you must go and do what you want to do.” And he did.
Josh now has a great job working with a sports management company and he absolutely loves it. I was so glad he just didn’t do what I initially wanted him to do and went his own way.
I have often shared this story at seminars. There were many times when I saw a mother and daughter or father and son look at each other with a smile which said it all.
My advice to any mum or dad, whether they are a business owner or not, is don’t always assume your children will want to follow in your footsteps. They might, of course, but then again they might not.
They may have the same entrepreneurial spirit as you but there’s a likelihood they are not going to be as passionate about the particular products and services you sell. Don’t be offended if this is the case. Let them go and explore their true passions. That may mean working for someone else to get what they want but that’s no bad thing
This could also mean that your carefully planned exit strategy may not now involve passing the business onto your
children. Don’t be disappointed. Selling your business and using some of the proceeds to fund a more exciting opportunity for your son or daughter if that is what they want to do, may be the best and brightest solution for you and your family.