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Edition 105 – Passion

I was working with one of my great family business clients recently. We were talking through the changes they have introduced into their business throughout the past 12 months, the progress they have made and the work still to be done.

This is your typical family business – Mum and Dad with adult children who are not part of the business. For Dad, he has spent almost 15 years building the business and creating a legacy. He’d dearly love for one of his adult children to become a part of the business one day. One adult child offers potential, but is currently building a successful corporate career.

As we talked this situation over, it became apparent that Dad has never really had the conversation with any of his children about coming into the family business. They’d all grown up in an environment where they’d seen Mum and Dad stress about the business – competition, cashflow, employees, suppliers, customers. As I’ve always said, for most family businesses, the dining table is the board table, and there is usually no formal agenda, nor set start and finish times.

When I was talking this issue over with my client, he asked me the following – what does my son need to be able to come into the business?

At this point, I’m pretty sure my client was expecting the usual barrage of stuff, which includes:

  1. They need to know the industry.
  2. They need to know the business world.
  3. They must be good at what they do.

However, my 30 years of working with family business owners and managers has shown me that all of that counts for nothing if there is one characteristic that is missing. A characteristic that is grossly underestimated – and which some people would miss altogether.


Passion is the key ingredient that must be present for any family member looking to come into the business.

They must have passion for the business. They must want to live and breathe the business and be willing to work outside the normal 9 to 5.

They must have a passion for the industry. I’ve seen plenty of business owners that grow bored with the industry they are a part of. If you’re bringing family into your business that want the glory but don’t really care for the industry, you’re bringing robots into your business, that will lose you your business.

Finally, they must have a passion for the family. They must embrace the family and understand how that interplays with the business as a whole. Part of this is also about understanding that generation one may have created the business, and one of the biggest achievements they will ever have in their lifetime is to create a legacy and pass it on to the next generation. Generation two must passionately embrace that concept.

If you’re in family business and you’re looking to bring in the next generation, ask yourself, does my son/daughter/nephew/niece have passion – in spades – to make this work?

This Week’s Tip

“There is a flip side to bringing into your family business family members that show passion – and that is exiting out of it family members that don’t exhibit passion. Otherwise, you don’t have a family business – you merely have a benevolent society.”