Success in Your Family Business is NOT One Size Fits All: Identifying What Will Drive Progress for Generations to Come

December 18, 2023

Life for business owners tends to move at a faster pace — which can make it difficult to step back from the hustle and bustle and focus on the future. But in order to achieve your idea of “success,” you need to first sit down and determine what, exactly, that means to you. In other words, you need to begin your journey with the end destination in mind.

By defining an end goal, you can more effectively measure your success in a meaningful way. Establishing what success means to you, your family, and your business is the first step in building focused, thoughtful strategies that utilize different approaches (both common and unique) to achieve those goals.

What makes defining success challenging for family business owners is that what works today for your family and your business may not work in the future. And in order to continue making progress, you may need to pivot and adapt the business in order to align with the family’s values — especially as the next generation steps in to lead.

Let’s look at what it means to define success for your family and your business as well as how to keep your family business progressing forward in a positive way.

Defining Success For Your Family

As much as you and your family members operate as a team, don’t forget that each person — especially your children or grandchildren — is a unique individual with dreams, values, and hopes that may differ from yours.

What you consider to be your definition of success may very well be different from what your children define as their own successes. This isn’t just in regards to money or growing the family business. It could be how they want to spend their time (working fewer hours per week, for example) or the type of impact they want to make on their community (like starting a charity or foundation).

The goals and desires of your family’s next generation of business leaders are important, both from a personal and business standpoint. They’ll impact what type of involvement your children or grandchildren have in the business, how they run it, and what they prioritize.

Defining Success For Your Business

Just because you won’t be around forever doesn’t mean you don’t have a long-term vision for your family’s business. The decisions you make today as a leader should be rooted in those long-term goals.

Your business is an extension of who you are as a family, and its legacy should reflect that. When defining what success means for your business, keep in mind that your definition may evolve over time as the next generation takes over. The business should evolve to meet your children’s (or grandchildren’s) expectations and goals, as well as the world around you. That means that it’s entirely possible your idea of success today won’t align with your business’s circumstances five, 10, or 15+ years from now. For that reason, it’s important to be adaptable, flexible, and focused on prioritizing your family’s values first.

Aligning Success With Family Values

What does continuity mean to your family business? We tend to assume that “continuity” is synonymous with staying the course, no matter the circumstances. But as the world around you evolves and your family’s priorities shift or leadership changes happen, does it make sense to continue on a path that may not be sustainable in the long run?

Trying to force your existing business model to work for years and years to come is a bit like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. Instead, focus first on identifying your family values and adapting your family business in a way that promotes longevity, productivity, and harmony.

Pivoting in order to realign your business with your family values can be challenging for business owners who feel pulled between legacy and lineage. But having the courage to pivot, and doing so proactively (rather than reactively) can make the difference between losing decades of hard work and progress and forging ahead into a more vibrant future.

The Importance of Adaptability

Being adaptable and willing to accept change is key to the long-term survival and success of both your family business and family tree. Say your grandchildren don’t have the desire to continue leading the family business — making it unsustainable to continue operating in its current form.

You and your family need to be willing to assess the situation and identify solutions that are best for preserving your assets and your family bond, even if that means changing what your initial definition of success meant to you and your family. In cases like this, it can be helpful to bring in an outside, unbiased professional who can help you weigh your options and communicate effectively with each other.

Perhaps you come to the conclusion that it’s time to sell the business to a trusted colleague. Or, after having more honest conversations with your grandchildren, you find that they simply need more time to learn the ropes and improve their industry knowledge. What’s important is that you engage in an open dialogue, seek external insight, and embrace flexibility. These are the keys to driving progress for generations to come.

Transforming Your Family’s Legacy with WillKate

Our team at WillKate helps family businesses like yours develop and execute a thoughtful, dynamic family business succession plan that’s meant to evolve and adapt over time. Our goal is to help you identify your family values and define what success means to you as an individual, a family, and a business. In doing so, we work to ensure your business thrives from generation to generation.

If you’re interested in learning more about us, don’t hesitate to reach out anytime.