Family Business Leadership – Do You “Really” Want to Run the Show?

My brother and I were next in line to lead the family business, but it seemed neither of us genuinely wanted the position.

Three years apart in age, we never felt any real competition between ourselves. I assumed he would eventually lead the business because he was the older child and had a few more years of experience on me. But we never discussed it, never competed for it, it was just an unspoken assumption.

Neither of us ever did lead the family business.

A strange thing happens as our family businesses grow, we almost become detached from the “real” business. Lost in the excitement and chaos of fast growth is your slowly changing role in the business.  You go from being a hands-on specialist to a delegating general manager.

Managing Managers

As our business grew our tasks became more administrative and less hands-on. We both really missed the hands-on entrepreneurial aspects of our positions. The business had grown so rapidly that we found ourselves “managing managers.” We could have been in almost any industry because we weren’t using any of our hands-on skills.

Keeping Entrepreneurial

We’re taught that we need to be less hands-on and delegate more as our responsibility increases.  But you shouldn’t feel guilty about staying hands-on.  In your family business you have more flexibility and choice to customize your role. What makes a business successful is the entrepreneurial idea that launched the business and keeping the momentum going by staying innovative. Some choose to delegate that responsibility to others and eventually become CEO, while others choose to remain entrepreneurial and have an outside CEO. Both are successful models.

Remember you can “own” the business, but you don’t have to “lead” the business.