What Is the Role of Parents in the Family Owned Business?

Business Leader Post, December 26, 2012

Thomas D. Davidow, Ed.D.

Most people believe that a non-management spouse ought not to have say in the next generation’s role in the family business. At first glance, that point of view appears to have some merit since the non-management spouse cannot truly evaluate the next generation’s performance. However, the management and non-management spouse are both still parents; and neither of them can step away from that role.

Parenting/emotional support should never stop. The challenge is how to integrate both roles—the management parent and the non-management parent—so that the next generation feels supported, which is different from being protected. Parents need to talk about what is going on in the family business. Their discussions should include the challenges of integrating business issues with family issues and how they can best respond to those issues as a unit. It goes back to the basics. A family business starts with the family. When the parents send the same message, they greatly enhance the chances of their family staying on an even keel.