If a difference in work ethic exists between a family business founder and younger generations entering the business, how does that affect the enterprise?

When comparing the work ethic of two generations it’s very important to look at the differences in motivation factors. The need to provide basic food and shelter is generally a powerful incentive for hard work. The senior generation often comes from a far less affluent lifestyle, sometimes even poverty conditions, as compared to the lifestyle that it has provided for its offspring. Consequently the younger family members’ drive to succeed may not carry the same sense of urgency. When a younger generation has been spared the experience of struggling for survival the two generations are separated in a most profound way.

Different work ethics do not necessarily hurt the business. Most members of the senior generation equate work ethic with time spent visibly working. But they cannot compare the hours they put in with the hours that younger family members put in. Working excessive hours may not be necessary, day in and day out. And today people focus on other aspects of their lives more, including other roles that carry additional responsibilities; those other roles need to be respected. Working long hours does not necessarily mean that someone is working hard, and working less hours can mean that someone knows how to better manage their time and work smart.

The goal is provide an opportunity for individuals to work at their optimum levels. Sometimes this means allowing younger family members to fail so that they can learn, improve, and, ultimately, become more productive.