When I go into a failing business and discover a once running enterprise with an idiot at the helm, one of the first questions I ask myself is, “Is this guy family?”
Leaders have a real predilection for putting idiot family members in charge of key parts of their operations.
Napoleon installed his family members as heads of state across Europe, and monarchy for millennia have been based upon familial succession. But there’s a good reason that none of these monarchies still exists (and don’t feed me a line about the royal family of Britain or Monaco – this is just sustained wealth and fairytale fantasy): because at some point every family breeds idiots.
In the rare case that a son is as capable or more so than his father, that rarely lasts for a third or fourth generation. Sure, people can be groomed and educated, but at some point, the son will like other things, be an idiot or plain not care. And when that day comes, down goes the business.
If you want to build a business that is sustainable through the generations, don’t make your offspring a prerequisite of those generations. I’m not saying they can’t be involved, but you better make darn sure that they’re both capable and desirous of the position.
One place that problems tend to arise when fathers and sons do business together is in compensation, especially when selling the business.
I had a mechanical engineering company in New York where the son was stealing from his father’s business because he wasn’t getting a high enough salary. As a family member wouldn’t you believe that the son felt entitled to the business’s money, no matter how much or little he’d worked.
When we confronted good ol’ Charlie, who resented that upon his father’s passing his mom had been made CEO, he took a kitchen knife to his mother. We averted bloodshed and she got a restraining order, subsequently kicking him out of the company.
We were in the middle of trying to sell the company, and you better believe that this charade ruined the sale.
Do not put idiot family members in charge of your company or parts of your company. It takes a unique father and a unique CEO to balance both a family and a business. If you value your business and respect your family, think long and hard before mixing them at the leadership level.
Do you do business with your family? How does that work for you?