Words: Corey Adams
Growing up in a construction family is hard. The only thing that may be harder is raising a family in construction. I have the pleasure of seeing both. Born into a family construction business, I had the opportunity to learn the trade, learn the business, and achieve more than I ever could on my own. As a father, and still construction entrepreneur, I get to see the other side of the coin. I will tell you that your perspective changes, or at least it comes into a clearer focus.
As I sit and think about each scenario that arises with my kids, I can’t help but remember what those situations were like for me growing up. The following is not your typical article, but more or less a confluence of perspectives from both sides. Often, a father and child bang heads over trying to figure out what is best for a company. One of the main problems is perspective. Hopefully, this lends some.
To the 1st Generation Owner, What your child doesn’t understand:
Your child doesn’t remember the stress of deciding to start your own business. They do not understand what pure sacrifice looks like. The days of struggling to find steady work, the ups, and downs of the first few years, or even working out of your truck because you couldn’t afford a shop.
A child often has no recollection of what it physically and mentally took to create a lasting company that can provide for your family. We fought our way through scams, bad clients, bad advice, and just plain old mistakes to put ourselves in a position to be comfortable in retirement.
The last thing we want to do is leave what we created without any input or fail safes in place so that our child can succeed. Our child doesn’t know that we love them more than the company, and our stubbornness for change is our way of wanting to protect them.
Our child has no clue how tired we are. Years of work, stress, and the joy of fatherhood has left me exhausted. You don’t want to change because you finally found a sweet spot where you are comfortable and understand what tools and technology are. It has worked for years; why can’t it keep working until I am gone. Besides, I am not ready to fully retire yet.
To the Child, What your father doesn’t understand:
We don’t want to force them out. The only reason I chose to work in the family business is that I am proud of what they built, and I want to build it even stronger out of respect for them.
Things are changing faster than I can even keep up with. I know we are behind the times between digital marketing, online resources, and all the other technologies. I know that his system has worked for the last 30 years, but I want to create a system that will last another 30. I am not ready to retire and need to know that I can have the freedom to build something for myself. I don’t want to tear down everything, and I just want to put my stamp on it. In fact, most of what we do is great! I just know that tweaking a little bit and adding some progress to our systems will help.
Your father doesn’t understand that you feel left out. You feel like all your suggestions are falling on deaf ears. You are not a child anymore, you have done the research, and you are ready to lead responsibly.
He doesn’t understand that no one is lining up to take over this business. Without some form of succession plan and torch-passing, the company cannot survive. Maybe it is better to abandon the ship before it is too late.
Does any of this sound familiar? Most family businesses go through the same thing. In many cases, the disagreements come from not understanding what the other party wants or the perspective driving their decisions.
I have found that it is invaluable to bring in a third party, non-family member to help sort out the details in many situations, especially when it is time to start discussing transition. Too many families lose more than the business; they lose their families.