Struggle and Strength

Ongoing Discussion at the Family Business Mastermind

The Family Business Mastermind is a peer-to-peer learning group. Participants meet monthly at the Lawrence N. Field Center for Entrepreneurship at Baruch College of the City University of New York to discuss the pressures, challenges and concerns of being part of a family business.

At July’s Mastermind meeting, there was discussion initiated by second and third- generation family-business members. They were seeking to define their roles within the context of the three major family business subsystems: family members, business management and ownership.

They expressed their frustration with being ignored when seeking to initiate innovations they believe to be critical to business growth. They shared a sense of “being right” about what their business needs; what they need for themselves in order to work in the family business, and what needs to be done differently to grow the business.

Ernesto J. Poza, author of Family Business, states that each generation needs to “respect the past, while keeping an eye on the future.” The Mastermind participants all expressed respect for what their parents had accomplished. They were struggling though, with how to evolve into their own leadership, perhaps like a caterpillar struggling to escape its cocoon. The takeaway here is that without the struggle the emerging moth will not have the strength to fly.

This is a conversation to be continued, as leadership needs time to develop. It is ultimately a conversation not about who or what, but about family values, future possibilities and opportunities.