No, not me.
Rather this is an opening line I often use when introducing what I do professionally. The original statement was made by a student in a class on entrepreneurship I was teaching at New York University.
The student had related that his father had been saying he wanted to retire soon. The student’s response to this was to increase his own involvement in the business, proposing ideas for expansion and operations efficiency—areas his father struggled with. The student’s father resisted all of his suggestions and told his son in so many words: “Just do what I tell you to do. When you are in charge, then you can do what you want.” When the young man persisted in his bid for increased involvement, his father issued an ultimatum: “My way or the highway.”
Dynamics like these are not uncommon in family businesses, where a son or daughter is pushing to have relevancy; significance; to make a difference, and having their ideas rejected. When their aspirations are interpreted by incumbent leadership as irritants, or threats, an invitation to ‘hit the highway’ becomes an obvious solution.
The foundations of these dynamics are not simple, and solutions may involve psychological intervention to address deep-rooted conflicts. Apart from that, or perhaps in conjunction with it, taking deliberate steps to open lines of communication can be very helpful, providing for honest and constructive conversation about such important considerations as:
- Values and vision for the business and family
- Possibilities for the business under the leadership of the next generation
- Policies and procedures for next-generation family members wanting to enter the family business
- Areas of the business the next generation may be given ownership or uninterrupted control of
- Goals of individual family members for themselves and for the family today and ten years from now
It is important to recognize that multigenerational success in a family business is not a random occurrence, but something that requires the guidance of the older generation. In their book, MAPS for Men: A Guide for Fathers and Sons and Family Businesses, Edgell Franklin and Thomas Edward Pyles point out that, “Research on the correlation of success in family business shows that a positive relationship between a father and son represents a strategic advantage.”
I believe this finding is relevant to a positive relationship between any parent and child.
 Edgell Franklin Pyles, Thomas Edward Pyles (2016). MAPS for Men: A Guide for Fathers and Sons and Family Businesses. Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press.