Grow People

Chinese proverbs are sources of immense wisdom coming down to us through the ages. Ancient they may be, yet they are solidly relevant to our contemporary world. Here is one whose message is directly applicable to long-term success in family business.

“If you want one year of prosperity, grow grain. If you want ten years of prosperity, grow trees. If you want one hundred years of prosperity, grow people.”


For multi-generational success, “100-year prosperity,” start by preparing your family’s next generation. Introduce your children to the business early. Have them take on minor roles while in school. Include them in meetings where both family and business are discussed. Discuss family and business values with them. Help them learn what the role of a leader entails. Help them craft a vision for the family and the business under their leadership.

Pay attention to the talent in your upcoming generations. See where their gifts can be applied in the family and in the business. Are there born leaders? Are there natural innovators among them; natural communicators; networkers; entrepreneurs?

It’s your job to uncover and nourish next-generation resources,to support the development of their talents and encourage their chosen trajectories.

With the next generation thus grown, the business will not suffer a vacuum; when incumbents retire, when fresh ideas are needed, when upcoming technology calls for new knowledge. And when it’s time to step into responsible roles, they will serve the family and the business well and far into the future.


Giving Your Best

“My grandfather said to me, ‘Give the world the best you have, and the best will come back to you.’[1]

Upon reading this, a particular family-business story came to mind: A friend of mine, the youngest sibling in a second-generation family business was frustrated by his father’s strong-minded control and by his older siblings’ apparent apathy. He saw that rather than giving their best, his siblings were showing up for work daily but purposefully only “treading water” until they were able to take control of the business.

My friend had left the business once and was about to again because he was unable to give his best within the confines of the family situation.

This complex situation might well benefit from counseling. But my purpose in writing this blog entry is solely to draw awareness to the lost potential for multi-generational family legacies when family members are not raised in a culture of giving their best in whatever role life asks of them.


[1] Simmons, Annette, The Story Factor, Secrets of Influence from the Art of Storytelling, p. 9, Annette Simmons. Basic Books. 2001.