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.


A Family Community

In January 2016 Dennis T. Jaffe, Ph.D. published a book entitled RELEASING THE POTENTIAL OF THE RISING GENERATION: How Long-Lasting Family Enterprises Prepare Their Successors. In it he discusses attitudes and actions that together comprise the success of multi-generational family businesses. 

Jaffe’s book makes a strong case for the idea that family business success is less about building the business and more about how the family goes about creating a family community focused on educating and mentoring the next generation and developing next-generation careers.