What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?
In a series of questions asked recently to privately-held business owners, the answer was a resounding “yes!”
Almost every one of them admitted that they had faced difficult, sometimes gut-wrenching adversity professionally or personally in their lifetime. All agreed that even in hindsight they would not change a thing, because overcoming this adversity had been vital to them and their development as a successful business owner.
Although these business owners attributed their own success to their triumphs over adversity, those same business owners acknowledged that they have raised their children (the future successors) in an adversity-sheltered manner.
Of course we love our children. That’s without question.
But what gives? Are we being too easy on our kids? Are we actually diminishing their chances for long-term success?
Let’s face it, nobody enjoys adversity. Adversity, by its very nature, will always hurt.
It is in those moments of adversity, however, when leaders arise from the crowd. A true leader not only will endure but take that pain and utilize it as motivation to overcome and achieve success.
Examples of adversity-born leaders are everywhere: Steve Jobs, Nelson Mandela, Abraham Lincoln, Beethoven, Oprah, Einstein and the list goes on and on.
Leaders who overcome adversity undoubtedly will succeed because they take advantage of every moment and don’t settle for less.
It should be noted that succession will never be easy. There naturally will be tension, conflict, fear and pain.
That’s adversity, and it’s good.
However, there are some ways we can ensure we’re able to derive success from succession – and give our children the opportunity to feel ownership over those accomplishments:
(1) Step back and let them struggle through to the solution.
Does that mean total parental abdication? Of course not. Instead of guiding them so much that they build a false sense of achievement, we should encourage them with the freedom to act and monitor their progress.
(2) Make children earn their success within the family business.
Treat them as you do other employees, making compensation and position contingent upon hard work, sacrifices and potential, not on their last name.
(3) Base their estate share on the earnings and success they achieve.
The more they succeed, the more we share our estate, within reason, of course.
(4) Consider stretching out the starting age and time period over which the estate flows to them.
Give them a chance to lay the foundation for their own success – before we distribute money to them.
(5) Continually teach and preach your values.
Those guideposts will help our children in their journey through life. Make sure those values are identifiable in your estate plan.
Allowing your successors to be exposed to adversity is crucial. It doesn’t mean going out of your way to make things harder, but you certainly shouldn’t go out of your way to make things easier, either.
Adversity will rear its head naturally, and your job simply will be to encourage and engage in dialogue with your children, not dictate what they should do.
It is in overcoming this adversity that true leaders are born, with the self-motivation and confidence private companies are built upon.