Love is not a feeling, says US psychiatrist M. Scott Peck in his book “The Road Less Travelled,” but an investment. Not financially, but “the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own and another’s spiritual growth.” “Love is as love does,” says Peck. Love is not emotion, but action. Even if we don’t feel attraction or desire, we can still choose to love others and help them grow to the fullest.
Loving founders are patient, kind, and encouraging to their children (successors) and employees. They guide their children, exposing them early to the family business.
Spoiling or coddling children is not love, but a way to create entitled, narcissistic, unmotivated successors. But loving founders do not castigate or put down people. They set high expectations, and guide kids and successors, every step of the way, to be accountable and to meet family business standards.
They do not shield or protect children from mistakes, knowing that these are opportunities for growth. Neither do they insult their kids; rather, they ensure that children genuinely learn from their errors.
Fairness goes hand in hand with love. Though difficult in a society ruled by nepotism, loving founders strive to be fair to everyone, kin or otherwise. When children slack off or betray family business trust, they are held accountable, for respect has to be earned, not bestowed by blood. When non-family professionals do well, they are treated like family (literally, not just metaphorically), with fair compensation and incentives.
To fulfill what Peck said, which is to help people achieve their highest potential, love means preparing the next generation for succession—and letting go when it is time. For most founders, the family business is their baby, into which they have poured their body, mind and soul. Many parents cannot let go of their grown-up children. In the same way, many founders cannot let go of the family business and refuse to face the fact that someday, they will no longer be around.
Loving founders intend for the family business to transcend them, and plan for a smooth succession.
Many founders tend to believe that no one can fill their shoes (they may be right—studies show that founders, because of circumstances, often tend to be more hard-working and make more sacrifices than their successors).
But loving ones give kids the best education and the best training possible.
They train them, side by side, year after year, until the time is right, when they gracefully hand over the reins to the next generation.
Loving successors are humble, delay gratification and take every opportunity to learn from founders. While they may be more educated (at least on paper—second or third generations usually have MBAs, often from abroad, while many founders have at most a college degree), loving successors realize that much expertise is learned not in school, but in the workplace.
Even if their parents or grandparents seem to be old-fashioned, they know that traditional ways have worked well for decades. While they may want to modernize the family business, they realize that drastic change cannot be done overnight, and ultimately cannot last without the support of the founders. They learn to give and take, and not impose hypothetical methods which may work for class case studies but not their family business.
Loving successors do not take things for granted. They are the recognized heirs, so they work doubly hard, so that no one can question the legitimacy of their positions. They respect the legacy of the founders, while imprinting best practices of their own. They act as effective bridges between the founders and employees.
If siblings or cousins, they set aside personal issues and prioritize the interests of the family business. If in-laws, they show love by not fomenting intrigue but working together for the sake of the family business. Many second- or third-generation successors complain that founders do not want to let go. Loving successors realize that they need to prove themselves capable of handling the family business; this means they need to demonstrate the requisite work ethic, thrift, and other values prized by founders.
Instead of hoping that founders will exit soon, they work with parents or grandparents to find other ways to contribute to society. They actively help founders set up foundations, volunteer in the parish, join advisory boards—because many founders dread lives filled only with golf, shopping or cruises.
Tune in next Friday, as we help a family business reader who has problems with an obsessive-compulsive sibling.
(Queena N. Lee-Chua is on the board of directors of Ateneo de Manila University’s Family Business Development Center. Get her book “Successful Family Businesses” at the University Press (tel. 4266001 loc 4613, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.) E-mail the author at email@example.com.)