Family businesses thrive on the close relationships between parent and child. But as your children and other younger relatives start taking on more responsibility, you may find yourself having trouble letting go. If you want your company to thrive, you must learn to trust the next generation with your family business.

Intergenerational Differences Take Focus in Family Businesses

Social media is full of articles pointing figures and casting blame between generations. To be sure, experienced Baby Boomers, established members of Generation X, and aspirational Millennials often take different approaches to getting business done, causing strain in the workplace.

These intergenerational differences become even more significant when those involved live in the same household. Parents often have difficulty adjusting as their children become adults and professionals. When those younger adults are also the ones making decisions for your business, it can be difficult to let go and trust them to do their jobs.

Trust Comes with Time, Training, and Tolerance for Mistakes

It is emotionally challenging to trust the next generation with a business that you created or inherited. You naturally want to protect what you have built and shelter it from the consequences of poor decision making. This can make it hard to relinquish control to your children and younger family members. However, there are strategies that can make the transition easier for everyone:

Introduce Changes Gradually Giving Everyone Time to Adjust

You don’t need to trust your family members with everything all at once. In most cases, you and son or daughter will both benefit from a smooth transition of duties over time, rather than an abrupt shift in responsibilities. Rather than handing them a leadership position with instructions for several key decisions on day one, try to introduce their duties a little at a time, with plenty of guidance and feedback along the way, so they can learn what it will take to keep the family business going.

Help New Leaders Earn Your Trust by Providing Training and Mentorship Opportunities

Promoting a young family member into a leadership position in the family business takes another level of trust entirely. As their parent or relative, you have watched your children grow up and may feel like you have a sense of their talents and challenges. However, sometimes you can be too close to view your child’s abilities objectively. If the time has come for your daughter or son to take on a management role, you may want to recruit some outside help to make sure they are up to the task.

An experienced business consultant can work with your next generation of leaders to identify their strengths and weaknesses, help to guide you in placing them where they can thrive, and building their skillset. This kind of one-on-one mentorship and development strategy can help avoid conflict within your family business and let you trust the new leaders in your company.

Make Space to Tolerate Mistakes and Let the Next Generation Learn

One of the biggest emotional challenges for any family business owner is to take your hands off the controls and let the next generation exercise the authority you have given them on their own. After all, you have years, and often decades of experience to help avoid missteps. Isn’t it necessarily better for business to use that expertise?

Not necessarily. Adversity is often the best educator. Allowing your emerging leaders to fall and pick themselves back up – with an appropriate plan to repair any damage to your business – can be far more effective in the long run than simply stepping back in to fix the problem.

Learning to let go and leave your family business in your children’s hands can be hard for entrepreneurs. Your business consultant can help you create and implement a plan that builds your children’s skills, brings them into a leadership role in a natural way, and develops your own capacity to trust the next generation with your family business.


David Stanislaw is an organizational development specialist with over 30 years’ experience helping executives build the next generations of their family businesses. By working with senior executives and emerging managers through one-on-one coaching, strategic planning, and conflict management, David helps family business owners trust their children and loved ones with their companies. Contact us to meet with David to develop your next generation of leaders today.