For families in business, the desire to create a lasting legacy tends to be a recurring theme and topic of conversation.
For many patriarchs it is important to leave this world with a legacy comprising a successful business and meaningful assets to leave behind for their family. In the quest to create this legacy, they will often keep control of business operations or investments and may often do so without sharing their vision, values or the purpose of these with their family.
Is that what creating legacy is really all about though? Also, will the Next Generation be able and willing to continue that legacy in the spirit in which it was created?
From my experience, there is often a disconnect between the generations as to how they value the importance of legacy, what it should be comprised of and how it should be carried forward.
In my own journey, I have seen the consequences of patriarchs not sharing their vision and passion. It happened to our family when my father didn’t clearly communicate how he saw the various businesses and assets growing and operating in the longer term.
Over the space of many years, this resulted in some in my generation disconnecting from the family business journey and even resulted in an important historic business being lost to our future generations.
Furthermore, at this stage, it is unlikely that we will ever fully understand what he wanted his legacy to be and what he wished to be remembered for.
In his mind, the sheer existence of wealth and tangible assets should be enough to create a family legacy.
However, a legacy can only live on if the next generation has an emotional tie to the wishes and dreams of the founders and has a shared passion and commitment to keep the legacy alive.
I can only encourage founders who want to build something lasting and meaningful for future generations to start sharing what matters with those who will be left holding the baton upon their death.
Involve the next generation in the management of legacy assets and allow them to understand your journey, your passion, your vision and your dreams. Provide them with the guidance and mentoring they need, to be the best custodians of the business and legacy that they can be.
Of course, there is never a guarantee that they will follow your dreams, despite your best efforts.
I believe it is worth investing into these conversations though, because I can almost certainly guarantee that if you do not put the love, time and effort into this journey with your family, they are more likely to do exactly what you fear most and distance themselves from what you have built and worked so hard for.
Legacy can only exist when generations work together, not if one holds tight control. Maybe it is time to change your approach to legacy?
Written by Susanne Bransgrove, a passionate Family Business Advisor and 3rd Generation Family Business member
©2018 Susanne Bransgrove