The FamilyBiz Q&A column provides answers to your family business-oriented questions from the subject matter experts at Thomas D. Davidow & Associates.
What Is the Most important Decision You Make Every Day of Your Life? How You Spend Your Time.
Among the differences between the senior and younger generation in a family business is how they view the importance of time spent working in the business. Members of the senior generation equate quantity of time devoted to the business as an indicator of their commitment to its success, and they reflect on the long hours they put in as key to that success. They believe in a standard of leadership that is defined by being the first in and the last out. They were always on the job and available to their employees and customers. I have witnessed the senior generation stipulate as a requirement to transferring the management control of the business to the younger generation that the next generation have the same commitment to time that they had—which might include arriving at work by 6:00 am or working on Saturdays.
This issue of time can easily be a lightning rod for the larger issues of power and control which always surface during the transition process. However, the difference in the two generations’ orientations towards how one spends one’s time is a generational difference and not a commitment or work ethic issue. Although the senior generation is correct in assuming that the amount of time that they devoted to the business is one of the major factors in their success, spending that much time in the business also had consequences to themselves and to their family. They missed football games, recitals, etc. The younger generation does not want to miss those events. In the same way that the founder said, “I want to provide the opportunities to my kids that I never had,” the younger generation now says, “I want to be with my kids in a way that my father/mother was unable to.”
The younger generation has grown up in a different cultural and technological environment from their parents. Technology allows us to work smarter. This younger generation wants to be evaluated by the quality of their performance, not by the sheer number of hours they devote to the business. Let them. A professional golfer once asked his audience if they could guess how he can tell a good golfer. Everybody guessed that it was in the swing. His answer: “No, it is not the swing. It is where the ball lands.”
Thomas D. Davidow is the founder and principal of Thomas D. Davidow & Associates. www.tdavidow.com Dr. Davidow has more than 30 years of experience working with hundreds of national and international family controlled enterprises. He has worked with businesses in diverse fields including retail, distribution, manufacturing, real estate, construction and more.
If you would like speak with Dr. Davidow, he can be reached at (617) 739-2868 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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