I am commonly asked “How do I motivate my children to choose a career in my business?” Motivation is the ability to influence others to take action. Exterior influence, both positive and negative can generate short-term influence. However, as soon as the source of the influence is no longer present, the motivation begins to dissipate. My belief is that you cannot genuinely motivate someone. Your best hope is to help them internally choose a positive opinion towards your desired actions. 

One might conclude that the answer to your question could be as simple as offering your children a job that they would perceive as attractive. You could describe how wonderful it is to work in your business; how much money they could make; and of course how much freedom, fun and free time they would have. You could enthusiastically paint a picture of how delightful it would be to work in the family business.

However, all of us with children understand that configuring our children’s goals and needs can be comparable to mastering a Rubik’s Cube. During their developmental years they are overwhelmed with information and options. Idealism, adventurism and fantasy complicate the realistic assessment of talents and opportunities that could be fulfilling. Furthermore, familiarity does indeed breed contempt. Therefore, with all the exciting options blowing through their brains, all we can do as parents is make reasonable observations or suggestions.  

The key to promoting internal motivation is more your walk than your talk. You can be sure that those who respect you and care for you (a.k.a. your children) will notice if you draw energy from your business, if you are having fun in your business and if you are favorably impacted by those you encounter in your business. Despite your walk’s importance, don’t think your talk doesn’t matter. Your children overhear better than you realize. So when speaking to others such as your spouse, you should speak positively about your business. You shouldn’t expect your children to be excited about a business when all they hear is you proclaiming “this business is killing me, I hate my partner, why do I put up with this crap, etc.” 

Motivating kids is a two pronged program: Demonstrate enthusiasm, appreciation and love for your business and speak accordingly. Assuming your kids don’t feel emotionally neglected because of your involvement with the business, this approach will give you the best chance for seeing motivation to work in the family business in your children. 

 Sign up for our monthly e-newsletter to stay informed on how to overcome related succession planning issues.