The story of first generation family businesses is usually an inspiring saga about an individual with a vision who overcame a great deal of adversity through hard work, dedication, good timing and a certain amount of luck. Success does not come easy, especially when you start at the ground floor. The lessons learned through the sacrifices of G1 become a value system that is modeled for future generations. As future generations are introduced however, the story of G1 often becomes more like folklore – the message is heard but is not entirely relevant anymore. The successful family business is sure to have had a positive change on the family’s standard of living and your successor isn’t starting with the same perspective as G1. So in order to successfully pass the baton to the next generation, it is important to identify who you’re working with and what will motivate them.

The difference between successful G1 and G2 business owners can be compared to an ongoing rivalry between two current NFL quarterbacks – a first generation Tom Brady and a second generation Peyton Manning. Their routes to the NFL couldn’t have been more different; Brady an unknown back-up in college and 6th Round Draft Pick vs. Manning who is essentially quarterback royalty and a First Round Draft Pick. Despite the differences, they are both tremendously successful at what they do and are both known for a relentless work ethic to be the best.

The expectations of a young Tom Brady were low – his 6th round draft status leading to anticipated failure with little hope of success. Mistakes were expected and successes were a pleasant surprise. Brady’s frame of reference is that of an underdog who was lucky to be given a chance and will do anything to make the most of it. This is the story of a G1 key manager with hopes of running his own business someday.

Manning on the other hand, is a story of lofty expectations – a 1st round draft status with everyone watching his development since high school. Success was expected and mistakes were magnified. He was on a pedestal from the start with regular affirmations that he is great. This is the story of a G2 family member successor to the family business with a drive to outperform Dad.

Your successor may come from a Tom Brady (key manager) or Peyton Manning (family member) type of path. Regardless of their origins, there are a number of questions that should be addressed before settling on the future leader of your organization:

  • If he/she had your capital, would he/she want to be in your role?

  • Do his/her peers respect him/her as a co-worker?

  • Are they committed, competent, capable and community minded?

  • Have they previously had an opportunity to be a leader and how did it go?

  • Do they have the right skills? If not, are they capable of developing them?

  • Do they have the right ability? You can’t teach this.

  • Do they have the right attitude and work ethic? (This is entirely in their control and you shouldn’t need to teach this)

  • Would they be good stewards of the business family?)

  • Do they understand where the business is going and are they on board?

  • Will your senior managers assist in his/her development as your successor?

If you begin with these questions in mind you will be on the path to your own business Super Bowl.

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