The Curious Leader
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The Curious Leader

Do You Really Want Your Heir to Run the Family Business like You?

Once a Vanderbilt, always a Vanderbilt?

The Vanderbilts were once the richest family in America.

One of their foundational tenets is for the heirs to follow in the footsteps of the generation preceding them. Upholding that tenet is the way to show allegiance to the clan while hopefully becoming richer.

Expecting our heirs to conduct business the way we do is a recipe for crushing and molding that generation’s individuality in exchange for a potential fistful of dollars.

The Vanderbilts have lost much of their fortune due to their traditional view of multi-generational family business.

However, there’s one heir in particular who’s done incredibly well without using his mother’s name — Gloria Vanderbilt — to boost his career. His name is Anderson Cooper, a Peabody and Emmy award-winning journalist.

Is Crushing Individuality Sound Business?

I believe individuality is beneficial because it’s about the next generation’s individuality adding value to the individuality of the previous generations.

However, in traditional multi-generational business settings, the next generation’s individuality is often seen as a threat to the survival of the clan’s ways, which means the heirs must be crushed and molded to conform to the previous generation’s standards.

Does Adding Value Threaten Riches?

If you believe adding value is a great way to buffer your financial coffers, what is your strategic plan for not only growing your business but also nurturing the next generation’s individuality to add value?

What’s the Added Value of Winning?

Before you answer that question, be willing to ask yourself what winning means to you. For example, does winning mean to beat away the competition? Does it mean to get other people to do your bidding? Or is it something else altogether to you?

In the context of multi-generational family business, winning often takes the form of getting Junior to adopt the family clan’s standards without much self-reflection.

How Does Your Individuality Add Value?

As a first-generation business owner, I’m sure you’ve had plenty of freedom to set up your business your way. And I’m not just talking about the location of the pen holder on your desk!

First-generation business owners get to choose their target market, the products and services they offer, even their inventory system and management style.

In choosing each aspect of your business, your beloved individuality is flavouring every one of your decisions. That’s great! And anyone exploring working with you gets to choose yay or nay to your business value proposition (the whole package deal) based on whether your form of individualism works for them. And that’s also the problem, isn’t it?

Allow me to explain.

What About Junior’s Beloved Individuality?

When transferring a first-generation business to a second, third, or multiple generations, oftentimes, the first generation demands that subsequent generations follow in the footsteps of the first generation.

If the second generation decides to express their beloved individuality instead of following in the footsteps of the previous generation, the first generation might label their adult children’s actions as “rebellion,” “sabotage,” or “disrespect.” With that in mind …

What’s Really Going On?

Even if the first generation never speaks the words, what they are saying is, “I want you to be me.”

However, the second generation’s desire to express themselves is sending the message, “I don’t want to be you because I’m me.”

In such a contrasting reality, how can the second generation be like the first generation, so the first generation can trust the transition to the second generation?

To answer that question truthfully, the first generation must be willing to ask themselves, “How might my heir following in my footsteps hinder the growth of my business as we move into the developing future?”

Collaborative Individuality Adds Value

Your beloved individuality got you where you are today. Having said that, how is what you are doing today different from what your parents did when you first launched your business?

Let’s take the case of Henry Ford. Did you know that Henry Ford’s father was a farmer and a slave owner? What would have happened to Henry if he had adopted his father’s standards and become a farmer and slave owner?

I think we can all be grateful that Henry chose to become an engineer, which led him to build the first automobile.

Do You Really Want Your Heir to Run the Family Business like You?

Before you answer that question, let’s consider that

✔️ Closely examining the standards we are holding adds value.

✔️ Nurturing our individuality and the individuality of the next generation adds value.

✔️ Genuinely being held accountable to navigate a transition of values while maintaining the integrity of the business adds value.

It’s about the next generation’s individuality adding value to the individuality of the previous generation!


What is your strategic plan for not only growing your business, but also nurturing the individuality of the next generation to add value?

My name is Anne Beaulieu. I assist women entrepreneurs in being unwaveringly bold about inspiring the next generation of emotionally intelligent and strategic women.




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Anne Beaulieu

Anne Beaulieu

Strategic Financial Emotional Intelligence Coach

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