Philie Group Blog

Three Steps for a Smooth Family Printing Business Leadership Transition
By Mike Philie

It’s with joy that parents welcome their children into the family business. While many of the kids grew up in the business, sweeping floors and often times getting in the way, there are several paths that grown children can take as they consider entering the business. As time goes by, parents have their sights set on some type of leadership transition. There are several areas that should be addressed along the way to help ensure a positive experience for all.

Some kids may come right from high school, and begin at a job that is commensurate with their skills. Over time, they work their way up towards their true potential. Others are encouraged to get a college education before assuming a role at the company. Let’s not forget about those that, college or no college, go out into the world and make their own mark before coming back and contributing to the family business. They enter the business with a much different perspective.

While the parents may have their sights set on some type of leadership transition, there are things that they can do along the way to help facilitate a path that will lead to the best outcome for their own unique situation. The first area that really needs to be addressed is: Does the kid really want to work at the family business? Too often I see these folks working at the family business because they either feel pressure, or an obligation to do so. Unless the kid really wants to be there, wants to learn and contribute, it may not end well.

Gaining outside perspectives can be vital to the development of any family member. If they are not careful, family businesses can become echo chambers. Depending upon the tolerance for new ideas and competing thoughts, growth can be accelerated or face massive headwinds. The business and family leader should share their vision and communicate their tolerance for change. They should help the younger family members learn by exposing them to the intricacies of running a business and managing risk. This can be facilitated internally or by enrolling them into business and leadership development programs. Almost all metropolitan areas have some type of leadership development program. Whether it’s a general business leadership program or one specific to your industry, the outside perspective of an external program creates a unique path for the younger member and can bring fresh ideas into the business.

Children of business owners face many challenges as they enter and work their way up within the business. On one end of the spectrum they can be viewed by other employees as “the owners kid,” the one who gets preferential treatment and is not accountable for anything. On the other end of the spectrum, they can be viewed by their parents as never being good enough, never working hard enough, and never working long enough hours. These situations can be difficult for anyone. The recommendation is to treat them fairly and objectively – just like any other employee. This is where having good HR policies can be helpful. Having a solid training path, job descriptions and periodic reviews can help that family member to learn, excel, and develop into their true potential.

Building a business can be both brutal, and rewarding. And as parents, we all want the best for our children. If your kids are in the business, think about these steps to help ensure a great outcome for you, your children, and the business. Please add any comments or questions below. Good luck!

Mike Philie can help validate what’s working and what may need to change in your business. Changing the trajectory of a business is difficult to do while simultaneously operating the core competencies. Mike provides strategy and insight to owners and CEOs in the Graphic Communications Industry by providing direct and realistic assessments, not being afraid to voice the unpopular opinion and helping leaders navigate change through a common sense and practical approach. Learn more at www.philiegroup.comLinkedIn or email at

Originally published in Printing Impressions


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