So your family owns a good-sized company and you’re thinking that maybe that’s where your future lies. You started out in the warehouse shuffling boxes back and forth during high school, maybe had a stint in manufacturing or marketing, and you have grown up knowing the company and its industry well. Now, a college grad, you need to consider your future, and make important decisions that will impact not only your career, but your family AND its enterprise.
For family business stakeholders considering a career in their family business (or simply being an owner of it one day), the road ahead is complex, with great opportunity and many potential pitfalls. One credential worth considering is a Master of Business Administration (MBA).
Whether your path forward lies in the family business’ operations, ownership, and/or governance, an MBA can provide not only specific skills, but also a valuable perspective and professional network. Additionally, it can provide some measure of “career insurance” should things not work out at the family business.
Navigating the Successes and Potential Pitfalls of Being the Next Generation
The story of family business is full of great next-gen success stories. That said, it is also littered with examples of well-intentioned, highly competent next-gens discovering that the family business is not a panacea, but rather a one-way ticket to a “not-so-good place.” You may work with siblings, cousins, and important non-family leaders. Not only will you need to manage the perceptions of entitlement and the power-struggle landscape, but you will also need to be especially aware of, and concerned about, ownership. If you commit your career to the family business, will you gain the commensurate ownership and control you anticipate? Career planning in a family business should include conversations about ownership succession planning.
Too often, next-gens in later-generation family businesses find that their career success is subject to the power held by cousins or other family members (not working in the business) who have interests that are very different from theirs. If at some point you do decide to explore exit options, you may find that trying to leave a family business after devoting several years of your career to it can actually be tricky. Family businesses are often in niche/specialized industries or in remote locations where your network or other options are limited.
Competitors in your industry may not hire you because they think you’ll return to the family business when the argument blows over or when mom or dad is finally ready to retire. Transitioning to a different industry is another challenge. Your résumé may also be suspect since your letters of recommendation and list of accomplishments would likely be perceived as biased, having been countenanced by a family member.
Master Your Future at Your Family Business (and Beyond) with an MBA
Whether an MBA serves as a possible career reset or as leverage for future growth at your family enterprise, it can be an exciting and useful growth opportunity. So how can you make the most of it?
Take Full Advantage of the Required Self Exploration
Applying to MBA programs is an opportunity to do the hard work of self-reflection – forcing yourself through the process of recounting your professional and personal milestones and setbacks, with an emphasis on the how and why. Do an honest assessment of whether your devotion to the family business is an inner calling based on aptitude and inclination, or if it could be a response to family expectations or the path of least resistance.
Consider if you will enjoy working with or for your family and if family dynamics and structure will likely support your success. Developing self-awareness and thinking through your individual career path is essential for achieving your goals in a family enterprise.
Consider Specialized Coursework and Build a Powerful Network
An MBA program will expose you to different industries, professions and opportunities. While not a golden ticket, it can open previously closed doors. There are also many MBA programs that offer specialized courses in family business, which could be especially relevant to support your decision-making, not to mention student clubs dedicated to advancing family enterprises where you can meet like-minded peers.
The network you build with your fellow MBA classmates can serve your entire career. You will find that you can leverage your network to help your family business and that your network can help you transition if the family business doesn’t work out.
One point to keep in mind is that for a second-generation potential leader, it is possible that you might be the first family member in the business, or one of the few, with a professional business education. This can give you great credibility, but it can also put a target on your back since you represent change. If current leadership is open to change and gives you an appropriate degree of authority in a timely manner, the skills, perspective and network that an MBA provides can be of enormous value.
Leverage Your Family Business Experience When Applying
Finally, applying to MBA programs when you’re coming from a family business can be very attractive to admissions committees. You might be one less person that the career placement people need to worry about. Additionally, the chances are you already have some managerial experience at the company, strong industry knowledge and clear goals at the family business, making you an attractive applicant for business schools.
The likelihood that your career trajectory will continue to lead to a leadership and ownership role is high, thus potentially bolstering the school’s image and future fundraising efforts. However, it is important to consider an MBA as a part of your potential career plan, not as an end in itself or just a credential to hang on the wall. Admissions committees also need to know that you’ve thought through your career at the family business and can articulate that it is reliable and something you’re passionate about.
Whatever You Decide, We Can Help
The decision to devote your career to your family’s business is an important one. Attaining an MBA can be an integral part of that journey. However, it’s not a panacea. You need to explore how that career path is likely to unfold, be clear on expectations of ownership and control, be aware of how corporate governance might evolve and, above all, not ignore the complexity of family and the potential for family conflict.
We can help you strategize your career pathing to ensure a successful entry into, or potential future exit from, your family business – and whether an MBA education may or may not be the right course of action for you.
Wealth of Wisdom: Top Practices for Wealthy Families and Their Advisors
by Tom McCullough, Keith Whitaker
Significant family wealth brings many opportunities and benefits. At the same time, enterprising families face considerable challenges as they attempt to navigate financial and estate planning, succession, developing rising generation talent, and more. It is important for high-net-worth families to find and employ proven methods to help protect and improve their resources and family relationships over time.
In Wealth of Wisdom: Top Practices for Wealthy Families and Their Advisors, veteran family wealth practitioners and advisors Tom McCullough and Keith Whitaker have collected practical and hands-on tools, exercises, and activities for wealthy family members and the practitioners who advise them. Contained in 62 stand-alone chapters, written by leading family wealth advisors, these concrete strategies are designed to help families thoughtfully plan for their future, invest wisely, raise the next generation of family leaders, share decision making, and effectively connect with communities through philanthropy.
In this book, you will find templates, tools, and exercises you can apply immediately in your advisory practice or in your own family to determine legacy, identify core values, understand family complexity, and explore individual histories with money. This book offers a single, definitive source of actionable solutions from over 70 leaders in the field of family wealth advising.
Wealth of Wisdom: Top Practices for Wealthy Families and Their Advisors is an indispensable guide for wealthy families and the family offices, advisors, consultants, lawyers and accountants who work with them to help them achieve their goals.
Protect and grow family wealth and relationships with concrete strategies for high-net-worth families and their advisors
Wealth of Wisdom: Top Practices for Wealthy Families and Their Advisors is a practical and hands-on toolkit containing exercises, techniques, templates, and strategies that can be immediately applied by wealthy families and their advisors to help protect and grow their financial resources and family relationships. The included tools encourage readers to think through and determine their highest priorities, plan thoughtfully for the future, invest their assets wisely, raise the next generation of family leaders, and more.
Exercises like the Family Self-Assessment Tool and the Family Money History Questionnaire reveal foundational and important truths about the structure and behavior of wealthy families, while techniques like the Core Values Exercise demonstrate where family priorities lie and how to make decisions as readers move into the future.
An indispensable guide for family office professionals and other practitioners who advise wealthy families as part of their practice—as well as members of high-net-worth families themselves—Wealth of Wisdom: Top Practices for Wealthy Families and Their Advisors is a one-stop, authoritative resource collected by two of the leading advisors and practitioners in family wealth today.
Mom Always Liked You Best – A Guide to Resolving Family Feuds, Inheritance Battles and Eldercare Crises is a practical guide for the millions of Americans currently struggling with adult family conflict. It is designed to give you the information and tools you need right now to achieve those mutual agreements that seem so elusive.
The authors have helped many such families who are in conflict around elder transitions and associated issues. They are “thought leaders” in the field of elder mediation and also bring decades of experience in the areas of education, finance, healthcare, social work, and estate settlement, as well as their own family experiences. By reading this step-by-step guide and practicing the techniques that they lay out for you, you will learn skills used by professionals. You will learn tools to help you stop having those circular arguments that go on interminably and get you nowhere.
Easy-to-read and filled with engaging examples, this guide can help you think like a mediator in order to become a better decision-maker, a more mindful negotiator, and a more effective communicator. It can help you to lead your own family members toward consensus around some of the most important decisions you will ever face together.
For some, family business is the best way to become wealthy, to cultivate human capacity, and to make an impact on the world. It can be incredibly satisfying, and at times, even fun to work with the ones whom you love the most. Rewarding, satisfying, and sometimes even fun. But not easy.
In Family Business Abundance you’ll be introduced to successful multigenerational families, and a comprehensive management system you can employ to strengthen your family and business. The system consists of three mindsets and three building blocks. It will serve as a guide for current leaders, for the people with you today, and for future leaders, yet unborn, who will carry on your mission with purpose and gratitude in their hearts.
Wealth of Wisdom: The Top 50 Questions Wealthy Families Ask
by Tom McCullough, Keith Whitaker
A critical resource for families managing significant wealth. Wealth of Wisdom offers essential guidance and tools to help high-net-worth families successfully manage significant wealth. By compiling the 50 most common questions surrounding protection and growth, this book provides a compendium of knowledge from experts around the globe and across disciplines, including contributions from Continuity’s own experts, Doug Baumoel and Blair Trippe.
Deep insight and thoughtful answers put an end to uncertainty, and help lay to rest the issues you have been wrestling with for years; by divulging central lessons and explaining practical actions you can take today, this book gives you the critical information you need to make more informed decisions about your financial legacy. Vital charts, graphics, questionnaires, worksheets and other tools help you get organised, develop a strategy and take real control of your family’s wealth, while case studies show how other families have handled the very dilemmas you may be facing today.
Managing significant wealth is a complex affair, and navigating the financial world at that level involves making decisions that can have major ramifications ― these are not decisions to make lightly. This book equips you to take positive action, be proactive and make the tough decisions to protect and grow your family’s wealth.
Ensure your personal and financial success and legacy
Access insight and data from leading experts
Adopt the most useful tools and strategies for wealth management
Learn how other families have successfully navigated common dilemmas
When your family’s wealth is at stake, knowledge is critical ― and uncertainty can be dangerous. Drawn from interactions with hundreds of wealthy individuals and families, Wealth of Wisdom provides a definitive resource of practical solutions from the world’s best financial minds.
Deconstructing Conflict looks at family business conflict, or conflict over shared wealth, as one example of a broader category of conflict: identity-based, systemic conflict among stakeholders who share important continuing relationships.
This acclaimed work draws upon nearly fifteen years of experience in which Baumoel and Trippe have helped scores of enterprising families navigate the challenges of owning and managing together as family.
Based upon their groundbreaking methodology known as “The Conflict Equation,” the book presents five foundational concepts to help readers deconstruct conflict into its component parts. It will help you understand the reasons that underlie all conflict, what triggers active conflict, and why conflict can be so extreme and intractable in family business systems.
This book will arm family business stakeholders and their advisors with the most cutting-edge thinking for achieving generational success in family enterprise.
With a Foreword by Tim Phillips – CEO and Co-Founder, Beyond Conflict.