8 Tips for Getting The Best of Both Generations

By Eric Gilboord  

shutterstock_21465247There has been discussion lately in the media about succession management. That is when the younger generation begins to take the reins of the business and the older generation moves toward a less involved, coaching type of role. The new management may have been groomed to take over the family business, in some cases for their entire adult lives. The older originators of the business have tried for years to educate, share their experiences, impart their wisdom and mould their successors. In some cases, the new generation will continue to operate the business as it has run in the past—a safe, short-term measure.

This may have worked for previous generations, but circumstances are changing at a dramatic pace. We are in a time of new technology, new needs, new ways of approaching problems. E-commerce, database marketing, big box stores, branding and many other new terms are not only entering our small business vocabulary, they are taking over.
Running a successful small business is a little more complicated today than it may have been for the previous generation. As the new management, you may find it necessary to fill in your knowledge/experience gaps with outside expertise. This doesn't mean ignoring the wealth of experience the older management group has, but blending both outlooks together.

The older management may be set in their ways, a little tired and perhaps a little too comfortable with a particular style of conducting business that had provided them with years of triumph, even if tempered with a few bumps in the road.
The younger management is full of energy and new ideas ready to reinvent the business. The reality is you need to blend the best of both generations. Preserve the successes of the past, incorporate new opportunities and build for the future. Whether you are handing over the reins or are the fortunate recipient of a mature business, here are some points to consider during the transition period.  A reminder to the older generation: not everything old is good nor is everything new bad, and to the younger generation: not everything old is bad nor is everything new good. Take advantage of the opportunity and enjoy the best of both worlds.

1. Don't put someone in charge because they are the next in line. Many well-known, successful businesses have survived all kinds of adversity while succumbing to the lack of a strong new leader. If you realize this is what you are doing, support them with a solid team.  

2. Keep it professional not personal. Business discussion belongs in the boardroom, not over the Friday night family dinner. The last thing the new management wants or needs to hear is, "I've been doing this since before you were born." The older management also does not need to hear, "It's a new world; the old ways don't work." Discussions about customers, distribution channels, new products or services, marketing and staffing should remain unbiased and based on real world information. How much has this customer ordered in the past year, not what they did in the beginning. What exactly are the sales your rep is doing vs. he has been with me for 40 years. 

3. Whatever methods you use to gather information in order to take the business forward, make sure you commit it to paper. Many small businesses today are preparing sales and marketing plans. They are sourcing outside professional help and using the planning process to gather information, evaluate ideas and formulate plans. Make sure you incorporate the varying past experiences and new ideas of your staff when building plans for the future. 

4. Be clear where success and failure came from in the past. Separate old war stories of the glory days from what actually happened. That first big order may have been more luck than expertise.

5. Don't abandon old customers until they have been replaced by new ones. A penny in the hand is worth more than all the potential orders in the world.

6. Transition older customer relationships to the new generation. Look for opportunities to match up second-generation customers with your new management team.

7. Get involved in industry associations. Build your own profile within your industry. Bring a combination of experience and new ideas to the table.

8. Let go. If you have made the decision to turn over management to the next generation, let it go. They will make their own mistakes and enjoy their own successes, just as you did.
And That's According 2 Eric.


Eric Gilboord is a specialist in making marketing easy for business owner/operators and any staff with sales or marketing responsibility. He demystifies marketing to help clients generate sales today and grow their businesses faster. Eric believes in blending traditional marketing with new media/social media. ROI is a must. Eric is a popular speaker, coach, columnist and author of many articles and books on moving a business up to the next level. The Expert Business Calls for Marketing Advice... That's Easy to Understand. For more information, to sign up for Eric’s marketing tips newsletter and to read his blog, please visit: http://www.ericgilboord.com/index.html. Follow Eric on Twitter (ericgilboord). Find Eric on LinkedIn. Check out Eric’s ‘Get It Done’ Treasure Map, Marketing Plan Workshop here.

By Adam

June 08, 2010