Recently I noticed a billboard on the highway near my house that got me thinking about how people decide what they want to be when they grow up. It featured a toddler who was playing nurse with her injured teddy bear, and was seemingly aimed at encouraging youngsters to consider the nursing profession.

The tag line of the ad mentioned something about “you’ve always known that you were good at caring for others”, and so now you should follow your instincts and make this your career.

I know that some people are lucky enough to know very early on in life what career they wish to pursue, and then go about methodically taking all the steps required to get there. Good for them, but I suspect that they are a small minority.  I have trouble thinking of even a handful of people that I know who fit into that category.

As parents we try to help our children make the right choices and get involved in different activities to try to spark an interest in various career or vocational pursuits. You never really know what you are good at until you try, right?

Everyone is always told to “find what you are good at” and “do what you love and the money will follow”.  Some will take a long time to figure it out for themselves, and others will wander aimlessly from job to job.

Those who grow up in a family business often have some expectations put upon them at a young age. It could be a family restaurant or store where pre-teens are expected to help out after school and on weekends, and more power to those families who can manage to strike the right balance and keep everyone happy.

As the only son of an entrepreneur in the steel fabrication industry, it was drilled into me from a very young age that I was to follow my father’s footsteps and eventually take over the family business.  Do I regret doing it? No, not at all.  Looking back, would I have preferred to have some kind of choice? Um, yes, please.
On the popular TV show 30 Rock, there was an episode where someone mentions immigrants to Jack, to which he replies, ”Oh, I love immigrants. They come here, work hard, send their kids to school to become doctors and lawyers. And then their kids go windsurfing and take improv classes.”

We recently watched the only season of the TV show Freaks and Geeks (highly recommended if you have teens or pre-teens). The high schoolers are sitting around talking about career aspirations, and Ken says, “I’m going to inherit my father’s business, sell it, and move to Hawaii and go surfing”.

So where am I going with all this? Simply put, families with substantial wealth, usually from a family business or with professional parents, have different issues to consider when raising their children.

From assuming we know what they should become, to keeping them motivated; from finding something meaningful to pursue to treating each child fairly; from letting them in on the family’s wealth to making sure they hang around the right crowd, from cultivating the right attitude to those less fortunate to treating them as participants in the family and its plans, there are many subject to consider.

And I did not even mention learning how to handle money, credit, budgets, etc.

How long it takes to figure out what you want to be, or how old you are when you figure it out, are really not that important in the end.

If you can help your children find something meaningful, that makes them happy and hopefully makes the world a better place in some small way, I think that you can consider that a job well done. On that score, I know that my parents did a fine job.

Steve Legler “gets” business families.
He understands the issues that families face, as well as how each family member sees things from their own viewpoint.
He specializes in helping business families navigate the difficult areas where the family and the business overlap, by listening to each person’s concerns and ideas.  He then helps the family work together to bridge gaps by building common goals, based on their shared values and vision.
His background in family business, his experience running his own family office, along with his education and training in coaching, facilitation, and mediation, make him uniquely suited to the role of advising business families and families of wealth.
He is the author of Shift your Family Business (2014), he received his MBA from the Richard  Ivey School of Business (UWO, 1991), is a CFA Charterholder (CFA Institute, 2002), a Family Enterprise Advisor (IFEA 2014), and has received the ACFBA and CFWA accreditations (Family Firm Institute 2014-2015).
He prides himself on his ability to help families create the harmony they need to support the legacy they want. To learn how, start by signing up for his monthly newsletter and weekly blogs here.