No, this is not a “Well, my generation…” kind of post. This is about multi-generation family businesses that don’t continue in the family. Yes, there can be economic failure, but the other side of that coin is when children or grandchildren realize they don’t have the interest or desire to “carry on”. Sometimes, it is understanding the business “ability” doesn’t exist, but in those cases a competent manager/partner can often be brought it. Successfully running a business is difficult, period. Being in charge comes with tremendous responsibilities and if you’re in customer service, especially if it’s a 7-day-a-week business, the demands never stop. When you aren’t engaged in whatever the operation of the business is, there is always paperwork of some type waiting.
For a parent, there is a huge source of pride when a child (or children as it might be) want to follow in the footsteps and maintain or very often grow the business to greater heights. Sometimes it’s a major expansion or maybe modest, yet solid improvement. I have known several families who can count six generations worth, but that’s unusual. The primary reason for not continuing is when a child/children “grow up in the business”, they do know it from the inside out and may well want to do anything other than to stay in that particular business. You can’t create and manage a business without caring about it. Passion and skill can definitely be related, but they aren’t interchangeable. One of the difficult things in a family business is if there have been three (or more) generations who did keep it going and it becomes obvious that it won’t continue. So much tradition, so many memories, and they will fall by the wayside. Even if there is someone ready to buy at an acceptable (and sometimes attractive) price, it is still relinquishing family history. It is never easy, yet in the end, it is likely to be the correct action to take.