When Your Child Forsakes The Family Business

Photo By Ron Lach

A clearly exasperated parent sent me the following email describing an occurrence that is not uncommon in family businesses.

“I have worked on automobiles all my life. I was so experienced that after high school, I opened my own auto repair shop. I have built a solid business through word of mouth based on my good reputation for being knowledgeable and honest.

“I taught my son repairs along the way, assuming he would take over the business. When he would get home after school each day, I had him assist me so he could learn from someone who knows. What could be better than to walk into an established business and take over?

“My son recently announced he wants to go to school to be a chef. I exploded at him. I will not have my son be a cook or a chef, and I will not help him with money to study it. He argues that it’s a creative career, that he doesn’t like working on cars and refuses to do it. That business has supported my family for years.

“I don’t know where he got this idea that he has to be creative. He might as well have told me he wants to work at a beauty shop. We argue every day now and I don’t know how to put some sense into his head. I can’t let him throw his future away on silliness.”

My response: Of course you are angry and frustrated. You worked hard all your life and built a successful auto repair business, only to have your son disrespect your profession and refuse to be a part of it. So, let’s look at everything affecting his decision.

You were attracted by cars, perhaps all types of vehicles before you focused on automobiles. That fascination led you to want to learn how to repair them. Perhaps you were a natural mechanic, tinkering in engines to find the problems that commonly plague drivers.

You were problem-solving daily and getting great results. It was a creative profession, even if you didn’t see it as such until the industry changed everything. Now computer systems guide the functions.

Your son most likely has your creative mind and is drawn to a field where he can experiment and create his own edible masterpieces. You feel disrespected because his disinterest and rejection of the automobile industry is a slap in the face.

But it really isn’t. He is directing his creative thinking in a different direction than you did, but he has likely inherited his creative mind from you. He wants the same independence you had when you chose to work on automobiles, only he wants to work with food.

Whether he attends a cooking school to first learn the basics or learns from various types of cooks by working in a series of restaurants, he will be in a field of his choosing. Once he learns to cook the standard dishes and sauces, he can then experiment with different foods and spices to create new and unusual meals.

Just as your repair shop grew because of your good reputation for a job well done, your son could be known for consistently creating great dishes where he is recognized for a signature delivery of flavors.

When he has established a highly successful restaurant as the result of his hard work and creativity, you will be proud of your son having inherited your creative mind.

Letting your child find his own way to unleash his natural talent will lead him to his personal road to success. There is no limit to creating unique dishes and he will have the freedom to experiment and grow in the field forever.

Your reward will be when you take all your friends to his renowned restaurant so you can take pride in seeing his accomplishments being enjoyed by many.