A recent article in The New York Times focused on how millennials are helping flailing family businesses in Montauk, N.Y., a beach resort area in the northeast (on the tip of Long Island). The area has become more chic in recent years, and many of the entrenched family businesses (motels, T-shirt shops) are having a hard time keeping up and updating their businesses to attract the new clientele. Rather than selling their businesses, these families have embraced the talent and energy of the next generation (next gen) to keep their businesses going.
The situation described in the article provides lessons on not only keeping the next gen involved in the family business but also using their unique skills to grow the business and keep it relevant. The next gen’s desire to be able to have their own identity and success has always been at the core of business succession planning, says Paulina Mejia, regional managing director and trust counsel at Fiduciary Trust Company International in New York City.
Often, the vision and business of the founders can seem inflexible, leading the next gen to opt out of the family business and strike out on their own. But more and more, we’re seeing the next gen able to retain their identity and contribute their own views and expertise to the family business so that it can evolve and survive, while keeping alive a family legacy. The skills that millennials have in technology, social media and brand building are perfect channels for them to preserve and grow their family businesses, so there’s a sense of accomplishment and feeling that they’re making their mark and still stay in the family business, notes Mejia.
The trend away from large retail chains and the demand for authenticity was always there, says Mejia, but during the pandemic, it really accelerated. There was renewed focus on family and a recognition that family-run businesses were in jeopardy. The combination of renewed appreciation of family and preservation of a business drove the next gen to get involved and united many families who own businesses.