LESSON 28Hire Your Kids with Care

A very successful entrepreneur I know once explained to me his philosophy about hiring family members: “I don’t hire anyone I can’t fire.” It’s a funny line, though I suspect his kids were not laughing.

In a few words, he highlighted the dilemma that entrepreneurs face when working with their family members. The fact is that most wealth creators achieved their success on merit, and to keep their growth and competitive edge, they had to create a merit-based organizational structure, pruning less productive employees along the way.

Then, enter the founder’s son or daughter who may be great, but lineage was clearly the underlying factor in their hiring. That invariably raises the appearance, if not the reality, of a double standard. We all know of family-run businesses headed by second- and third-generation owners who don’t really deserve to be at the helm. Some of them have no sense of their limitations at all. They expect longtime employees to give them unqualified respect and obedience, and they expect those employees to pretend that the boss has qualities that he or she simply doesn’t. That’s a recipe for disaster.

If you’re committed to having your kids succeed you, how do you know if they’re really up to the task? One insurance policy is to teach them to respect merit and superior talent; another is to find out whether they have the talents and skills to succeed in your business. Here’s how three entrepreneurs I know managed to bring their ...

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