Generation Two or G2 is shorthand for the next round of business leaders coming up through the family. It may actually be the third, fourth or later generation but in any case G2 presents the same opportunities and obstacles from the standpoint of succession.

G2 are by definition young, or at least younger than the G1 that came before them. They are typically energized, anxious to embrace progress and empowered to see their visions come to life. Unfortunately, they are not always ready.

The key distinguishing characteristic of G2 is family background. With their last name comes authority, whether earned or not or deserved or not. When one is the son, daughter, grandchild or other relation of the founder, being heard is assured. But hearing honest feedback is not. G2s may not know what they don’t know, because they haven’t been held to the same standard as others.

In addition to the outsized respect with which they are treated by those outside the family, G2s must cope with an overflow of expectation and obligation within the family. Like it or not, they are the hope for the future.

Yet often G2s have entered the business system lacking adequate skills. Few G2s have had the same experiences as G1s.  For example, the founder of an excavation business may have long experience operating heavy equipment. The G2 preparing to ascend to the top job may never have so much as sat on a backhoe. This sort of fundamental experience shortfall is endemic in succession scenarios.

Often, a G2 has never worked in another business or had a superior who wasn’t another family member. A G2 may not have felt the need to acquire adequate business education, secure in the knowledge that they were already set to get a CEO’s job without it.

To sum up the G2 perspective, it’s the view of someone who sees something they want, knows they’re going to get it and yet is bedeviled by doubt about whether they really deserve it and have what it takes to truly possess it. Added to that is the knowledge that everyone is depending on them to get it right. It can amount to a lot of pressure on a person who may not be adequately prepared for it.

Reconciling G1 expectations with G2 abilities is a task neither is capable of alone. In fact, the entire family business eco-system has to be activated to accomplish most successful transitions. The next installment in this three-part series deals with that view of the challenge.

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