Family-owned businesses account for about 80% of all businesses worldwide, and about one-third of them are owned by women. Census data and recent research show that daughters and wives are increasingly taking over family firms.

I am going to throw all care and caution to the wind, open the doors of political correctness to the masses, no matter what conjecture may follow, so please do pardon if I stray a little.

For the tens of generations which have passed, many family businesses, successful or not, have followed (in my opinion) the same old bigoted viewpoint that primogeniture is the correct way forward. This dictates that the first male heir has the right of business succession, instead of placing ability before birth right. So the eldest son has the right of estate, whether he is capable or not to manage the asset - an interesting concept, and one that I must tread carefully, as I am the eldest son within this business. However, if my elder sister Marian had not passed away some 13 years ago, she, too, would have been more than capable in taking this business forward if she had wanted to do so.

For time immemorial, bakery sons have worked on the shop floor with their dads, while daughters worked with their mothers in either the office or the shops. These relationship models are classic, even from an early age. Peeling the potatoes, lighting the boiler, starting the ferments all on a Sunday afternoon ready for the night shifts for the lads, while stamping envelopes, changing till rolls or answering the phone on a Saturday morning in the office, and, of course, being a Saturday sales assistant are all roles we, as children of the original owners, have done and still do or did with our own children - in short a self-fulfilling prophecy.

But what happens if the daughter is far better in the business than her male sibling? What happens if the daughter has more business acumen and has also more talent with our craft, than her brother, and it’s time for daddy to retire? What does he do? An interesting thought isn`t it?

There is a very interesting article, entitled ‘Daughters taking over the family business from dad’ - please follow link for more information:

It surmises quite a lot and, of course, there are no right or wrong answers, nor one-size-fits-all, in this spikey topic. However, maybe aligning their comments with this business, there are some truths in their writings.

Daughters, from a very tender age, are prone to be more sensitive to customer relations and dealing with customers who are trying it on. They tend to learn basic book-keeping and buying techniques with suppliers and generally learn the organising skills of keeping the business together during the busy seasonal times, sometimes working in the bakery as well or, more often, in confectionery areas or dispatch. The sons, meanwhile, are making their way through the bakery, just like their dad did. However, even at this tender age daughters are receiving basic business administration instruction and, with a higher aptitude for attention to detail, are quite capable of such tasks within the family business.

From leaving school many daughters dream of a different life, and armed with their new qualifications (after working harder than their brothers for them), go out into the world to see what’s waiting for them. Meanwhile, the sons are still working their way through the business. It is suggested that daughters also don’t want to upset the family relationship model, and want more of a balanced family/business relationship status – so are therefore more prone to step back and allow other male siblings to succeed and try to take the business on.

But the son’s desire to take the business forward from his father could be based on competition. He might want to be better than the father, with an ego or maybe a personal conflict making him always want to prove his worth and capability of taking the top job, following the mantra “one day son, all this will be yours”. I wonder how many times that has been said.

Yet, for many reasons, daughters often gravitate back to the family business. They often find it easier to work with their father, unlike the situation with the son where everything seems to be a battle. Oh, I remember those days well. Is it the “father and daughter” special relationship? Is it daddy`s little girl trying to make up for lost time, having been unable to spend time with him when they were younger; “Dad was always in the bakery”, “at Christmas we never saw him”, these words of yesteryear continually haunt the family of a bakery business, from one generation to the next.

Daughters are more interested in nurturing the business and ensuring its longevity and, from the research available, women have a strongly developed sense of duty and responsibility for succession, particularly when their family name is over the door.

There is, of course, the alternative perspective or dilemma; daddy has always dreamed of his son taking over one day, but now can’t face retirement. The son wants him out of the way, yet the paternal reasoning runs “My little girl always wants me, so I’ll do a couple more years, and see how it goes!”


For further reading:

Another good article in Bloomberg Business week: (please follow link for more information)