Nextgens want to work for their family enterprises, but are they blocked from doing so?


In an age of digital disruption, unicorns, and quantum computers, working for an old economy family business might not appeal to millennials. But maybe not, according to a new survey by the professional services group PwC.

PwC found 41% of the nextgens of family businesses want a top director position in their family business within the next five years. In fact, 70% are already deeply engaged in their family enterprise.

Many of them want the top job, or near enough to it, at their family business, with 41% seeking an executive director role within the next five years, and nearly a third (29%) looking to be a majority shareholder.

What nextgens are looking for is support in terms of developing the expertise and experience they need to succeed

They also feel they have the skills to step up to top positions. With more than two-thirds of respondents saying their strongest attributes – problem-solving and leadership – to be essential skills in the future business landscape. And 64% say they can add value to ensure future business strategy is fit for the digital age.

The survey, entitled Agents of change: Earning your licence to operate, found the biggest constraints on the ambitions of the nextgen are a lack of confidence and the controlling generation not giving them power. One in five of those surveyed felt they still needed to prove themselves before stepping up to positions of power within the family business. And one in ten reckons the controlling generation is stopping their progress. 

“The survey findings highlight the positive news that nextgens are ambitious and deeply committed to the family business,” says Peter Englisch, global family business leader at PwC. “They see a clear role in securing the family legacy in an age of profound disruption and transformation. Yet they also see themselves as being held back and frustrated by a lack of opportunity.”

He added: “What nextgens are looking for is support in terms of developing the expertise and experience they need to succeed. Their view can be summed up as: ‘Help me unlock my potential so I can gain the skills and experience I will need to take on the leadership roles I aspire to’.” 

The survey identifies four key personas of nextgens, based on their views of their skills, contributions and career goals. These are:

Transformers: self-confident future leaders (46% of respondents)

Transformers aim to lead change in the family business and are more likely to aspire to executive roles within five years (56% of transformers said this vs. 41% of all 956 respondents)

Stewards: keeping to tradition and existing networks (26% of respondents)

Stewards are more likely to be over 35 than other nextgens (42% vs. 36% of all respondents) and to be in a management role (44% vs. 39% of all respondents). 

Intrapreneurs: proving themselves by running ventures under the family’s wing  (20% of respondents)

Intrapreneurs are more likely to feel the need to prove themselves before presenting ideas for change (27% vs. 21% of all respondents). 

Entrepreneurs: following their own path outside the family business (8% of respondents)

Entrepreneurs are less likely to see themselves as future leaders of the family business – though they want to lead their own business – and are more likely to aspire to a governance role in the family business, e.g., on the family council. 

PwC spoke to more than 950 nextgens from 69 territories across five continents and 11 industries. 


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