There's always some danger in passing off a business to the next generation. Are they as invested as the founders in growing the business? Have they put in the time to learn the skills of business management? And how will they face the challenges that confront local business owners? But the next generation of today's family business has a big advantage: tech.
They're Already The Experts
More than ever, the way people interact with companies is the way they interact with people online. When someone takes to Twitter to complain about poor service, a personal response with a touch of humanity, humility and humor can turn that gripe into a rave review. And when someone visits a web page, an instant chat box or a witty blog post with someone who actually responds to reviews can up customer engagement a lot.
The good news? These are skills the next generation has learned and already use in their day-to-day lives. They're as natural as smalltalk for the up-and-coming age demographics.
You Need to Plan for Two Communities
Your local community will always be a mainstay of your company strength, but the online community is essential when it comes to growth - and sometimes, when it comes to survival. While older generations may lament that no one knows their neighbors any more, the next generation has redefined the concept of neighbors.
While this isn't to say that you should shift all your focus online, your family business should definitely take advantage of the new interconnectedness the next generation brings. Facebook literacy and an understanding of what keeps online communities healthy - that is, looking like the opposite of a YouTube comments section - is as valuable a social skill as greeting the new next-door neighbors with a fruit basket.
What's Big Is Changing
Big-time celebrities are springing up on YouTube, innovation is exploding in Kickstarter, and huge corporations like Verizon are dipping their toes into games like Minecraft to stir up talk and interest. There's a whole new vocabulary of excitement, and you can translate that passion into your business. The next generation might consider the marketing opportunities of Vine or the cross-promotional clout of webcomics in a way that a more traditional marketer might never think of. And with that creativity in your family business, it's a win for you and for the children of the information age.