What's your problem?

My mother wants me to take over her business, but I'm not keen...

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

My mother owns a successful children's clothing business, which has grown considerably in recent years and now has more than 40 outlets. She's drawing up plans for the business over the next five years and has revealed that she's planning to retire. She has also decided that she wants me to take over the reins. It's really flattering, but I'm just not interested. I've got a good job as a consultant, which I really enjoy and am reluctant to give up. The problem is it's really important to my mother that the company stays in the family and I'm an only child. What should I do?

A: Your mother's business is substantial. For its success to continue, it will need highly experienced and utterly committed management. However hard you tried, you know perfectly well that you couldn't provide that: you're just not interested enough.

If you do what your mother wants, you'll earn her short-term gratitude - but only at the expense of an inevitable and growing disappointment on her part at your inadequate leadership. She'll start back-seat driving; you'll become impatient and your relationship will deteriorate at roughly the same rate as the fortunes of her beloved business. Add in your nagging resentment at having been persuaded to sacrifice your preferred career and you've got a toxic cocktail. You mustn't do it.

Instead, using your skills as a consultant, commit yourself totally to helping her find her own successor. Don't rush it; you've got time. It may not be easy, because the deciding factor must be your mother's complete confidence in the successful candidate, and she won't find that easy to give. But when she does, however grudgingly, you'll not only have earned her gratitude: you'll still have your own life.

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