Next Generation Development

Joe Schmieder
Joe Schmieder

How can younger family members, in their 20s and 30s, working in the family business share their unique experiences and learn from other family members in different businesses?

Two and a half years ago the Family Business Alliance of West Michigan decided to address this question with the formation of three separate Next Gen Peer Groups.  Each group was created with seven to nine next gen family members from different family businesses plus one “seasoned” (read older) facilitator.  I agreed to be one of those “senior gen” facilitators.  It has been a most gratifying experience watching the younger gen family members blossom as they share and gain insights from each other.

The Next Gen Peer Groups are modeled after the highly successful YPO (Young Presidents Organization) Forum structure, which includes:

  • Strict confidentiality
  • Open sharing of family and business issues
  • Disciplined meeting format, including issue presentations
  • 100% attendance expectation
  • Deep-dive topic discussions

The goal:  Through shared experiences and knowledge become stronger contributors to the family business.

Next gen participants in the initial 3-group “experiment” began to express the value of their meetings to other friends and colleagues working in family businesses.  This “viral marketing” led to the creation of six more peer groups. The tenth group is currently being formed! 

The peer group format has struck a meaningful chord for younger gen family members who clearly value the face-to-face social-business networking.  Interestingly, the proliferation of digital networking has increased the need for more personal real-life networking.  

For Tim Schad, the founder and key organizer of the Next Gen Peer Groups, “it has turned out to be like a hyper-growth business where our largest challenge is capacity — finding and training enough qualified facilitators.”  “What a wonderful problem to have,” says Ellie Frey, Director of the Family Business Alliance.  “This has turned out to be the most valuable service our organization provides to this community.”   Community leaders view the Next Gen Peer Groups as an important component of economic development.  Developing a strong younger generation will be instrumental in leading the next generation of family businesses and growing the region’s economy.

Next:  What value are the participants gaining from their Next Gen Peer Groups?


One thought on “Next Generation Development”

  1. Thanks for sharing this Joe – it would be great if family business organizations in other markets followed this model, as it is clear that the opportunity to share experiences with ‘like peers’ must be of value to the next generation folks!

    I know CAFE (Canadian Association of Family Enterprises) has peer groups that are seen as very valuable to their membership. In their case, the groups are of mixed generations, which enables a ‘younger generation’ person to hear a response about a concern or issue they are facing from other next generation folks AND from some folks of their parents’ generation – so they can hear that perspective from a person other than their parent, which can be valuable as well.

    Look forward to reading more about your experiences with these groups.

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