Every family has its holiday traditions, and many of ours revolve around working at our store.  Although Katrina doesn’t look very happy at the prospect of being part of the Christmas season at Orange Tree Imports in this photo, as a young adult she’s actually quite nostalgic about all the time she and her brother Erik spent at the shop.

If you have children, there is a chance that you are cultivating the future proprietor of your business as you raise your family.   More than thirty percent of family owned businesses survive into the second generation, according to The Family Firm Institute.  Succession planning is an issue that many of us postpone thinking about, but in the back of your mind you may be wondering whether one or more of your children will eventually take over the store.


What preparation should you make to give your kids a the best chance of success in following your footsteps into retailing? We got some good advice about this possibility many years ago, when we read that if you want your children to take over your business, you should be careful what you say at the dinner table. Your comments about customers and staff members, and your attitude towards your business, are all being absorbed by the younger members of the family.


Of course dinner wasn’t the only place where Erik and Katrina learned about retailing. They both spent several days a week in the red crib at the store until they were too old to be there while we were also waiting on shoppers.  I have to say that our customers loved having a baby at the store, and still ask about the children even though they are now 24 and 27.  


Once the kids were old enough to be effective workers, we had them join our staff doing stock work, and then as sales assistants. They received the same salary as other employees, and were expected to do the same level of work.  In fact, they were sometimes expected to work harder than the others so that it wouldn’t appear that we were playing favorites.  And both Erik and Katrina have worked every Christmas Eve since they were little — and will be working there again this year while they’re home visiting.


Did either of them decide to go into retailing as a result of growing up in a retail store? Not yet, although we haven’t reached retirement age. Erik works as the marketing director for a theater in Chicago, and Katrina is an editor for a publishing company in Boston. But they both have great respect for independent business owners, and they have learned many management skills that serve them well in their current careers. Who knows, perhaps one or both of them will find their way back to Orange Tree Imports. We’ve kept the red crib in the attic, just in case they decide to bring their children up in the store some day too.

Happy Retailing,

Carol “Orange” Schroeder