Grocery magnate learns from personal failure

The following is a guest post by Stew Leonard, founder of Stew Leonard’s, the Connecticut-based grocery and wine retailer with upwards of $300 million in annual sales. His recent book, “Stew Leonard: My Story,” details the challenges and triumphs in building a company and legacy that his children would inherit. The views expressed are his own.

My son Stew Jr. delivered a bit of news at his college graduation that almost broke my heart: He had been recruited by Price Waterhouse, the big accounting firm, and decided to work for them instead of joining the family business.

Despite our disappointment, my wife Marianne and I felt he had earned the graduation present we had chosen for him: a round-the-world tour. It was 1977, and at $2,500 just for the airline ticket alone, it was an expensive gift. But it turned out to be a wonderful investment.

On one of the flights, from Katmandu to Cairo, Stew sat next to an Indian businessman. The fellow proudly told Stew all about his family business, one that went back several generations. When Stew told him that he had chosen not to follow in my footsteps, the fellow was convinced that Stew was making a mistake.

Stew began to have second thoughts, and later that day he called us from Cairo to tell us that he had told Price Waterhouse he had changed his mind. He was going to make a career of the family business instead.

Why Junior shouldn’t take over your business

Entrepreneur and author John Warrilow believes business owners are engaging in a “twisted form of child abuse” when they pass their companies onto their children.

In his new book, “Built to Sell: Turn Your Business Into One You Can Sell”, Warrilow offers his advice to creating a sellable company and argues that 99 percent of businesses can’t sell because the companies can’t be run without their current owners.

In a recent telephone interview with Reuters, Warrilow said business owners should have the best possible exit strategy before they consider handing over a company to their children.