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The ‘next generation’ sessions: The promise of youth

Rob Patterson is the son of Bob Patterson, one of the founding principals of the Virginia-based ASC Advisory Group.

I've always liked travelling, especially with my dad, Robert, who has been a member of the Family Business Network for several years and for whom this was his fourth world conference. I was excited about going to the conference this year, mostly because I had never been on a business trip with my dad and because I had heard so much about the FBN and past annual conferences. I was certainly not disappointed. Actually, I was a bit overwhelmed, probably because I am used to thinking about homework, friends and girls.

Laying the groundwork
This year was the second year that the FBN has held a separate session for next-generation family business owners at its annual conference. The aim of the special session for the next generation is to prepare us for what the owning of the family business has to do with us and what we should do with the time that is given to us. The conference is a great place for sons and daughters of business owners get together and discuss family businesses and our upcoming role in them. I was surprised to find so many people there – everyone from many types of businesses – from all over the world. Coming from the US, it was fun to see how people from other countries thought about their family businesses.

How old?
I am 14-years old and you may be thinking: "Wow, he's really young for FBN!" You're right. I was the youngest one there. The only one there closest to my age was 16. Everyone I met asked how I liked being part of the business routine and whether I was going to continue in my father's shoes or do something else. As to what the future holds, I truthfully don't know, although it will most likely be my older sister who will enter the business. Anyway, it's a bit early to tell. It was fun to be around older, more mature thinkers and business people. I believe that I have two sides – one that is devoted to my school and family and another devoted to older people. Being part of the Next Generation Conference was a chance to let the second part grow. I talked with everybody that I met and I can tell you, I met a lot of people!

Honing your presentation skills
I enjoyed the chance to learn with the others. Of particular interest was the trip we all made to Maus Frères SA, a family-owned business in Geneva. When we got back to the conference headquarters I made a presentation to the other members of the next generation about the business we had seen. We discussed issues including ownership. There were also a number of dinners, lunches and other events where I could just talk with whomever, about anything. It was there where I got to know everybody. I think that I learned as much when talking with others as I learned in the scheduled sessions.

Overall, I think that it was an educational and fun event to go to. I might not be the one who continues our business, but who knows, maybe I will.

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