What roles do partners of family business owners play? A three-year study asked this question and analyzed the self-perception of forty-two male and female partners of first- to twelfth- generation business owners, whether active or not within the family business. The results were then compared with the perspectives of 168 CEOs of family businesses and 169 next gens. The study shed light on the diverse roles partners play (often little-known or invisible) and on the rich contributions they bring in terms of hard skills, soft skills, and temperaments.Three main points emerged: The partner’s role in providing the business owner with unconditional emotional support; the partner’s role in facilitating communication within the family circle; and the partner’s role in passing entrepreneurial spirit on to the next gen.As a fundamental actor at the crossroads of individual, family, and entrepreneurial interactions and challenges, the partner is vital to the mechanics of the family business, although they do not portray themselves as such. Just as a car’s drive belt ensures its continuous movement, the business owner’s partner keeps the family and the business on the road.
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