Clearly, every family is different and therefore there will be differences with family firms, how they are owned, structured and run to name a few, but there are common themes and one that often crops up is whether the next generation should work elsewhere first.
Whether the next generation enter straight from school and learn on the job, or go elsewhere to gain experience and then come back is actually irrelevant as first and foremost the business needs to have a need for them - there needs to be a role, a credible role that they can take on, with the right skills to add value to the family business and they need to then demonstrate their skills and competencies.
Family firms need to hire the best, from within the family or outside and there is often too much emphasis placed on when the next generation should enter the firm.
I am a firm believer that there needs to be a role, now and there should be forward strategic thought as to the evolution of the business and the needs that it has going forward.
This article provides benefits from entering early or working elsewhere first and there are lots of good examples of people that have followed each path.
Whatever route taken, it needs to work for the individual and meet the needs of the business too. There should be no 'right of entry' and clear rules need to be built into the governance framework so that everyone involved is aware of them and the way that people are recruited into the business.
For the past decade or so, the prevailing wisdom among family business consultants is that second generation (and beyond) family members should work a minimum of three years outside of the family business before joining. Many are now recommending a five-year minimum. Of course, similar to all best practices, this guideline must be applied thoughtfully to every situation based on the specifics of that organization, and, in this case, the individual.