Creating Lasting Value

LinkedIn affords business people the opportunity to learn from many important thought leaders through their posts. Among others, I follow the posts of Gerald Hassel, Chairman and CEO of BNY Mellon.

Hassell has published several posts on Alexander Hamilton, one of our nation’s founding fathers. He is interested in Alexander Hamilton not only because he founded the Bank of New York, of which Hassell is now chairman, and not because of the award-winning musical Hamilton, now playing on Broadway. He writes about Alexander Hamilton because he believes that Hamilton’s virtues hold lessons for today’s leaders.

In his LinkedIn post published June 9, 2106: “What Have You Done Today that Will Endure?” Hassell noted Hamilton’s ability to create institutions of lasting value, in contrast to the current trends of our increasingly disposable culture.

This immediately struck me as illustrating a mindset of long-term thinking that I have written about with regard to building multi-generational family businesses. In “Grow People” I quoted a Chinese proverb that formulates a strategy for 100 years of prosperity. In “Beneath the Surface of the Ground” I wrote about a Native American culture whose chiefs were mandated to make every decision with the seventh subsequent generation in mind.

The crucial question to ask is “what are we doing today that will create an enduring legacy and heritage for our family enterprise?”


Is Philanthropy Right for Your Family Business?

The meaning of the word philanthropy is “love of humanity.” Much more than just the giving of money, philanthropy embraces ever voluntary act of giving to others.

The form that philanthropy takes is as varied as the philanthropists themselves. For example, consider David Bohnett whose foundation supports a wide range of social issues; American rock star Jon Bon Jovi whose organization focuses on the issues of hunger and homelessness in the United States; Arpad Busson, founder of Absolute Return for Kids Academy.

Philanthropy can be misunderstood as being the province of very wealthy individuals or of large corporations. But many family-owned businesses are in a position to help others. The opportunity exists to make philanthropy a part of the firm’s culture.

Bruce DeBoskey, founder of The DeBoskey Group, a Denver based philanthropic strategy firm, advises that to achieve meaningful results, philanthropists should focus on a few select causes, rather than spreading their giving in smaller amounts over a wide area. Following this advice, family-owned firms can manage an impactful giving plan without placing undue stress on their resources. http://www.denverpost.com/2016/07/10/on-philanthropy-six-years-six-important-lessons-about-philanthropy/

The altruism of philanthropy affects and helps the lives of millions. But, as DeBoskey points out, giving benefits the donor as well. The work of helping others brings families together around shared values. It builds relationships with your community, supports and strengthens your brand, boosts your bottom line and promotes employee engagement.

Philanthropic businesses enjoy improved employee recruitment and productivity, greater customer loyalty and enhanced profitability. Within family businesses, community-centered activities engage upcoming generations whose different viewpoints and fresh ideas can prove invaluable to future successes.


Checking The Corner-Office Timeclock

On March 5,, 2014, the Wall Street Journal published findings of a study by professors at Harvard Business School, the London School of Economics and Columbia University’s business school in which they examined differences between family and non-family businesses. The Journal article focuses on the work schedules of CEOs in the two types of firms. Do CEOs of Family-Owned Businesses Work Less?

The data indicates that heads of family businesses work less hard than heads of non-family enterprises. They suggest that the incentives and risks that motivate professional CEOs to burn the midnight oil just might not be a factor for CEOs of family-owned firms.

Results showed differences between first and second-generation family-business leaders. First generation CEOs were found to work harder than their second-generation counterparts. In my own experience, this conclusion cannot be set in stone. I personally have seen instances of both a lack of motivation and a strong work-ethic and drive in second generation leaders.

The research suggested that family business CEOs may be spending their time differently. Instead of clocking long hours in the “corner office,” they may be focusing on balancing work-family responsibilities. Family CEOs might be adding value to their firms in ways not captured by the hours they are formally working, such as participating social activities that indirectly benefit the business.

According to the Journal article the jury is still out as to whether family-owned businesses with inside CEOs perform better or worse than non-family firms with outside CEOs.


The Advisory-Board Confusion

“Our advisory board includes my dad and me, my uncle who is retired from the business, and our non-family Chief Financial Officer. He’s on the board because he’s unbiased, and will make decisions based on what the business needs. Otherwise, my dad and I make decision on what’s best for everyone…”

The above statement made by a second-generation family-business leader shows confusion as to what advisory boards are; how they function, and how they differ from executive boards.

A family-business executive board is a governing body. It may include family members in leadership positions as well as key non-family staff who have decision-making power. All are on the company payroll. They have a vested interest in the welfare of the business, and in the case of family members, in the welfare of the family too.

Often the first foray into a board for family enterprises, an advisory board is comprised, predominately, of individuals who are outsiders with no vested interest in the business. They have no say in deciding how the business or the family will move to meet challenges. Their job is to advise on family-business best practices and provide an impartial view of the business’ interests and how to further them.

This trusted group of mentors is handpicked to provide supplemental industry knowledge, operational know-how, financial savvy and other areas of professional expertise. With the objectivity that comes from non-attachment to the family or the business, they are in position to make clear observations and suggest strategies that are free from the morass of family dynamics and nepotism.