05/10/17

Innovation—The Surprise Factor

In The Economy of Cities, Jane Jacobs tells the story of 3M. The company started as a supplier of processed sand to metal manufacturers. As an offshoot of their core business, they decided to manufacture sandpaper. And they failed. The adhesive they developed just did not work to stick the sand o the paper. But they did not give up.

And surprise!—Their continued experiments with adhesives eventually led to the development of a whole line of tapes—including  that office staple, Scotch Tape—and much more.

A friend told me about a conversation with a master ceramic artist at this year’s Smithsonian Craft Fair. The artist said that often when he opens his kiln to remove the fired piece; it is not what he expected. He finds instead a beautiful surprise!

So innovation, with its inevitable process of trial and error, should not, and importantly, must not be feared. And it’s also no use to insist on finding what you initially are looking for. The secret: be open to surprise!!

04/29/17

Innovation—The Fail Factor

Nothing stays the same. Things find fresh avenues of growth and prosper or become stagnant and fail. This is certainly true of family-led enterprises. As a family business continues from generation to generation, significant social and economic changes can nullify what had been their core business. A culture of innovation is needed to ensure continued multigenerational success.

Two things are sure about innovation. One: It is necessary for long-term survival. Two: it is prone to initial failure.

Innovation undertaken when beset by hostility, by doubts; under pressure to succeed; under fear or failure, situates the whole process on unstable ground.

In Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes into Stepping Stones for Success, author John C. Maxwell writes: “To succeed you have to be open to problems. You have to be open to failure.” He presents examples throughout his book of many well-known people who failed—on average more than once—before succeeding.

As it goes in entrepreneurship, so it goes with innovation. The message: don’t be afraid.

04/14/17

Soft On People, Tough On Ideas

On March 31, 2017, in his New York Times Corner Office column, Adam Bryant published: Jessie Woolley-Wilson on Creating Benevolent Friction at Work, a condensed version of his interview with Jessie Woolley-Wilson, C.E.O. of Dream Box Learning, a provider of math-education software.

Through Bryant’s article, we learn about how language and cultural differences within her diverse family influenced Woolley-Wilson’s leadership style. Speaking about their frequent dinnertime arguments she says: “What I realized was that they were very engaged in discussions about the economy or about what was going on in different countries. I was witnessing the best part of “benevolent friction” — to be hard on ideas but soft on people — because there was a lot of love and hope about the future.”[1]

Woolley-Wilson sees “benevolent friction” as a positive thing within a work community: “if you don’t have pressure on the carbon, you never get to the diamond. You can still be very respectful, and assume everybody has a spark, but we have to subject our ideas to the toughest scrutiny because our work is important.”[2]

In a start-up company, she says: “you don’t know what tomorrow will bring, so you have to be constantly learning and be adaptive with your colleagues. You might think you have a role to play, but you have to listen and be responsive to your colleagues for the team to really win.”[3]

Friction is an inevitable part of all family businesses. And here too, it can change its negative aspect to a positive.

Like start-ups, family-businesses traverse uncharted territory. And Woolley-Wilson’s leadership style provides invaluable guidance. Perhaps more challenging to implement given the dynamics inherent in family businesses, embracing the friction between family members— and colleagues—with love and listening allows you to be hard on ideas and soft on people – thereby allowing them to become productive elements in the family enterprise.

 

[1] Bryant, A. (2017) Jessie Woolley-Wilson on Creating Benevolent Friction at Work. The New York Times. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/31/business/jessie-woolley-wilson-dreambox-learning.html?rref=collection%2Fcolumn%2Fcorner-office&action=click&contentCollection=business&region=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=2&pgtype=collection&_r=0)

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

04/9/17

A Sense Of Gratitude By Any Means

One of my more important life exercises is a nightly examination of my day, starting with recognition of what I am grateful for–both large and small. So when “Want to Give Like a Rockefeller? Be Rich in Gratitude” appeared on April 1st in the New York Times Personal Business Column, it resonated personally.

The article is a brief history of the life, values and accomplishments of David Rockefeller, who died March 20, 2017 at the age of 101. It reads as a success story in the transmission of family values, high ideals and deeply felt attitudes: responsibility, humility, generosity, pride in the family legacy and one of the most important— a sense of gratitude.

“Among the values David passed down to his children was his profound gratitude,” said Lukas Haynes, executive director of the David Rockefeller Fund. “He expressed gratitude for what he inherited from his father and grandfather and his opportunity to carry it forward.”[1]

Of course few families have the wealth of the Rockefellers. But wealth is not a prerequisite for gratitude. For myself, I am grateful each day to be sharing of my unique abilities in ways that matters to others –and for the opportunities to carry this forward.

Defined as a “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.”[2] It is an attitude that can be cultivated. Recognizing and developing a sense of gratitude for what you have in your life day to day has been shown to have a positive impact on your relationships, your health and even on your brain. According to Dr. Emiliana Simon-Thomas, science director of the Greater Good Science Center:

“In studies, after eight weeks of practice, brain scans of individuals who practice gratitude have stronger brain structure for social cognition and empathy, as well as the part of the brain that processes reward.”[3]

Clearly their inherited sense of gratitude has been a significant factor in the success, longevity and vitality of the heirs of David Rockefeller, and therefore may be seen as an attitude worth emulating for family businesses along the way to their own future.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/31/your-money/david-rockefeller-philanthropy.html
[1] http://www.businessinsider.com/why-extremely-successful-people-swear-by-this-5-minute-daily-habit-2015-11
[1] Ibid.

04/1/17

Why You Want Gravity in Your Family Business

Many decades have passed since Isaac Newton set forth his law of universal gravitation that states, in part, that every mass attracts every other mass in the universe, and since Albert Einstein published his theory of general relativity revealing a view of gravity where mass influences the dynamic shape of space-time.

But gravity isn’t only about physics anymore–it’s a key element in the long-term success of family enterprises.

Perhaps first used by Claudio Fernández-Aráoz, Senior Adviser for the global executive search firm, Egon Zehnder, the term “family gravity” describes what makes successful family businesses different from non-family businesses. According to Fernández-Aráoz, while family firms need the same operational governance structures as non-family enterprises, they also must nurture what makes them special as family enterprises.

Different than leadership, to have “family gravity” means there is at least one and as many as three family members who are—like the sun at the center of our solar system—at the center of the family organization. “These people personify the corporate identity and align differing interests around clearly defined values and a common vision… And they have strong personalities that draw talented people into their orbits and keep them there.”1  This central group focuses on a long view of the future “on the next generation, not the next quarter.”2

Like the gravity of physics, this center of “family gravity” has properties that attract—in this case the ingredients for success—and the weight to influence shape and form—in this case the dynamics and legacy of the family and the business as they travel into their future.
 
For a conversation about the gravity in your family enterprise contact me by email at rickraymond@thefamilybusinessleader.com. To talk please call: 212-777-0083.

1 Fernández-Aráoz, C.F., Iqbal, S., Jörg Ritter, J. Leadership Lessons from Great Family Businesses. Harvard Business review. Available at https://hbr.org/2015/04/leadership-lessons-from-great-family-businesses

2 Ibid.

03/24/17

Accident and Intention

A young family business—first or second generation—in which the family’s next generation have begun to find their places, has reached a point where two possible paths to becoming a multi-generational enterprise emerge. The incumbent generation can either let things play out willy-nilly—without any plan as to what the business may look like in the future—and perhaps, quite by accident, become multigenerational. Or they can begin with intention.

Intention sets the stage and gets the wheels turning. The thinking starts with what’s possible for the family and the business under future generations.

Starting with intention the current leadership can set their sights on a long-term vision: wealth creation across generations, and a legacy. With this in mind they can then draw upon centuries of knowledge and documented experiences from those families that have created successful multigenerational family enterprises.

To pave a surer path to multi-generational success, start with intention.

03/18/17

Family Businesses Got Edge

A range of factors inherent to family businesses give them “the edge,” a natural set of competitive advantages over non-family business. Included among these:

  • Values embedded over generations
  • Generations of accumulated knowledge of their business and the industry in which the operate
  • Agility within rapidly changing markets derived from interaction of family, management, and ownership
  • Desire to protect the family name and reputation translating into high product/service quality and higher returns on investment
  • Next-generation ingenuity helping the family business maintain touch with emerging technology and the youth market
  • Concentrated ownership structure leading to higher overall corporate productivity
  • Longer-term commitments that stabilize investments in people and innovation

A first-generation family business that recognizes these advantages up front is better positioned to develop a far-seeing vision and empower the business’ growth into a multi-generational enterprise.

03/10/17

Impact Stewardship and Family Business

I recently saw Perpetual Revolution: The Image and Social Change at the International Center of Photography in New York City. Included among the works on exhibit, a riveting video entitled “3 Seconds.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iQYiRwNd7ug

“3 Seconds” begins by stating the age of the earth—4.5 billion years; time since the appearance of our species, homo sapiens—140,000 years. Then, conceptually condensing the earth’s lifespan into the space of one day, 24 hours, the video goes on to reveal that on that scale mankind arrived on the scene in the last 3 seconds of the day—3 seconds before midnight. With excruciating clarity the video presents images of the impact mankind has had on our world’s environment in just those 3 seconds… and asks: “what of the 4th second?”

What will be the impact of our stewardship in the next second, and the next?

In the condensed timescale the video suggests, the entire history of family business—the oldest form of business—has taken place in the blink an eye. Where will it go from here?

Stewardship, a concept readily understood in environmental issues, is also one of my favorite family business concepts. Simply stated: “My role as head of the family business is to receive it from my predecessor, care for it, nourish and grow it, and pass it on to the next generation in better condition than when I received it.”

This is a valuable consideration, as most family business don’t survive past their 3rd generation. What does the future hold for the 4th generation in your family enterprise?

03/2/17

Success—An Inspired View

In her bestseller, Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder[1], Arianna Huffington makes an impassioned and compelling case for the need to redefine success in today’s world through well-being, wisdom, wonder and giving.

Is this family business?

 

[1] Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder, Ariana Huffington, 2014, 2015. Harmony Books, Crown Publishing Group/Penguin Random House, LLC, New York

02/25/17

Benchmarks for Family Enterprise Survival

In September, 2012, Dennis T. Jaffe, Ph.D., of Saybrook University and Jane Flanagan, of Family Office Exchange published Best Practices of Successful, Global, Multi-Generational Family Enterprises. Responding to the lack of solid research into strategies that support long-established family enterprises, they undertook an academic-level study with the goal of benchmarking best practices for multi-generational longevity.

Their research confirmed what has long been known among family-business advisors about best practices of family-enterprise governance, family relationships and development of next generation members:

Nurture the Family
Steward the Family Enterprises
Cultivate Human Capital for the Next Generation

Jaffe and Flanagan found that successful family enterprises strive for a balance among the three. If problems arise in any of these areas, the family does not see itself as successful.

In upcoming blog articles I will expand on each of these best practices areas, and finally discuss the importance of balance among them.