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.

03/18/17

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.

02/18/17

Star Trek Ideals and Family Business

It’s a well-known fact that since its first airing in 1966, the Star Trek series has inspired generations of young people to become scientists. YouTube abounds with videos of astrophysicists; theoretical physicists; astronomers; cosmologists; giving lectures, taking part in conferences, presenting their latest findings. And in video after video, the scientists invoke their debt to Star Trek.

Star Trek’s optimistic view of the future continues to bring young people into careers where they see themselves helping to make that future a reality. In a way, the Star Trek world might be seen as a global business owned and operated by and for the family of mankind, one with diversity, innovation, communication, cooperation and courage.

The Star Trek world has similarities to well-established multi-generational family businesses. It has a far-seeing vision. It has a mission, and it has uplifting values. It encourages innovation—often the very lifeline for survival. Among long-lived family businesses can be found perhaps, some of the ideals that Star Trek showcases; a zest for exploration, flexibility, loyalty, job placement by virtue of inborn talents and acquired skills, mutual respect, integrity in leadership.

Could this kind of view, and these types of ideals, inspire your family’s young people to seek their place and their careers within your family business? What kind future do they see? Is it one they can wish to help realize?

01/27/17

Envisioning A Great Family Business

My blog this week is built around two quotes from Sam Johnson, the fourth-generation patriarch of the SC Johnson Company. The first:

Each generation has the responsibility of bringing to the business their own vision for the future of the business.”[1]  

Recently my wife and I spent a weekend at the Mohonk Mountain House on the southern edge of the Catskills in upstate New York.

Built by twin brothers Albert and Alfred Smiley in the 1870’s as a small getaway for family and friends, Mohonk Mountain House continues today as an historic resort hotel owned and operated by the Smiley brothers’ descendants. Subsequent generations have added to both the house and to the adjoining Mohonk Preserve whose over 9300 acres of trails, woodlands and pastures are open to guests of the Mountain House and the public.

I marveled at the scope and durability of the Smiley brothers’ original vision. While the house has been updated with modern conveniences, the descendants of Albert and Alfred have not moved far from the original vision. It retains its 19th century character, and the values of stewardship, reflection, and renewal are all evident to visitors and guests.

Again from Sam Johnson:

A great family business, no matter its size, has to be more than a financial investment. To survive long term, it must be a social positive for the employees, a benefit for the community, a passion for future generations of the family, and committed to earning the goodwill of the consumer every day.”[2]

This kind of success starts with a vision–like the Smiley brothers’–no matter how small or how large; with an intent no matter how viable; with a first step no matter how insignificant, embracing the wisdom of Sam Johnson.

[1] Ernesto Poza, Family Business, 3rd Edition. (Independence, KY: South-Western Cengage Learning. 2010, 2007), 100

[2] Ibid., 294

 

 

 

05/4/16

Fifth Generation and Almost Out

Family enterprises that have continued into their 5th generation often have processes in place that helped them overcome the challenges they encountered through the years. They have a vision for the future. They have a declaration of shared values. They have governance structures, such as a family council, an external advisory board. They have a forum for family members to discuss the family in the context of the business. They have gained foresight and have learned how to address situations where family members undergo a loss of capacity. They have a funded growth plan. They have an established mindset that accepts the need to turn leadership responsibilities over to the rising generation; and the incumbent leadership has their retirement plans in place.

Often–but not always.

Here’s the story of Yuengling Brewery, an “almost casualty” rescued by a fifth-generation prodigal son.

http://www.inc.com/dick-yuengling/how-a-father-son-rift-almost-destroyed-yuengling-brewery.html