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?

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

 

 

 

08/10/16

Stewardship

One of my favorite perspectives on family business is that of stewardship, which is an attitude of seeing our responsibility in taking over the family business from our predecessors as a mandate to grow and improve it, and to pass it on to the next generation in better shape and with greater possibilities than it had when we received it.

04/14/16

More Than ‘Do No Harm’

I saw my internist recently, and we started to talk about a book written by neurosurgeon Henry Marsh, entitled “Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death, and Brain Surgery.” In it the author gives a viscerally disturbing account of what can go wrong in surgery and with the brain itself. He speaks about risk, he speaks about his growing experience and skill and he speaks about caring.

During this conversation my mind jumped, by association, to a principle of family business called stewardship.[1]

As a steward of my family business my leadership role is to receive the business from my predecessors, grow the business, the family wealth, the family itself, and then pass this multifaceted inheritance on to the next generation in better shape than it was in when I received it. More than do no harm, stewardship of a family business aims at building health and vigor and creating an ever greater family legacy.

The challenges of stewardship change as the business develops. The responsibilities of sole proprietorship differ from those carried by the head of a business with family members working in management or as employees. It changes when the founder’s children are born, and changes too when brothers, sisters and cousins become part of the picture.

At The Family Business Leader™ we help you meet the varied challenges of family-business stewardship and bequeath a healthy and vigorous inheritance to your family’s next generation… and the next.

[1] According to The Family Business Leader™: “Stewardship is defined as “a perspective that founding family members view the firm as an extension of themselves and therefore view the continuing health of the enterprise as connected with their own personal well-being.” http://www.familybusinesswiki.org/Stewardship