The Harvard Business Review had an excellent article this week by Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries about saving a family business that struggles with the inter-generational emotional dysfunction that can affect family businesses.
There are some pretty eye-opening stats, like
- 2/3 of the businesses around the world are family-owned
- It is estimated that 90% of U.S. businesses are family-owned
- Only 3 out of 10 family businesses survive into a second generation and only 1 out of 10 survive into a third generation
As the article points out, one of the best ways to deal with these issues is to get the controlling family members to focus on the future and what the business will look like after that generation is gone from the business.
The article also suggests the importance of "Fairness" in the dealings between family members, pointing to three possible practices to implement:
- Give everyone voice, creating the perception that everybody in the family can make a difference
- Provide clarity, offering timely and accurate information about family and business issues
- Be consistent, applying the rules in the same manner to all members of the family
In addition to these practices, the article discusses the benefits of creating a "Constitution" for the company and the importance of having a strong Board of Directors.
The advice laid out is good food for thought, especially for many of the small businesses I have worked with over the years. A family-owned small business inherently has unique issues that need to be addressed so that it can thrive for generations, especially considering how many family-owned businesses there are in the world.