All In The Family . . . Business

“Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family . . . in another city”

— George Burns

I just returned from a nice visit with my parents and brothers who live in beautiful San Francisco area. To those who start hyperventilating at the mere thought of a family reunion it’s almost inconceivable that there are some families who would choose—in addition to spending their leisure time together—to work together as well. But to a generation that has seen the trustworthy big businesses disappoint or betray their employees time and time again, the old adage “blood is thicker than water” doesn’t seem so outdated anymore.

In fact, family-owned businesses may be more pervasive than you think. Pervasive enough for Business Week Online to compile a Special Report focused exclusively on Family-Owned Businesses.

Family businesses are the oldest business in existence. Ever since pre-historic man first dragged a son with him to hunt for skins to trade to the neighbors, it has been an honored and respected tradition. Skills can be honed and passed from parent to child almost as naturally as breathing, and when your kids know they may end up caring for you in your old age they are less likely to skimp on the retirement benefits.

Family businesses are in a unique and enviable position because they straddle generations; and if they’re smart they have a hand in each one. The Business Week online article Room to Grow gives some great examples of how to draw the younger generation into the business—and break into new markets in the process.

Of course, a family-run business has its own unique challenges as well, first and foremost of which is succession planning. What is the best way to hand the business to the next generation? Is it something you should be thinking of yet? Business Week Online’s special report addresses this issue as well with their article A Transfer Tsunami for Family Biz.

In a world where large corporations are increasingly unreliable and unfriendly, family businesses are stepping into the spotlight. If done right, they can embody the best qualities of a close-knit family while letting advisors and receptivity help them avoid the worst. Alex Haley, the author of Roots, and a man who knew a little bit about family, said it best; “In every conceivable manner, the family is link to our past, bridge to our future.”