Research has shown that family businesses are more resilient than non-family firms and often weather economic turmoil better than their counterparts. An oft-cited reason for this phenomenon is that family businesses are better able to take a long-term perspective, focusing on the benefits and the legacy for the next generation. There is another important factor that affects longevity: strongly-held family business values.
For any business, a strong sense of corporate values and a well-defined mission statement can help organize and motivate employees around a common goal and provide an important framework for business decisions. Family-owned businesses often have important values built into their DNA (literally) – values like stewardship, philanthropy, entrepreneurship, and other tightly-held beliefs that create a positive, productive culture and foster longevity.
As we begin 2014, it is a great time to step back and look at the values held by your family, and those that are established – both intentionally and unintentionally – in your family business culture. Are you encouraging innovation or stifling new ideas and growth? Has your vision for family philanthropy been realized, or do you often feel as though your charitable efforts are infrequent and unorganized?
Values are essential to success, but they truly come to life when they are a structured part of your family business. If philanthropy is important, talk with your board about selecting charities and developing a stated goal for philanthropic efforts. Choose events to support, or plan and organize. You may even want to establish a family foundation that is tied to your business. If you want to see entrepreneurship thrive, develop training programs and experiences to foster and encourage this trait within the next generation of family leaders. Ensure that you hire new employees based on these values to maintain your unique corporate culture.
The New Year is also a great time to look at how your values are being communicated. Your board and your executives may hold fast to certain principles, but your employees and younger family members may be unaware of their importance to the Firm. Or, these values might be communicated, but it isn’t clear to employees and family members how they are acted out in every day work life. Refer to your family business values often, and provide clear guidance and examples of how your values have affected corporate decisions.
Embrace the values that are part of your family business – they are what make your company, and your family, strong. If you are the type to make a resolution, resolve to build on your family business values for business success not only this year, but for generations to come.