The three secrets to a successful family business

By Jonathan Bender on 17 July 2007 (Updated 26 April 2010) 3 comments
Photo: Siriustar

Everyone sees the family business as a safety net. If you fail in the corporate world, you can always put your talents to work at your dad's shop or snag a few hours at your uncle's place. But if your family doesn't prepare, that safety net likely won't be around for the next generation.

Family businesses are at the heart of corporate America. While you might think of a neighborhood bakery or restaurant, family shops are not just mom and pop shops. You might have heard of the Maloofs with the Palm Casino and Sacramento Kings, the Heinz family, or the Blocks of H&R Block- families are the foundation of billion-dollar businesses. Most of us are likely a long way from a global empire, but if you want to be the one of the three businesses which will survive to the second generation (from the Family Firm Institute), you should focus on the following three areas: individualization, Internet marketing, and succession planning.

To each his own

You may work in your father or mother's business, but that doesn't mean you share their talents. They might love numbers or be a junk dealer in Los Angeles, but odds are you're going to be good at something different than your parents. And that means, it's your job to carve out your niche in the business. Find your talent or passion and discover how to apply it to the family business. Maybe it's drawing menus for the Greek restaurant your family runs or launching a financial services add-on service to your family's sales company.

The key here is that you have a personal goal that you can achieve and the freedom to pursue your own dreams within your family's business. That goal will make you work harder and feel even more invested in setting things up for the next generation. So, establish your place and carve out your own niche.

Take your message online

People want to work with family businesses. They like knowing that a person will answer the phone and a name is attached to a service. So, it's your job to do everything in your power to help them find you and your family's business. There are template websites available for free and you can get online within a week. You should consider maintaining a corporate blog to help establish your family's brand and allow people to connect with your family. Tell your family's story, the history of the company. People want to hear about you, in your own words. Often, families are unwilling to sell their best asset- themselves. Tell people why they should do business with you. Guess what? They probably will...

The children are your future

According to a study from Oregon State University, fewer than 30 percent of business owners have put a succession plan in place. And that can lead to a difficult situation when a family member retires or passes away. Who will take over as head of the business? Who knows the right contacts and has the insitutional knowledge stored inside the brain of your father or mother? You have to ask these questions and get the answers in place well before the first generation is ready to step down.

When you start looking at the future of your business, then you're thinking like the Heinz family and the Blocks- and you're one generation closer to a billion-dollar business.

Got any other tips? How has your family found success or just the patience to work together?

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Pinyo

Hi Jonathan...I enjoyed your post. I too dream that one day I will have my own business. However, I have to somewhat disagree with your point about having a web site and maintaining a blog. Not all people are web savvy enough to start a web site, and not all businesses require a web site, thus having one could be more trouble than it's worth.

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Dear Wisebread Blog Members,

ROCG is attempting learn more about the issues of private business succession.

There is a potential impending crisis that is being driven by the aging of the baby boomers. Within the next 10 years, close to 2 out of every 3 small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs), will be transferred as the baby boomer owners look to cash out. On top of this, we will also have the many non-owner boomers who will be exiting from the workforce at the same time.

There are many unanswered questions for Small and Medium-Sized businesses on how and when to exit their businesses. ROCG, a Global Consulting Group, is trying to better understand the severity of the hurdles and challenges you will soon be facing in order to identify potential patterns that lead a business transition to either a successful outcome or to one of failure.

With that in mind, we would greatly appreciate a few minutes of your time to participate in our international survey. ROCG is committed to maintaining the privacy of its clients and participants.

To take the survey, please click on the following link - http://www.business-transition.com/survey and please use the assigned code of A62 on question #44 to tabulate your answers properly for the survey.

We want to ensure you of our commitment to providing the highest level of professional service in this area and look forward to your participation in the survey.

Thank you for your participation in the survey.

Warm regards,

ROCG consultants

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Thanks for sharing.....
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