Compass 2022: focusing on family business

From succession planning to balancing loyalty with ambition, it's time for us to dig into the unique challenges facing multigenerational enterprises – and discover how the best ones find ways to overcome them.
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Family business is one of 10 themes Courier wants to focus on in 2022 – our compass for content, if you will. Some stories and topics get us going a bit more than others, and while they might not include the fastest growing industries or the most talked-about trends, they're the ones we think deserve more attention over the coming 12 months. Click here to see all 10 themes.

Family businesses – those with two or more family members in control, at the same time or one directly after the other – aren't spoken about all that much. And, when they are, typical representations are a small or mid-sized company with a local focus and a familiar set of problems (fights over succession, back-stabbing and so on). Yet family businesses are among the most resilient types of businesses out there. Plus, there are tons of them. It isn't an exaggeration to say they are a cornerstone of the global economy; Harvard Business Review magazine has reported that family businesses account for 85% of the world's companies. While that's on the high end, the figures are pretty eye-opening, no matter which estimates you look at. 

‘The most successful business-owning families do not put profit maximization first,’ says Denise Kenyon-Rouvinez, who is a professor of family business at the IMD Business School in Switzerland. ‘When you spend time with them, you notice that they have an intense pride for the business and its history. They also have a really deep sense of family, unity and mutual support.’ 

Family companies are unlikely to put at risk what they have built over generations by becoming overstretched or branching out too far from their roots. They stay committed. They favor incremental, less risky goals over the growth-at-all-costs mentality. Research also shows that family businesses are more innovative and community-minded than other companies. They also tend to be more resilient. 

This is why so many family businesses have enjoyed success for literally hundreds of years. Maison Empereur in Marseille is a family-run hardware store that opened its doors in 1827, and today is in the hands of a sixth-generation family member. Similar examples exist everywhere. 

In a global economy that seems to shift from crisis to crisis with worrying frequency, such businesses should be championed much more often. After all, for many of them, they've already been there and done it. 

This article was first published in Courier issue 44, December 2021/January 2022. To purchase the issue or become a subscriber, head to our webshop.

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