Family Business: Data

Family businesses are reputed to be unprofessionally run and destined to fail in the third generation. So how does one explain the continuity of companies like Cargill Inc. (founded 1865), S.C. Johnson & Son (founded 1886) and Mars Inc. (founded 1891)?

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Most family business owners have heard these statistics: 30% of family businesses make it to the second generation and only 13% make it to the third generation. This often-repeated statement, which is widely accepted as fact, actually is wrong.

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A survey of family businesses in Western Michigan found that family firms in the region are highly committed to their employees, to philanthropic giving and to keeping their companies in the family. Yet despite this commitment, most of these companies lack formal policies to help perpetuate the family values and ensure a smooth generational transition.

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The 2014 edition of the Edelman Trust Barometer, an annual global study, found that in all regions except Asia, family-owned businesses are more trusted than big businesses. In fact, people in North America trust family-owned companies nearly twice as much as they trust big businesses (85% vs. 45%), according to the survey, which was conducted by Edelman, the giant, family-controlled public relations firm. In the EU, family firms are trusted by 76%, vs. 47% for big businesses.

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U.S. family business owners were less concerned about market conditions in 2012 than they were in 2010, and more optimistic about growth prospects than their global peers were, according to PwC’s latest global family business survey.

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A recent survey of Canadian family businesses found that although about half the respondents expect a generational transition in the next five years, few have plans or governance structures in place to smooth the handoff. But the good news uncovered by the study is that next-generation members are aware of the challenges they face—and they have insightful suggestions about how their elders can help them.

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Why family firms are exceptional

Several recent studies sought to identify and explain family businesses’ competitive advantages.

Three recent studies aimed to shed light on family companies’ competitive advantages, and to explain the role of the “family factor” in conferring those advantages. The findings confirm some conventional wisdom about family businesses. They also indicate that if a proper balance is not achieved, a strength can become a weakness.

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We asked participants in our Family Business Survey—an anonymous online poll conducted in July and August 2011—to list the family and business issues that keep them up at night. Here are some of the responses:

Family concerns

“Is it the business that keeps the family together or the family that keeps the business together?”

“Increased numbers of family members in coming generations.”

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In this issue, we celebrate the longevity of America’s oldest family businesses—companies that have been continuously owned by the same family for 155 years or more. Sustaining a family enterprise for more than a century and a half is a truly remarkable achievement. But does that mean family companies that last for only two or three generations are a failure? Should we consider families who have exited their businesses as less accomplished than those who continue to operate the legacy company—even if those who sell their businesses use the proceeds to create new, and greater, wealth?

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The Family Business 100: America’s largest family companies

 

Index by state

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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