Building a community

By Barbara Spector

When Family Business Magazine debuted in 1989, business leaders who had grown their companies after returning from World War II service were passing the baton to their baby boomer children. Today, those baby boomers are ceding leadership to their own kids.

In the late 1980s, business schools had only recently realized that family enterprise extended beyond mom-and-pop shops. Prior to that time, MBA students were steered to careers in public companies, which they had been taught to regard as more “professional” than family firms. By the end of the decade, a higher percentage of business school grads were expressing interest in joining their family businesses.

The Family Firm Institute, an association of academics and consultants, had been established in 1986, but few family business owners knew where to turn for help in resolving the dilemmas that arise at the nexus of family and business. To help meet that need, Family Business Magazine began publishing our directory of advisers in 1993.

Family Business has also connected family business owners with each other. Some of the families we’ve featured in print and online are household names; others have enjoyed great success while maintaining a low profile. These families have generously shared the issues they confronted and the strategies they implemented to address those issues — not just the techniques that worked, but also those that didn’t. Such stories have helped readers realize they’re not the only ones who have had to fire a family member or mend a rift that began a generation ago.

Our conferences have been powerful opportunities for family business members to connect with each other and share experiences in a candid and confidential environment. Their connections have lasted well beyond the dates of the conference. Attendees have struck up friendships, visited each other’s businesses and even joined each other’s boards.

Through our magazine and events, we have built a community of wise and accomplished families who are committed to peer-to-peer learning. These families have demonstrated through real-world experience that governance — creating policies, agreements, activities and working groups to promote family unity and business success — is the way to work your way out of family business challenges.

The centerpiece of our 30th anniversary celebration is our special section in this issue spotlighting 30 families who have made exceptional progress in governance. Each of these families took a unique approach to the process, centered on their family culture and values. Though there are similarities in some of the approaches, no two are exactly alike.

These 30 inspirational stories prove there are many ways to begin a governance journey. Some families got started because there was a problem that needed fixing. Others realized there were issues on the horizon that needed to be addressed proactively so they wouldn’t affect the business or the family.

It doesn’t matter how you start, or why. Just the process of starting is a major step forward. We offer a community to support you as you take that important step.

Copyright 2019 by Family Business Magazine. This article may not be posted online or reproduced in any form, including photocopy, without permission from the publisher. For reprint information, contact

Article categories: 
September/October 2019

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