The extended family

By Bill Rock

Promoting family ownership builds trust

At MLR Media, we rely heavily on our partners and suppliers. Recently, I reflected on these relationships and was reminded how many of these firms are family businesses. This is not surprising, since MLR Media is a family business, and we publish a magazine to help family business leaders and owners improve their family dynamics and their businesses. We are drawn to family companies. But it’s more than that. We have found that the long-term view of our family business partners and suppliers fosters the best relationships. This became vivid during the COVID-19 pandemic, as many helped us through a difficult time — just as we tried to do for our clients. They treated us like part of an extended family. There’s something special about that. It’s unique.

Many family businesses actively promote family ownership. The family brand is a signal of their values that reaches employees, customers and suppliers. This type of branding is also used by many non-family businesses (especially startups) that use the term “family” to describe their organization and their teams. Of course, for some of these companies, “family” is more industry jargon or buzzword to promote the idea of the collective. It cheapens the meaning of family business. A family is with you during the highs and lows. A family shares your history and your values. It’s meaningful, and it’s something to be proud of.

I am surprised that some family businesses do not actively promote their family ownership. As we’ve noted in our magazine, many family businesses’ attitudes, outlook and values have earned them the trust and confidence of the American public. Increasingly, Americans recognize that family businesses’ focus on creating long-term value enables them to better balance purpose with profit, support multiple stakeholders and develop values-driven cultures.  

In some companies, highlighting family ownership may be a sensitive issue, especially if the business is a major employer in a small community. Some executives and owners may believe they are burdening their family members by prominently broadcasting family ownership. They may feel it impacts how family members are treated and viewed in the community. However, for many family businesses, the benefits of the family brand significantly outweigh the negatives.  

Increasingly, family ownership and the values-driven culture it frequently implies is seen as a major benefit to employees, customers and suppliers. This is especially true during a time when Americans are losing trust in “big business” and concerned about the short-term profit focus. Many companies would benefit by trumpeting their family ownership, which provides an important signal regarding their values and outlook. At MLR Media, we appreciate and applaud being part of the extended family of our partners and suppliers.

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