In this issue
Successfully completing a business transfer is often more difficult than building the business itself, whether the company is sold outside the family or ownership is transferred to a new generation of family members. The business leader can either control the transition or be controlled by the situation.
There is often an assumption at family firms that the family tree will always provide the right leadership for the organization. But this doesn’t always hold true. Take, for example, a global manufacturing company—run by the same family for four generations—whose CEO was ready to step down. The next CEO would have to immediately contend with several major business challenges that threatened revenue growth and raised questions about the company’s long-term viability.
Forging a close relationship among siblings during childhood is hard enough, but as siblings become adults, disparities in wealth that may develop can challenge even the strongest relationships. In business-owning families, the potential ramifications are extensive. The dynamic doesn’t just play out in the personal lives of the immediate family; it also can impact the alignment of corporate vision, tolerance for risk and overall decision making, thus affecting all stakeholders.
Understanding sibling wealth disparity
The Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C., has been a magnet for millions of people eager to see the legendary property and experience the hospitality first offered in 1895 by George and Edith Vanderbilt. The estate’s 8,000-plus acres in the Blue Ridge Mountains, featuring timeless landscape design by the prolific Frederick Law Olmsted and productive agricultural acreage dedicated to sustainable practices, provide an impressive backdrop for the spectacular Biltmore House.
The lobby of Oscar Heyman Brothers’ New York office, like many reception areas, isn’t lavish or ostentatious. But in this case, the lobby’s neat simplicity surprises visitors. After all, the Heyman family makes jewelry for houses like Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels, as well as under their own name, and has created pieces for famous names like Elizabeth Taylor. The company is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2012.
The year is 2040. In the executive boardroom of Two Men And A Truck, my portrait takes pride of place on the wall, a satin black ribbon draped around it.
On the mantelpiece is a large Chinese urn. A little note stuck to it reads, “Not To Be Used As An Ashtray.”
On a shelf behind a row of dusty procedure manuals stands a glass jam jar containing my brain, preserved in formalin. (It didn’t need much pickling.)
Sink or Swim: How Lessons from the Titanic Can Save Your Family Business
By Priscilla M. Cale and David C. Tate, Ph.D.
233 pp., $48
Generation of family ownership: Sixth.
Company revenue: Between $75 million and $100 million.
Number of employees: 750.
Years with the company: 23. I worked in financial services for two years and then joined Annin.
First job at this company: My father had me work with the head sewing machine mechanic at our Verona, N.J., factory. He said he always regretted not knowing how to set the hook timing on a machine.