Business loyalty is not dead. It's just changed neighborhoods from Fortune 1000 corporations to hundreds of thousands of family businesses. In the current era of frenzied acquisitions, merger mania, downsizing, and belt-tightening, today's disillusioned employees in large corporations are changing careers and companies four or five times during their working years. But many family businesses, once stereotyped as unprofessional, nepotistic, and, for ambitious managers, seen as dead-ends, are now looking better and better.
Rosenbluth Travel, an international travel agency based in Philadelphia with $850 million in annual billings, was dubbed "The Service Company of 1988" by management guru Tom Peters. Chicago's $270 million-revenue Quill Corporation and Oakland, California's $35 million-revenue American Brass and Iron Foundry are as well managed as the best of their publicly held counterparts.
Of course, not all family businesses are ideal places to park your loyalty, The Journal of General Management reported that a survey of nonfamily executives in family businesses found their jobs to be a mixed bag. They identified strengths of their employers as: opportunity for quicker authority, responsibility, and participation in decision-making; personalized work environment; and peer group evaluation at the board of directors level. They also complained about weaknesses, such as lower starting salaries, lack of formal hiring practices, and nonfamily/family and interfamily managerial rivalry.
Still, many hired guns have prospered at prominent family-owned organizations. Some of the best known are Daryl Hartley Leonard, president of Hyatt Hotels Corporation, John Dasburg, president of Marriott Lodging Group, and Richard Miller, who recently replaced Frederick Wang, son of founder An Wang, as president of Wang Laboratories.
Does the family business you work for offer security and the opportunity for career mobility and financial advancement? To find out, rate your employer on the following six attributes:
If your organization scores 100 percent, congratulations. You're involved with one of the best companies to work for in America. Give it your undying loyalty. If it does well in four out of six areas, you're still probably well off staying where you are. If it doesn't measure up, there are other family businesses around that are more worthy of your talents and trust.
Edwin T. Crego Jr., national director of Laventhol & Horwath's organizational consulting division, is coauthor of the forthcoming book, "Your Family Business."