Thinking different

By Barbara Spector

From the editor

In 1997—before the iPhone, iPad, iPod, MacBook or Apple Watch—the company then known as Apple Computer Inc. unveiled a new advertising slogan: "Think different." Founder Steve Jobs had recently returned to Apple after an 11-year absence following his forced resignation from the company, which was struggling to regain its prestige. The tag line signaled that Apple had recovered its creative mojo. Many observers interpreted it as a salvo against IBM's slogan, "Think."

In this issue, we shine the spotlight on two families who are thinking different. Internationally recognized golfer Greg Norman could have sat at home and waited for his agent to call with celebrity endorsement offers. Instead, Norman thought outside the Wheaties box. His Great White Shark Enterprises, where his son, daughter and son-in-law now work alongside him, has blossomed into a global holding company with interests in a variety of industries. As reporter Dave Donelson notes in his profile of Great White Shark, Norman receives equity stakes in companies whose products he endorses rather than just accepting a check in return for the use of his name. The golfer has a long-term vision for his family enterprise—he is talking about a 200-year plan—and is taking steps to build a company that won't fizzle out after his name recognition has faded.

The Leonard family, profiled by Deanne Stone, owned L&H Packing, a meat-packing company in San Antonio, Texas, for nearly a half-century. After struggling to survive for several years amid a drought that devastated the region's cattle population, the family made the decision to close L&H last year. But shuttering the legacy business didn't put an end to the family's entrepreneurial activity. The Leonards also owned and operated two sister companies: Surlean Foods, which makes custom food products for chain restaurants, and New Earth Soils & Compost, an organics recycling company. Today, Leonard Holding Company is the parent company for Surlean, New Earth and the family's investment interests. Well before circumstances forced the closure of their original company, the Leonard family had diversified from their initial line of business. Closing L&H Packing, though an emotional decision, enabled the family to put all of their energies into their profitable ventures.

A 2011 study of family enterprises by researchers Thomas Zellweger, Robert Nason and Mattias Nordqvist found that a small percentage (10.6%) controlled only one business; in fact, more than a fifth (21.3%) controlled five or more companies. Over the history of these families' business activity, their main industry shifted an average of 2.1 times. The key to their ability to stay in business was their adaptability, as well as their success at transmitting their entrepreneurial spirit to the next generation.

Keeping a business afloat from day to day involves sound thinking. But sustaining an enterprise through multiple generations requires something more. The key to business longevity is thinking different.


Copyright 2015 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 bwenger@familybusinessmagazine.com.

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November/December 2015

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