The findings, the investigators pointed out, indicate that the key wealth creation vehicle is not the firm but the family
Legacy companies – those incredible companies that have lasted for generations within a family, some 100 to 150 years, and continue to grow – occupy a special place in the American imagination and even more so in the hearts of entrepreneurs. In fact, for most thinking people, there is a special appreciation for the care and planning necessary to start a company and keep it going for a short time, never mind for entire generations.
Indeed, Legacy companies are a rare breed. Many family companies will simply never get there. Fortunately, there is heartening news in a recent study that suggests that the duration of a family company is not quite so important, for all its branding glory, as the duration of the family itself.
As related in Family Business Magazine, the Family Firm Institute – a global association of researchers and advisers – has conducted a three year study: the “FFI/Goodman Longevity Study,” completed in 2010. By surveying some 500 senior family-firm executives they discovered that just 10.6 percent of family enterprises owned just one business. The average is actually closer to 3.4 businesses, with 21.3 percent controlling five or more businesses, and an average of 6.1 companies over a family history. What does all of this mean? Simply put, single companies are not the measure of enterprise, especially not in a family. The family itself is the asset and the drive that moves matters forward across time, generations, and changing markets.
As you plan for your business – and for your family – this may be an essential thought to bear in mind, and one to foster in others. As noted in the original article:
Families with a trans-generational orientation view the legacy company broadly rather than narrowly. Though they lovingly tell their children tales of the original business model and the town where it first took root, those aspects are just part of the family story. They place their emphasis on the founder’s entrepreneurial spirit, attention to the marketplace, flexibility and sense of stewardship. This perspective raises the odds that the family will prosper as an economic unit over many generations, no matter what form its wealth-creating entities take.
Reference: Family Business (November 2011) “Family Business Longevity Examined in a New Light”