Success in a family business is a lot about love. That begs the question (as Tina Turner asked), “What’s love got to do with it?”
My answer is simple: everything!
While there are many elements of a family business that differentiates it from other business models, there is one thing that is laid in their foundation—at least it is for successful family businesses—and that’s love.
Family businesses can’t clock in and clock out. They aren’t drawn together only for business metrics, company retreats and annual reviews. They can’t look at their team as only colleagues. Instead, they have a closeness. They are connected with a bond, and that connection is what separates them.
This connection can be their secret sauce or their kryptonite. Because their relationships are interwoven between personal and professional, the business (and personal for that matter) environment can be difficult if balance is lacking, dynamics are showing and love is lost. When love is present, business can flourish. But when it’s missing, much is lost.
The secret to a family business’ success is their expression of love.
I’ve had the pleasure of working with countless family businesses over the years, and I’ve distilled that the largest core issue that needs to be discussed and relentlessly pursued is love. And here’s why. According to an article in the Family Business Review, family businesses comprise 80-90 percent of enterprises in North America. And yes, less than one-third of families control their business into the second generation, and only about one in ten are still viable into the third generation.
Now there are several reasons that this may occur:
- Business owners sell their business prior to succession being possible.
- The business itself isn’t viable due to changing consumer needs and interests.
- Second and third generations aren’t interested in the type of work the business offers.
While each of these scenarios is possible, I’ve found that the reasoning for this goes deeper. In fact, the largest obstacle to family business succession planning is poorly expressed appreciation, recognition, and love. It’s a blind spot that crosses genders, generations, and ages. It is prevalent in business and in life, too.
Reflect for a moment on your own life, career, and relationships. While you may find joy in accomplishing a task, moving up the corporate ladder, building and growing a family and more, what likely drives you most is knowing and feeling appreciated. You want to feel the love. We all do. It’s a part of human nature; and it’s a meaningful part of family business.
Whether you are running a family business, a part of one, want to create one or merely want to deepen your relationships within your own family, here are some tips to help you show the love (and in return, you will likely feel it too).
- Regularly and genuinely tell your family that you love and appreciate them and what they mean to you.
- Spend time individually with other generations outside of the business to build the emotional equity of your relationship. Get involved with one another’s lives.
- Actively engage one another through family meetings to share your family values on money and wealth, and help develop purposeful lives through stewardship and service.
Emotional equity is the best form of equity to build. It costs nothing, takes very little time, and it works. The secret to your success—in family business and in life—is your expression of love.