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Lessons from a Fourth Generation Family Business

There is a lot to be said for a multigenerational, family-run business. It is a rarer sight within the United States, simply because of the youthful age of America. With a success rate of 13%, if you have the good fortune to be born into an established, profitable business that has a foothold of 3 or more […]

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There is a lot to be said for a multigenerational, family-run business. It is a rarer sight within the United States, simply because of the youthful age of America. With a success rate of 13%, if you have the good fortune to be born into an established, profitable business that has a foothold of 3 or more generations in any sector, it’s important to remember you really have two priorities. Your job is to maintain success by honoring past traditions, while at the same time challenging yourself to avoid stifling any future growth.

Location is a key part of a successful multigenerational business. Not only does it add credibility to be able to display “established since” signs, but you are also providing a service to multiple generations of customers who have grown to know and trust your business. Suppliers who have established a code of honor and trusted working relationship will be more likely to extend advantages to your family that they perhaps wouldn’t for a newer business. Networking, as well, carries over to business contacts. Start-ups that are newly entering a field have no previous connections and are at an instant disadvantage to a well-known family-run business. 

Being raised around a family business also instill an inherent business acumen, which surpasses any training program. Family members who grew up learning the ropes are more likely to organically take over when the time comes. In addition, when/if support is needed, family members are more likely to step up and help give the business the boost it needs to stay afloat. There is a lot of pride in a family-run business. That pride not only produces a superior product, but it also means it has the internal support to keep it sustainable in times of hardship.

That being said, one thing that can hurt a multigenerational business is the need to obey the status quo. There’s a familiar sense of comfort that comes along with years of predictability. The world, however, is a constantly changing organism, and businesses need to adapt and change in order to survive, regardless of how old they are. Sometimes exploring options beyond your comfort zone is a necessary challenge, no matter how scary.

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